Many questions asked during the interviewing process have hidden meaning. Put differently, the interviewer may ask you one question, but they’re actually fishing for a response that answers a different question.
There may be some specific piece of information that the interviewer is hoping to hear, or they may be looking for you to slip up somehow.
If you can see past the question and read between the lines to understand what the interviewer really wants, you’ll have what you need to give the strongest answer.
If an interviewer asks you a question like “Have you gone above and beyond the call of duty? If so, how?” they are not necessarily interested in the example you’ll provide. Basically, the interviewer is looking for assurance that you are the type of worker who won’t just do the bare necessities that the job calls for. They want to see if you’re the type of worker who isn’t afraid of challenges and putting in some extra time or work when necessary (or even when not necessary).
Points to Emphasize
When prepping a solid response to a question like “Have you gone above and beyond the call of duty? If so, how?” you need to first understand something rather basic—the definition of what’s being asked is to simply exceed what is required of you. Easy enough, right?
Because the interviewer is mostly interested in ensuring that you have the particular quality they are looking for, your answer should focus on that quality. In other words, you should focus on how your work ethic falls into the “above and beyond” category.
When responding to an interview question like “Have you gone above and beyond the call of duty?” you should:
Start with an explanation.
Begin by explaining how you would define “going above and beyond the call of duty.”
This gives the interviewer a chance to rephrase their question—important, especially if you were thinking of heading in a different direction than what they expected.
Tell a story.
Tell a story where you went “above and beyond” and as a result of which, there was a hugely positive outcome for your employer. Explain how your actions led directly to that outcome.
And stay focused! It might be tempting to try and squeeze other good qualities into your story, but stay on message about how hardworking you are, and about how your hard work saved the day.
If there was any employer recognition given for your extraordinary work, say so.
Conclude by offering to give another example. Make it clear that this wasn’t a rare occurrence for you.
The take-away of your story should be clear—you’re a self-sacrificing hard worker who’s always aiming to take their game to the next level.
And remember this: always stay positive and confident in yourself when answering this question.
PS: LiveCareer offers assistance with all other sorts of interview questions. Get prepped today.
Mistakes You Should Avoid
The biggest mistake you can make is being too vague in your reply, which ruins your credibility. If you can’t provide specific details when looking back, it may sound as if you made the story up, or are using someone else’s success story as your own.
- Because the moral is more important than the actual example, do not stress about coming up with a profound example. But do come up with a good example!
- Avoid exaggeration. You are trying to convince them you are hardworking. Stretching the truth will only weaken your case.
- Don’t rush to get to the next question. This undermines the entire answer.
- Don’t try to demonstrate any quality that they did not ask about. It takes the focus off and makes the answer less relevant.
Here are some examples of things people do when going above and beyond the call of duty:
- Working overtime and/or weekends with or without being asked
- Doing something outside your job description because a responsible party was unavailable
- Taking responsibility for someone else’s error and resolving it in a positive way for everyone involved; your employer particularly
Below is a sample answer to the question “Have you gone above and beyond the call of duty? If so, how?”
“I define “going above and beyond” as doing what needs to be done and not just what is expected of me, such as at my last job. I was given a project and the expectations for it, but I knew that the minimum requirements were not going to get the job done properly. I had to work weekends, but I did it how I knew it had to be done.”
And here's another sample answer to “Have you gone above and beyond the call of duty?"
“For me, going “above and beyond the call of duty” is really about going all out to get a job done properly. For example, I once worked on a large team project where I could tell that one of my colleagues was struggling with his tasks. To some extent, my work was dependent on his, and it’s probable that had he delivered late, I may have been forced to as well. I approached him discreetly over lunch and offered to stay late and help him out. He couldn’t thank me enough. We worked through the night and in the end, he was able to deliver on time, and so was I.”
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