Describe A Time When You Faced An Ethical Dilemma? (With 10 Sample Interview Answers)

There are always a few crazy situations in our life when we are stuck in the midst of a dilemma. A dilemma refers to a circumstance in which we have to decide between two equally likely options, using our power of wit and knowledge. Though this might seem less daunting and intimidating on the face of it, however, when any such real event occurs it indeed requires a lot of thinking and comprehension. That is why, this is one of the favorite interview questions of an interviewer using which they want to evaluate and examine your critical thinking and innovative abilities, using which you can choose out a single option.

Every question of an interview session is highly thoughtful and created with a broader prospect in mind with a sole objective to evaluate the personality as well as the mindset of a candidate. Hence, this question too, like every other, requires serious preparation and sincere effort. This article promises to complete your preparation and presents you with some really effective tips and ten unique sample answers to consider.

Describe A Time When You Faced An Ethical Dilemma

Six Best Tips To Effectively Answer This Interview Question

1) Understand The Question Completely

At a workplace, an employee might face a variety of dilemmas and situations, which might be strictly professional and some might be ethical issues. This question requires you to focus only on the ethical conundrums which you might have faced in your own professional career. Hence, stick to the real expectations and demands of the question instead of wandering and delivering an irrelevant answer.

2) Narrate A Real Story

The best way to respond to this question is by narrating a real story that you might have faced in your real professional life. When you are working, you are bound to enter into social as well as ethical dilemmas. Hence, just lay some stress on your mind and try to remember about such situations. Narrating an imperfect or a cock and bull story might affect your chances of selection considerably as any such answer can be easily caught by a veteran interviewer.

3) Do Not Answer In Negative

You face any tricky answer, just respond negatively. This might seem to be the best way to avoid an uncomfortable situation. Unfortunately, this is not. The best way is to accept the challenge and face it with all your vigor and energy. You are strictly advised by Prepmycareer, not to answer this question in a negative manner as that would simply mean that you are underprepared or not interested in the position advertised.

4) Display The Dilemma Clearly

Whatever story you are narrating, just make sure that your interviewer is able to understand and get hold of the two situations completely. If you cannot establish a relationship between the two equally likely options, the whole purpose of this question goes for a toss and an interviewer would simply mark the reply as vague or ambiguous. Such an act would hurt your chances of selection.

5) Share A Single Event

There might be more than one such event that you have faced in your professional career. However, as an ideal reply to this question you are expected to share any single event. This is primarily because of the limited amount of time available with an interviewer and also because stories are really long and time-consuming to narrate.

6) Fair or Not, Justify Your Stand

Ethical dilemmas are against the humanity, environment, or any other social cause that might adversely affect the masses at large. Being an employee of the organization you are trusted and confided in to execute all the tasks, unethical or not. An interviewer totally understands it, and in case you executed an unethical task just for the sake of getting your salary, explain it to the interviewer with logical rationales.

Ten Best Sample Answers To Consider and Study

Sample Answer One

Sir, it is absolutely common for professionals to enter into tricky situations at the workplace with some of the worst situations occurring when an employee faces an ethical dilemma. I remember one event during my previous tenure when I was leading a construction project. We were supposed to create 500 villas on a particular landscape which consisted of more than 1500 trees and a variety of unique shrubs and herbs. Despite, having environmental clearance, it was pretty tough for me to just order the clearing of such a beautiful natural habitat.

The project was really profitable for the organization to execute and at the same time, it could have enhanced the environmental issues to their zenith. Hence, I preferred to use my wit and before giving a sanction to clear the forest, I made a written representation to the senior management, to re-think and re-consider the project and if there are chances to shift the project to any new location. I believe, I made the right choice of sending a written representation, but unfortunately, my proposal got refused.

Sample Answer Two

Sir, in my ten years of professional career, I have faced such dilemmas a number of times. However, I would like to show you the one which really attached me to it. 5 years back, I was working as a manager with a pharmaceutical company. The company was highly profit-oriented and just wanted to earn substantial profits in a very short period of time. This led to aggressive selling of its products and even bribing the doctors. I faced an ethical dilemma when I was forced to give a bribe to a doctor and persuade him to start recommending organizations’ produce of lower quality which might also affect human health. I refused to do so, which is why I am here, sitting for an interview.

Sample Answer Three

During my previous tenure, I was a factory supervisor of a reputed manufacturing organization. The organization was in a habit of making substantial pay cuts to illiterate labor. When one fine day, I remember I was asked to pay depleted wages to the workers of the factory. This was an ethical as well as an emotional dilemma, as I knew the organization was making unjust pay cuts from the wages of the poor and illiterate workers of the factory. I was really tensed for a few moments, and then I decided to become a whistleblower and made a written complaint to the concerned labor officer.

Sample Answer Four

There have been several such instances throughout my professional career. I remember, when I was working as a counselor at a reputed counseling and overseas education organization, to guide a young child in the wrong direction just because the organization was getting handsome commission out of that deal. I was supposed to send the candidature of a child to an inferior foreign university, even though he secured some really good scores.

This was an ethical dilemma for me, as on one side there was a lucrative commission and on the other side, there was a career at stake. I chose the opposite and sent the candidature to the university which the kid actually deserved. As a side effect, I was ousted from my position and thus, I am here in front of you.

Sample Answer Five

I believe, in a quest to earn higher profits, organizations commit and enter into a few unethical business practices that lead to the creation of an ethical dilemma for their employees and workers. I remember, when I was working for ABC Trading Corporation, how the organization was swallowing small traders and manufacturers and tossing the rules and guidelines of the competition law and ministry into the trash.

I was a project manager there and was supposed to offer a minimal amount for purchasing the entire business of its smaller competitors. In case they resisted, they were in to experience some force. This led to the creation of an ethical dilemma, I was simply swallowing up the livelihood means of these smaller corporations. As a result, I simply resigned.

Sample Answer Six

My previous employer was a garment manufacturing company who used to forward job contracts to several smaller manufacturing organizations. I was the inspection officer who used to visit the factory premises of these smaller manufacturing organizations so as to finalize their contracts after making an inspection. There was a really attractive and affordable supplier of ours, who quoted the lowest for the job work. When, I personally went for the inspection purposes, I found that the organization was using unethical manufacturing practices, and the entire factory waste was simply allowed to flow in the fresh river water, which was responsible to serve the water needs of an entire village.

This was really a tough ethical dilemma that I faced, as on one side the livelihood of millions of people was at stake and on the other side there was an entire bucket load of organizational profit that was at stake. But, being a person from a humble financial background, I caved in front of my employer’s demand only for the sake of securing my job and handed over the job contract to that manufacturer.

Sample Answer Seven

I was working as a manufacturing head of a reputed business organization in my previous employment. Our organization had the habit of packaging its goods and heavy products into paper and jute packaging, as a measure to prevent the environment and follow the environmental guidelines. However, there was a period of time, when the company’s profits really dwindled downwards, and it started using plastic for its primary packaging purposes.

I was totally against it as plastic causes greater harm to our environment and was thus stuck in an ethical dilemma. Our company could simply not afford the expensive paper and jute packaging, and being a committed and loyal employee of the organization, I stood by the plastic packaging.

Sample Answer Eight

I faced an ethical dilemma when once upon a time, I encountered some unethical business practices of my previous employer. I was given a task to execute the supervision of a production process for a food company on a job contract basis. It was pretty clear from our client, not to use a particular chemical in our manufacturing processes. However, that element was a catalyst, and used to speed up the production process considerably, but was unhealthy for human consumption.

This pushed me into an ethical dilemma, as our organization was adamant about using this chemical so as to earn a higher amount of profit. However, I never supported the organization in such an ethical practice. I resigned, and even complained to the concerned official

Sample Answer Nine

I remember a similar instance from my previous employment when I was working as the factory manager for a reputed business organization. The working conditions of the factory were strictly in contravention of the applicable factory law and were really unsafe as well as unsanitized. Once I was supposed to hire more laborers for the booming factory production by luring them about high payouts and perfect working conditions. This was a real ethical dilemma, as I knew that is untrue. But, since I was jobless before for a fairly long period of time, I did everything at the instructions of the organization, unethical or not.

Sample Answer Ten

It is common for employees of an organization to get stuck into ethical dilemmas more than not. I remember, how I got stuck into a similar messy situation when I was supposed to give manufacturing contracts to an organization, which used unethical environmental practices while undertaking its manufacturing process. However, being an employee who is loyal and committed, I stood by the organization and supported it even though I never wanted to.


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