A lot of employers (most, actually) value creativity in the workplace. Companies gain a competitive edge through being innovative and forward-thinking in their approach to business. You should prep yourself prior to an interview with an example or two of how you’ve been creative in a work situation, for it’s quite possible you’ll be asked a question like “Give me an example of your creativity.”
Know that you don’t have to work in a creative field to answer this question. There are plenty of jobs that require a lot of creative thinking and doing, even though they have nothing to do with the arts. When you talk about how you creatively solved a problem in a previous or current position, or innovated in a manner that led to increased productivity or revenue, you’ve provided an example of creativity.
People who are creative devise new ways to solve problems, implement solutions, develop strategies, or cut costs. They help the businesses that employ them work more productively and seamlessly.
An interview question regarding an example of creativity can stump candidates pretty easily, but it really shouldn’t. There are plenty of examples of creative thinking/doing skills in a work situation, from devising a social media strategy for a new product; to arranging an in-store display for maximum impact; to devising a new way of processing reimbursements; to strengthening the quality of customer service (with proven results).
Again, this needs to be reiterated—providing an example of creativity does not have to be tied to you painting a portrait or writing a novel. This isn’t an arts-based interview question! This is a question that aims to get a handle on you’ve creatively solved a problem at work, or brought about positive change or innovation.
If you’re still at a loss when thinking about a personal example of creativity at work, then there are a few things that probably aren’t registering. Most of us devise personalized methods and plans for getting a day’s work accomplished efficiently and on schedule—this is a perfect of example of creativity.
You might decide to create a standardized Google Sheet or shared folder so that your team has access to crucial, necessary information, all in one convenient place. This is an example of creativity. Perhaps you’ve reconfigured the way your team works, making it easier and faster for them to respond to clients in another time zone. This is an example of creativity, too.
As with all other interview questions, it’s important to quantify or back up your example of creativity to show how you’ve really added value. You must provide the type of detail that paints a vivid picture of what you’ve accomplished. When you do this (in a succinct manner), you stand a better chance of making yourself stand out in a potentially crowded field of candidates.
Points to Emphasize
You’ll do well with this question if you talk about the creative process that brought about the positive results. For example, mention how you got the idea for the solution that you’re describing. Then, discuss the process you used to compare it to other options, and ultimately make a judgment. This shows the interviewer that you thought through other scenarios before jumping into action. If possible, use the opportunity to highlight your communication skills, including any delegating you had to do to pull everything together. End by showing how the creative solution led to innovations that lasted or that had a significant impact on a major area of concern for the company, like costs, retention, and so on.
Creativity is about being responsive to your environment, so make sure that shows through at every step in your answer.
Mistakes You Should Avoid
Refrain from directly comparing your example of creativity to those of current or former co-workers. When you do this, it can come off poorly, for it can appear as if you’re trying to make yourself look better at the expense of others.
Also, don’t go overboard with an off-the-wall, out-of-office example of your creativity. Focus on showing how you applied creativity to a task, project, problem, or issue at your current or previous job. This leads to our next point, which is one that can’t be emphasized enough: your example of creativity should be relevant to the work you do (or the work you hope to do in the job you’re interviewing for!). Avoid talking about extracurricular creative pursuits, like adding to your Pinterest board, taking photos for your Instagram account, or dyeing your hair multiple colors all at once.
Finally, stay away from reinventing the wheel. While your answer should be thorough, it should also be succinct. If you revamped a complex filing system from top to bottom at a current or previous job, talk about your accomplishment in a manner that quickly summarizes your creative success. This goes back to what was touched on in the first paragraph of this article—prep yourself with an example or two prior to the interview. Rehearse your answer at home, and time it to make sure it doesn’t run to an epic length.
When you put everything together, the example of your creativity should be engaging and to-the-point. Here’s a sample answer:
“One of my key creative accomplishments occurred in my current job, when I had to increase market share for a new product without increasing our existing marketing budget. I kicked off with some internal brainstorming on how to maximize the use of our resources and be more creative in the way we market. I worked with our two interns, both of whom were creative writing majors, on creating a blog for our website, plus Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook pages for the company’s new product. I tasked the interns with managing the pages, and the three of us came up with relevant content for each social page. The ultimate aim was to create a community of fans and buzz around the new product.
Through product teasers on Twitter, the timely answering of questions on Facebook, and brief video tutorials on Instagram, we grew a fan base of 2,500 people in just three months. When the product was released, first day sales exceeded all expectations, and sales continued on a steady incline for the rest of the year. A lot of the success was attributed to the online fan base we developed, where positive word-of-mouth spurred an influx of customers to purchase the product through the trackable online sales page we created in-house with our design and dev teams.”
This is just one sample answer. Yours doesn’t have to be this detailed, but it does need to tell a story. You need to present a problem, challenge or issue, and then talk through how you creatively brought about a solution. Best of luck!
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