It's your first interview, and it was going well until now.

Your heart is pounding.

Your mind is blank.

"How do you feel about taking no for an answer?"

The interview question keeps ringing in your head.

A minion saying,

Take a deep breath.

You have the skills and experience to answer this question. You just need to put it together.

What the interviewer wants to know

Seth Myers says,

When the interviewer asks the question, "How do you feel about taking no for an answer?" they're trying to:

  • Evaluate your response for behavior indicators.

  • Decide if you acknowledge that hearing no isn't always easy.

  • Determine if you can accept hearing no in a job situation with grace.

Icon illustrating male interviewing a female

When will you hear "no" in this position?

Real Housewives No GIF

We often find it difficult to hear someone say "no", as it's usually associated with rejection.

Think of work situations when you'll hear the word no!

Icon illustrating female with raised hand saying, no!

Imagine when you'll be told no.

  • A time off request

  • A promotion

  • A project or idea

  • When you make a mistake

Icon illustrating a boss and employees

Imagine the people who will tell you no.

  • Your supervisor

  • Your co-worker

  • Your HR manager

  • Clients and customers

Respond like a professional

The Dos Equis man says,

Show you're a pro!

  • When you're told no, it's often a learning opportunity.

  • Respectfully seeking to understand the decision shows you're committed to growth.

  • Using a real life explanation from a past job or school can help you stand out.

Create a few scenarios as examples.

Start your response by creating a distinction between your supervisor and coworker saying no.

Icon illustration of a mug with the word

  • Your supervisor prefers their way of completing a task over your way.

  • Your supervisor declines your request to be excused from overtime this week.

Icon illustration of group of three male coworkers wearing white shirts and red ties

  • Your coworker refuses to complete an unpleasant task.

  • Your coworker says your idea wouldn't work.

Explain how you'd respond respectfully in both scenarios and why they differ. You may immediately accept that response from your supervisor, but you may question your coworker.

  • Be honest

  • Be authentic

  • Be professional

⚡Let's Try!

Consider these responses:

Flaticon Icon

The trainer at my last job didn't like change. I had several ideas on how we could improve our processes and procedures. It seemed like every time I would suggest something, she would tell me no. It was frustrating to hear that answer constantly. I would just acknowledge her response and go back to work. Eventually, I brought my ideas to the manager, and she liked several of them. It was great to see things finally change.

Flaticon Icon

It depends on the situation. If my supervisor told me no, I would respectfully accept that decision. If my co-worker tells me no, I might push back more. I would look at each moment as an opportunity to learn. For example, I applied for a promotion in my last job but wasn't selected for the position. It was hard to hear my manager deliver the news, but I took their feedback and worked to improve my areas of weakness.


Which is the best response to a question about taking no for an answer?

Take Action

Show the interviewer that you can take no for answer and learn from the experience.

A graphic that reads: 1. Imagine the situation 2. Respond with scenarios 3. Explain them 4. Give real-life example


Your feedback matters to us.

This Byte helped me better understand the topic.

Get support to take action on this Byte