Sometimes, during a job interview, a hiring manager may ask, “What are your pet peeves?” While this isn’t exactly a trick question, it is a two-pronged query designed to help the interviewer evaluate not only your personality, but also the attitude you express in your response.
This question might seem difficult because it asks you to speak about things that annoy you, which could lead you to sound negative or disagreeable. However, when answered thoughtfully, this question can help demonstrate why you are a strong candidate for the position.
What the Interviewer Really Wants to Know
An employer might ask the question, "What are your pet peeves?" for a couple of reasons. Your answer will help the employer determine if you would be a good fit within the company culture. For example, if you say you are bothered by team projects, and the job involves a lot of collaboration, this may not be the position for you.
Your answer will also show the employer, though, how easily irritated you are—so think about the tone with which you respond.
If your answer is a long tirade of lots of things that annoy you, you may appear to be an unpleasant person to work with—always a red flag for any savvy hiring manager.
How to Answer "What Are Your Pet Peeves?”
Some people prefer to answer by saying they have no pet peeves at all. However, this answer might come across as insincere, because everyone is bothered by something. A better answer will focus on something that does not bother you very much, that you can control, and that does not reflect poorly on you as an employee.
One way to answer this question is to focus on a pet peeve that is unrelated to the job (for example, your pet peeve might be people who do not use their blinkers when they drive).
This kind of answer will keep you from saying something negative that is related to the job.
You can also describe a pet peeve that is related to the workplace, and that would be a negative for the job. For example, if the job involves a lot of teamwork, you might say your pet peeve is when a person cannot effectively work with a group. However, be sure to explain then how you would deal with that situation.
You might also turn this question around, and emphasize your work standards. For example, you might say that you dislike when people do not challenge themselves to go beyond the bare minimum, so you are always pushing yourself to achieve the best results on any project.
Examples of the Best Answers
Here are some sample answers that you can use to help you to develop your own response.
If you asked my teenage daughter, she would probably tell you my pet peeve is the volume of her music and the mess in her room. However, I do not have any other specific pet peeves. If something is bothering me, I step back, analyze "why,” and find a good solution.
Why It Works: This answer is effective because it describes a pet peeve that’s irrelevant to the workplace (other than to suggest that the candidate appreciates organization, a good soft skill in an employee). It also explains how the candidate proactively handles annoying situations.
I do not like when people have negative attitudes, particularly in the workplace. I like to remain positive, even during a difficult situation, and do not let people’s negative attitudes affect me.
Why It Works: While this response does describe a common pet peeve in the workplace, it also highlights a good trait of the job candidate—his dedication to remaining positive in a challenging work environment.
I dislike when I see a team member refusing to carry his or her weight on a project. As team members, it is our job to help the whole team achieve success. When I see someone not doing his or her task, I communicate clearly and effectively with the team about my concerns and try to come up with a solution, such as redistributing some of the tasks.
Why It Works: This answer demonstrates that the candidate appreciates the importance of fully-committed teamwork, as well as her willingness to address and resolve issues that might arise within the team.
One pet peeve is when people are regularly tardy. My son is always running late for school, so I have been struggling to instill timeliness in him. Timeliness is also extremely important in the workplace. Whether it is simply showing up to work on time or handing in an assignment by a given deadline, I am always prompt.
Why It Works: This is a good example of how to turn a pet peeve into a professional strength, timeliness. It illustrates how the respondent sets an admirable work standard for himself as well as for others.
Tips for Giving the Best Answer
Keep your answer short and sweet. Pick a single, relatively unimportant pet peeve to describe, and score extra points by explaining how you successfully handle annoyances.
Watch your tone of voice. Avoid using extremely passionate language that will make you seem annoyed or disagreeable.
Speak calmly, and make it clear that whatever it is that bothers you does not prevent you from doing your work or getting on with your day.
Turn a pet peeve into a positive trait. One of the best strategies here is the same to use if you are ever asked the question, “What is your greatest weakness?” Show how what annoys you demonstrates your appreciation of good work habits like punctuality, teamwork, or attention to detail.
What Not to Say
Avoid sounding negative. No matter how you answer, avoid sounding negative. Whatever pet peeve you choose to mention, downplay how much it bothers you.
Don't claim perfection. Everyone has pet peeves, just as everyone has weaknesses. Own yours and turn it to your advantage by explaining how it actually makes you a better employee.
Don't describe a negative pet peeve related to management or authority. Avoid mention of any pet peeves related to workplace supervisory styles, such as “supervisors who micro-manage” or “managers who refuse to give feedback.” You don’t know what sort of management style you’ll be expected to conform to should you get the job, but the interviewer probably does.
Possible Follow-Up Questions
- How do you handle failure? - Best Answers
- How do you handle stress and pressure? - Best Answers
- Why are you the best person for the job? - Best Answers
- BE POSITIVE: Use your answer not to complain, but to demonstrate how you respond effectively to things that annoy you.
- KEEP YOUR COOL: Answer this question lightly but honestly, without passion. Very mildly self-deprecating humor can also serve you well.
- PICK YOUR POISON CAREFULLY: Describe a pet peeve that won’t be detrimental to your effectiveness as an employee.
- HIGHLIGHT YOUR GOOD TRAITS: If possible, show how your pet peeve actually arises because of your commitment to good work performance habits.