How to Handle the Complicated Interview Question
Why the Question Might Seem Tricky
A common yet complicated interview question, “Would you say you’re a big picture or detail-oriented person?” helps employers learn more about the preferred work style of each candidate. The question often triggers feelings of anxiety among job seekers because, while most people naturally gravitate towards being either detail-oriented or capable of seeing the big picture, employers generally want to see evidence of both qualities. Detail-oriented individuals may come across as shortsighted or unable to prioritize, while people who focus exclusively on the bigger picture might seem careless or disorganized when it comes to the everyday duties of the job. Prospective employees therefore need to strike appropriate balances when self-identifying as either big picture or detail-oriented persons during the interview process.
How to Respond
The strongest responses typically portray the interviewee as a versatile, well-rounded professional capable of paying attention to details when necessary and seeing the bigger picture when the job demands a broader perspective. In general, the response should lead with the most applicable work style for the position desired. A candidate interviewing for an accountant job, for instance, would probably want to focus on projecting more of a detail-oriented image, as accountants achieve career success by accurately analyzing detailed sets of information involving complex calculations and numbers. On the other hand, executive jobs and other positions of authority usually place more of an emphasis on the big picture instead of the everyday details. Regardless of the specific demands of the desired position, interviewees should always strive to demonstrate an ability to use either type of work style, depending on the needs of the employer. Whenever possible, support the answer with a specific, job-related example of using both work styles to complete a task.
An ideal answer provides evidence to back up the claims of the job seeker in addition to painting a picture of a well-rounded employee capable of adapting to different work styles. Notice how the following sample response incorporates a specific example to better illustrate the answer: “I think it’s important to be detail-oriented and able to see the big picture at the same time. Even though I’m more of a detail-oriented/big picture kind of person, I had to be both at my last job. When my boss assigned me to oversee a major group project, I had to keep my coworkers focused on the overall goal while I meticulously checked every detail of their work along the way to make sure we were all on the same page.” The interviewee would then continue by sharing the successful results of the project.