During an interview, a hiring manager wants to make sure that your workplace philosophy at least partially matches up with the company’s, which is why you might hear: “Tell me the difference between good and exceptional.”
The interviewer is trying to figure out how you would behave as an employee at this company. What you say you perceive to be a good employee versus an exceptional employee will tell the employer how you would most likely behave. If your definition of exceptional work really is not all that exceptional, then the interviewer gets the impression that you probably would not give great results.
Points to Emphasize
This is an interview question to learn about your beliefs and behavioral patterns, so keep the following points in mind.
- Give a clear definition of the difference between good and exceptional
- Give an example from your past work that exemplified the exceptional definition
- Emphasize your ability to do exceptional work
- Spend some time beforehand evaluating the differences between the two
Winging it might be okay for some questions in an interview, but you should be prepared to talk about your philosophy so that it is conveyed that this is what you actually believe.
Mistakes You Should Avoid
You want the interviewer to know you are an exceptional employee rather than simply a good one, so avoid these common mistakes.
- Avoid saying that there isn’t a difference
- Don’t simply give a definition without also offering a real world example
- Don’t give an example that would fall into the “good” definition
- Don’t give a definition that goes against the company philosophy
Make sure to do plenty of research beforehand to get a sense of the company culture so that you know what they are looking for in job candidates.
An effective response to this question should go along the lines of this:
I believe a good employee is someone who simply does a satisfactory job of everything assigned to him or her. However, an exceptional employee is someone who goes above and beyond what is required. At my last job, I was simply in charge of running the front desk and answering phone calls. I went above and beyond by talking to management and recommending better communication systems for the office, which we implemented to great results.
There are plenty of good applicants interviewing for the same position as you. Most people are simply good at their jobs. You need to convince the hiring manager that you are not merely a good employee but that you are an exceptional one.