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Other interview questions that are similar
How do you go about optimizing your production?
What is your policy with regard to continuous improvement?
What the interviewer is looking for by asking this question
Continuous improvement is the buzzword of the moment. If you work at, or apply to jobs at, the civil service you will know it as the Changing and Improving behaviour. Whatever you choose to call it doesn’t matter the fundamentals are the same:
Continuous improvement is important to organisations as it allows them to grow and become more competitive in their industry. Without improvement organisations stagnate and are eventually surpassed and replaced by organisations who did improve.
That is why the interviewer is asking this question. They want to see if you are somebody who recognises the importance of improving and if you are someone with the insight to identify where improvements can be made and the skills to implement them.
The best approach to answering this question
This is a “tell me about a time” question so the best candidates will follow the B-STAR technique when formulating their answer.
Let’s see how that would work with this question:
B – Belief – What are your thoughts or feelings regarding the subject? Open your answer by talking about how you feel it important to always be looking for ways to improve both yourself but also the tools, processes and resources that you use in your role.
S – Situation – Describe the scene. Pick an example of a time you identified an opportunity for improvement. Remember this is an interview question so you don’t have a lot of time for scene setting. Make sure your example is easy to understand and skip any unnecessarily long descriptions. A good example would be how you noticed an opportunity to automate a currently manual process.
T – Task – What was your role in the situation? Talk about what your role in the organisation was. You can approach this from two ways, you could either be someone who works on the process who notices an opportunity for improvement or you could have been brought in specifically to look at the process and help to make it more efficient. If you are going for a role in business analysis or some kind of process improvement position then you should choose the latter as it highlights your experience in a similar role better.
A – Activity – Detail the steps you took. This question is specifically regarding a time you identified an opportunity so ensure you focus on that area as opposed to talking about how you implemented the improvement. It is fine to talk about both but ensure the focus is on how you performed your identification and analysis first.
R – Result – Talk about how successful the new process was and how the organisation threw you a party to celebrate (/kidding). The best answers here will have the implementation be a success and also led to you learning a new valuable skill or lesson.
How NOT to answer this question
Don’t avoid the question. This question is about a time that you identified an opportunity. An opportunity that you, yourself, identified. It is not asking about a time that you implemented improvement processes or when you oversaw an upgrade project or anything like that. The question is trying to gauge if you are able to identify improvements within business processes, ensure that you answer that question – it wouldn’t hurt to mention that you also helped implement the improvement but ensure that you focus on how you identified the solution.
Don’t say you’ve never done that. This is a “tell me about a time” question. The interviewer is asking this question to gauge your experience and your skillset in this area, if you are unable to come up with an example you will almost certainly not succeed.
Don’t talk about a opportunity that was not implemented. This is an interview setting. Sure you could probably give a great answer where you identified a good opportunity but due to unforeseen circumstances the idea was not implemented. And you might even score highly with the interviewer if you explain what lessons you learned from the experience. But it is much easier to score highly if your idea is implemented successfully.
Tell me about a time when you have identified an opportunity for improvement within your processes? – Example answer
“I am always looking for ways to improve my processes both in work and out of it. I feel that if we are not looking to improve, to optimise then we will stall and eventually get surpassed. Better to be ahead of the pack than overtaken by the pack.
Recently in my current role I was tasked with reviewing and documenting the process for one of our business areas. These teams worked in customer complaints and were primarily responsible for gathering information about our customer to input into the complaint file.
This was a purely manual process and involved the team going into various systems and pulling the relevant data to input into a spreadsheet.
In order to perform my task I shadowed a few colleagues over the course of a week to better learn how they perform their function. From here I noticed a number of things that could be improved.
Firstly the team had to manually check a folder to see if any new complaints had arrived. I suggested that an automated solution could ping an email to the Team Leader to advise when a complaint had arrived and could – if it was wanted by the business – automatically allocate to a team member.
Secondly I noticed that the systems the team would gather data from all had various data feeds coming in and out. My suggestions were to interact with this feed for the complaint so that the data required for the complaint files were automatically shared with the team meaning that they did not need to go into each system. I had a further suggestion that would compile the data into the complaint file but after further analysis I deemed this to not be feasible with the current resources available.
Once I was complete I delivered the documented process maps to the business area and filed my suggestions with the relevant programme manager, who took my suggestions and formed a project that delivered on all of my suggestions and took an action to look at further resource to implement my compilation idea. The successful delivery of the project reduced the time it took to complete a complaint file by 50%.
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