Interview Question: How Do You Take No for an Answer?

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published December 14, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

During an interview, a hiring manager might ask you a behavioral question, such as "How do you take no for an answer?" They typically ask questions like these to understand how you might behave in the workplace. If you're preparing for an interview, it might benefit you to learn how to answer this question. In this article, we discuss how to answer "How do you take no for an answer?" by explaining why employers ask this question, listing steps to respond to it and providing example answers.

Why do employers ask "How do you take no for an answer?"

Employers might ask you how you take no for an answer to understand your actions while at work. This is a behavioral question that hiring managers ask to compare your actions with other candidates. Your response allows hiring managers to decide between similarly qualified professionals. They might also ask this question to gauge how you would collaborate with the current team and respect authority within the company. Employers typically look for a genuine response that thoroughly explains what you might do in this situation. Try to be honest and explain the justification for your answer.

Related: 12 Tough Interview Questions and Answers

How to answer the "How do you take no for an answer?" interview question

Here are four steps to creating an impressive answer for this interview question:

1. Evaluate the situation

First, you can start by evaluating what you would really do in this situation. Remember that there are a few scenarios in which someone might tell you no in the workplace. Three primary examples are when an authority figure, a colleague, or someone who reports to you tells you no to a request. Your answer will depend on whether the person saying no is a supervisor, coworker at your level or someone you supervise. In each hypothetical instance, ask yourself how you might express your response in a purely professional manner. For instance, you would likely accept a no response from a supervisor without further discussion, you may ask a coworker if they could reconsider their position and you would likely explain to someone you supervise why you need them to accept your request but would be happy to address their concerns.

Related: 21 Tough Open-Ended Questions (And How To Answer Them)

2. Create a distinction

When you begin your response, create a distinction. This means that you tell the interviewer that your response might change depending on who's telling you no or why they're telling you this. Making this distinction can improve the clarity of your answer. It's important that the interview understand which scenario you're responding to. To create a distinction, you can start your answer by simply stating that you might respond differently based on the situation. Then, explain what those situations might be. For example, you can say that this is your response when an authority figure tells you no.

3. Explain your behavior

Once you create a distinction, you can continue your response by explaining how you'd behave. Consider starting with how you'd respond to an authority figure telling you no. Next, explain how you'd respond to a non-authority figure telling you no. If applicable, describe what you would do if someone you manage tells you no. Within your answer, demonstrate how you would respond professionally. You can be honest and tell the interviewer that taking no for an answer can be challenging. Try to explain how you behave in a professional and respectful manner regardless of why someone told you no.

4. Provide an example

To prove that your answer is honest and accurate, provide the interviewer with an example. A real-life example shows the interviewer how you've responded to a similar situation in the past. Think of an example of a time where you professionally managed your emotions when someone told you no in the workplace. Briefly describe the circumstance and explain how you reacted. Try to use an example that reflects your professional attitude and how you positively handled the situation. Having an example might make you seem more prepared than candidates who don't have one.

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Example answers to "How do you take no for an answer?"

Consider these example answers to this question to help you prepare for an interview:

Example 1

Here's an example of answering this question if a manager said no to your proposal:

"There are several situations when someone might tell me no in the workplace. I'd like to preface my answer by saying I'd respond differently based on the situation. For example, I might act differently when a supervisor tells me no versus when a coworker tells me no. If a manager tells me no to something, I would respect their decision. Depending on what the scenario was, I might ask them respectfully why they said no to understand their answer.

Once, a manager said no to my business proposal. Although I was upset that they rejected my proposal, I understood that they were making decisions to best improve the company. I thanked them for their consideration and went back to work."

Example 2

Here's an example of answering this question if a coworker said no to your idea:

"I might respond differently depending on who is telling me no and why. Regardless of the situation, I'd respond respectfully. I make it a top priority to respect my work authority. If a lead told me no to something, I would tell them "thanks," and I wouldn't bother them after that. If a coworker told me no, I would still be very respectful. However, I might ask them why and be more assertive when asking for an explanation.

Just last week, I had an idea for a group presentation that my coworker and I were leading. They said no to my idea, even though I thought it was an innovative way to present our information. So, I respectfully asked them why they said no. They told me why they were reluctant about my idea and we worked on finding a solution."

Related: How To Prepare for a Behavioral Interview

Example 3

Here's an example of answering this question if someone you manage told you no:

"As a manager, I sometimes experience a staff member saying no to a request. Regardless of who says no, I treat every team member with the same level of respect and I listen to the concerns that led to them saying no.

There was one time when someone I managed told me no in response to a decision I made. When this happened, I asked them to step into my office so we could have a private discussion. I asked them why they said no to me. After we discussed their reasoning, I explained why I made my decision and why that decision was important. They were understanding, and I didn't let the experience make me think less of them as an employee."

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