Tell me about a time when you showed initiative
- 1 Tell me about a time when you showed initiative
- 2 Other interview questions that are similar
- 3 What the interviewer is looking for by asking this question
- 4 How best to structure your answer to this question
- 5 What you should NOT do when answering questions
- 6 Tell me about a time when you showed initiative – Example answers
- 7 Other Interview Question and Answers
Other interview questions that are similar
- Describe an instance where you identified a problem and took steps to resolve it without being asked.
- Can you recall a situation where you went beyond your job responsibilities to achieve a goal?
- Share an example of a time when you proactively implemented a new process or idea in your work.
- Discuss a moment when you took the lead on a project without formal authority.
- Tell me about a time when you anticipated potential challenges and took preemptive action.
- Describe an occasion where you independently developed a solution to improve efficiency or effectiveness in your role.
- Can you provide an example of when you identified an opportunity for improvement and pursued it without direct instruction?
What the interviewer is looking for by asking this question
There are probably an infinite number of questions that the interviewer could ask you on the day. Some questions are incredibly common appearing in almost every interview you will have, while other questions you might hear once and never again regardless of how many jobs you apply for.
Fundamentally though all interview questions are really trying to find out one of 3 things:
1 – Can you do the job? (Do you have the skills/experience needed?)
2 – Will you do the job? (Do you have the drive/motivation to get the job done?)
3 – Will you fit in? (Does your personality match the workplace culture? Are you likeable?)
That’s it. Those are the 3 things that the interviewer is trying to ascertain. Every question that is asked of you will fundamentally be trying to resolve one (or more) of these 3 things.
The question “Tell me about a time when you showed initiative” checks mainly on two things: your skills (can you do the job?) and your motivation (will you do the job?). By sharing a specific example, you show you have the skills to identify and solve problems and the drive to take action without being asked. Keep your answer focused on demonstrating these qualities.
How best to structure your answer to this question
Unless the question you are asked is a straight ‘up or down / yes or no’ style question then you are going to need to learn to describe, expand and elaborate on your answers. The best way of doing this is to follow the B-STAR technique for answering interview questions.
Answers using this method follow the below structure:
B – Belief – What are your thoughts and feelings with regard to the subject matter? This allows you to convey your mindset and enthusiasm, showing the interviewer your internal motivation and initiative in facing challenges.
S – Situation – What was going on? Briefly explain the scenario that was taking place. Quickly setting the scene here helps the interviewer understand the context in which you demonstrated initiative.
T – Task – What was your role in the action? Explaining your specific role is key to highlighting your ability to take initiative within your responsibilities.
A – Activity (or action) – What did you do? Detail the steps you took and why you took them. This section showcases your problem-solving skills and proactive approach, directly answering how you demonstrate initiative.
R – Result – How did everything end up? By quantifying the outcome, you provide concrete evidence of your effectiveness and initiative in action.
Remember though that the B-STAR technique is descriptive not prescriptive. You do not need to follow this flow strictly, go with what is best for your answers and that will allow you to put your point across and show your experience the best.
What you should NOT do when answering questions
Do not avoid the question – directly address how you showed initiative.
Do not downplay the situation – highlight its relevance to demonstrating your initiative.
Do not overhype the situation – be realistic to show genuine initiative.
Do not give a one-sentence answer – elaborate sufficiently to showcase your initiative.
Do not overly describe the scenario and miss the action – focus on your initiative in the action taken.
Do not have a passive role in the situation – emphasize your active role in showing initiative.
Do not forget to mention what you learned – relate it back to how it enhanced your ability to take initiative.
Tell me about a time when you showed initiative – Example answers
Example Answer 1 (Detailed)
“In my previous role as a project coordinator, we faced a sudden challenge when a critical supplier went bankrupt. This posed a serious risk to our project’s deadline.
I immediately assessed the situation, understanding the urgency to find a new supplier. I didn’t just look for a replacement; I aimed for an upgrade. I compiled a list of potential suppliers and analyzed them against our requirements, focusing on cost, quality, delivery times, and reliability.
I initiated contact with the top three suppliers within hours, setting up meetings to negotiate terms. I presented our project details, negotiated costs, and managed to secure favorable payment terms due to the urgency and volume of our order. To ensure smooth integration, I arranged for sample materials to be sent over for quality checks.
Furthermore, I coordinated with our team to adjust our workflow. This involved redistributing tasks, setting up extra shifts, and organizing brief training sessions to familiarize the team with the new materials.
The detailed actions paid off significantly. We secured a reliable supplier who not only met our immediate needs but also offered better terms than our previous supplier. Our project was completed on time, with a 5% cost reduction. This experience reinforced my belief in thorough, proactive problem-solving and the value of swift, decisive action in crisis situations.”
Example Answer 2 (Shorter)
More Sample Answers…
The examples provided above can serve as a foundation for creating your unique answers. For additional inspiration, our new guide includes five sample responses to this question and over 250 answers to all of the most common interview queries.
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