“What does quality mean to you?”
In a job interview, this opinion question doesn’t come up very often, but when it does, it can be difficult to answer. Since quality will mean different things in different jobs, it’s tricky to know what makes an effective response.
Don’t worry: In this article, we’re going to review how to answer this question using an easy 3-step formula.
Variations of This Question
Employers may not always directly ask “what does quality mean to you?” But they may find a different way to ask the same question:
- What is quality?
- How would you define quality?
- What does a ‘quality product’ mean to you?
- What does a ‘quality service’ mean to you?
- What does ‘quality performance’ mean to you?
What the Interviewer Really Wants to Know
Regardless of how they ask this question, they want to learn more about your attitude toward work and what “doing a good job” means to you.
They’re looking for someone who knows what quality looks like and is capable of maintaining high standards. After all, if you don’t know what makes a quality product or service, how will you know if those standards are met?
This is important to employers because they want workers who can grow and develop in their roles. Employees who can reflect on their own actions, strengths, and weaknesses are generally more willing to improve.
How to Answer: “What Does Quality Mean to You?”
1. Start With Your Own Definition of Quality
Start with some characteristics that often attribute to quality.
Mentioning traits that lend themselves to quality makes it clear to the interviewer you have a firm grasp of what that actually means.
Quality may mean something different for every industry, so think about when you’ve experienced high-quality service, products, or performance in the industry you’re interviewing for, and what characteristics were present.
Some of these might include:
- Services: Promptness, depth of knowledge, or attention to detail.
- Products: Consistency, durability, or design.
- Performance: Honesty, integrity, or communication.
Here’s an example:
“To me, quality is about having and maintaining high standards for yourself and doing more than what’s expected of you. It means putting in that extra ten percent when nobody else is willing to.”
2. Explain Why Quality is Important
Outline why quality matters in the workplace.
This is important because it shows the interviewer you can “connect the dots” between providing good quality and achieving a positive result.
Think about what the result of providing high-quality workmanship, customer service, or performance might be.
Positive outcomes might include:
- A happy customer
- A glowing product review
- Word-of-mouth referrals
- More sales
- Better search engine rankings
Here’s an example:
“This is what leads to great reviews and word-of-mouth recommendations from customers, who will often return for more work and refer their friends. I know much of this company’s success stems from referrals.”
3. Finish with an Industry-Relevant Example
Finally, talk about a time when you either provided or experienced quality in a relevant industry.
Providing a real-world example demonstrates you know how quality translates into the industry or position you’re interviewing for.
In terms of what example to give, think about the role and what the critical tasks are likely to be—whether it’s service, product, or performance-driven—and talk about a similar scenario you faced.
To give you some industry-specific ideas:
- For a sales role, think quality communication.
- For a design role, think quality products.
- For a customer-facing role, think quality service.
- For a back-end role, think quality documentation.
- For a specialized trade, think quality technical work.
If you don’t have your own experience to draw from, you can use a hypothetical example. Remember to keep it brief and not to give out any personal or identifying details about anyone.
Here’s an example:
“In my last job, I often followed up with customers who experienced frequent issues. One woman needed help linking her security system to a phone app, so I took the initiative to send her an email with detailed instructions in case they became unlinked again. The customer later referred her sister to us.”
Putting It All Together (Example Answers)
Sample Answer #1: Quality Product
“When it comes to a quality product, I’d say the most important factor is consistency. The product needs to work the same way each time so consumers can come to depend on that particular brand.
It’s important to me to catch any possible errors or defects before the product ever gets to the consumer. Meticulous checking at each stage of the development and production processes leads to a consistent product, and that leads to more sales.
At my last company, I found a small defect in the end development phase of an aftermarket car product. It was time-consuming to trace back and fix, but putting out a low-quality product wasn’t an option. Today, the product maintains an impressive 4.9 stars review score.”
Sample Answer #2: Quality Service
“When I think about the kind of quality that’s most important to me as a consumer, it has to be customer service. If someone greets me warmly and remembers the details I share about my issue without me having to repeat myself, I consider that high-quality service.
I know this is a very customer-centric position and with that the importance of making each customer feel special. I know they aren’t just looking to buy something and go home — they want an experience that makes them feel valued.
I’m careful to listen to customers as they tell me what they need. When I recently addressed a customer concern, I asked clarifying questions and jotted down their answers so I didn’t have to ask again. When I escalated to a supervisor, I shared these details so the customer knew they were heard and valued.”
Sample Answer #3: Quality Performance
“Quality to me often comes down to performance. It means taking initiative and bringing new ideas to the table. It also means having integrity and doing the right thing even when nobody’s supervising.
In the workplace, every task fits together to improve the company as a whole, so it’s important to suggest better ideas as they come up. It’s also vital to complete tasks even if they seem unimportant at the time, as they can lead to better results later on.
In my current role, I monitor how our clients’ websites are ranking. When a ranking went down recently, I took the initiative to update their meta titles and descriptions based on current search engine best practices. I suggested the practice to the rest of the team when their ranking went back up.”
How NOT to Answer
Don’t Brag About Yourself
When talking about the products you make, the service you provide, or your performance as an employee, don’t derail the question by making it all about you.
Bragging doesn’t demonstrate an objective understanding of quality. It also paints you as someone who might think too highly of yourself. This type of personality can be difficult for others to work with.
Instead, focus on things you do or characteristics you have that make it possible to provide good quality. Including an example of when you experienced quality also allows you to speak objectively.
Don’t Be Vague In Your Definition
Don’t give vague answers or speak in generalities. For example, don’t say that quality is “good customer service” or “a valuable product.”
Interviewers don’t appreciate indirect answers to their questions, especially because these questions are meant to help them learn more about you. It can also give the impression you don’t understand what quality is or why it’s important.
Instead, give concrete examples when discussing quality in general and your experiences and observations in particular.
Don’t Get Discouraged
This type of question is difficult to answer, so don’t get flustered or worried if you aren’t sure which direction to go in with your answer.
The interviewer knows this isn’t a simple question and not one you’ve likely prepared for.
Take a moment to compose your thoughts and follow the three steps above. If the interviewer has asked the same question of others, your calm response might be what sets you apart.
- Understand the different variations of the question
- Provide your definition of quality
- Explain why quality is important to this industry
- Discuss an example relevant to the position
- Don’t use this as an excuse to brag about yourself
- Don’t be vague when giving your answer
- Don’t get flustered if you stumble