The key to this question is remembering that they are asking what you are willing to do, and how far you are willing to go, to make sure things succeed. That makes this a really important question to be prepared for, because it could potentially be the question that makes you stand out from the other candidates. You will want to select your story carefully for the particular job you’re interviewing to fill, because the ideal answer will not only speak to past dedication, it will also highlight your potential as a candidate for the new job.
Points to Emphasize
When answering, working in these touchstones will help you be sure that you clearly provide what the interviewer is looking for.
- Highlight the circumstances of the situation, so they understand what made it unusual.
- Be sure to discuss the steps you took beyond the normal range of your daily duties, so they understand which extra steps were taken.
- Tie in any background knowledge or special preparation, professional development, etc. that aided you.
- Discuss the outcomes in a way that highlights measurable successes.
Mistakes You Should Avoid
Make sure you think about these ahead of time, and groom them out of your response.
- Don’t be afraid to brag a bit. Lots of people worry about being seen as arrogant or as too assertive when they are asked about their successes, but it’s important to be enthusiastic about your success.
- Avoid anything that makes you sound put-upon or that emphasizes outside factors beyond the situation at work.
- Too much detail distracts people from the main idea, so just give the broad strokes.
- Remember not to complain, no matter what. The goal is to show how you handled a tough situation, so process any frustration or emphasis on difficulty out and focus on the events.
Here’s one approach to the question that hits the right notes without going too far or getting weighed down.
When I was teaching, I was approached by a student whose advisor sent them to talk to me about a late transfer into my class. The procedure was not really something we normally do, but she was also on staff and needed during certain hours. Over the course of a dinner meeting, we managed to put together a make-up plan for the key lessons she’d need to understand where we were at and to get in sync with the group, and a week later it was like she was always in the class.
Remember, less is usually more.