Question forms part of:
Other interview questions that are similar
Have you ever initiated and delivered a change to the way of working within your organisation?
Do you have any suggestions for how to improve your current role?
Can you give an example of a time you streamlined a process?
What the interviewer is looking for by asking this question
In order for a business to survive it needs to continually grow, it is not enough for a firm to just tread the waters as eventually another company will come along and take their place.
This is true in the public space also, the general public is not content to receive the same level of service forever when they see other cities, counties, states, countries etc. receiving better and better service.
So how does a business continue to grow? One of the main ways is via continuous improvement.
Constantly looking for ways to reduce costs, increase profits, improve efficiencies by looking at and introducing change to current business processes.
That is what the interviewer is looking for when asking this question. Are you someone who will look at the process and notice areas for improvement? Or are you content to just work the process as is?
As this is a behavioural question the interviewer will want to know how you have gone about changing processes in the past, what steps did you take, did the changes stick, was it a success, etc.?
The best approach to answering this question
This is a “Tell me about a time” question. Clearly the interviewer is expecting an example of a time you improved upon a process, that much is obvious. But there are good examples and there are bad examples.
The best way to approach this is to first discuss your thoughts on process improvement. Talk about how you feel strongly that all colleagues should take the time to review their processes to identify areas of improvement.
Once that is out of the way you want to get straight into your example using the S.T.A.R method.
The best example to give is one in which you identified an enhancement to a process that would save time or money for your organisation.
Once you identified the enhancement you took steps to organise your idea and present it in a straightforward manner to your management team.
The best answers talk about how after presenting to management you either led the project to change the process yourself or were an important SME during the project.
Finally once the process was updated to include your changes what were the results? Did you get the benefits you thought you would? It is best during an interview to use an example were the process change was a success.
Not every process improvement is a success but this question is not the right time to talk about that. Pick an example where you were key to the change and the change was a success.
How NOT to answer this question
Don’t avoid the question. If you have truly never improved a process in a professional setting then think of an example from your personal life or from back in school. There is no worse answer you can give than:
“I don’t think I’ve ever done that, every job I’ve had I have just followed the process as given to me”
If you really are hitting a brick wall and literally have no examples to give then resort to giving a hypothetical answer about how you would change a process if you could.
Another thing you should avoid talking about is making changes to the process unilaterally:
“Prior to logging case files onto the system the process was to send it to a colleague for a ‘buddy check’. After working some 50 cases without any feedback from the ‘buddy’ I opted not to follow this part of the process. This meant that I could log cases onto the system a day or so earlier than normal.”
In this example the interviewee has removed a step from the process in order to save time. It also appears as though the interviewee failed to clear this with anyone in his department before doing so. Given the nature of the task it is probable that this ‘buddy check’ was there to catch quality issues and approval to remove this step would not have been given had the request been made.
A better thing to do would have been for the interviewee to query the buddy check process itself, it seems unusual for there to be zero feedback at all across 50 cases.
Tell Me About A Time You Improved A Process – Example Answer
“I am a big fan of continuous improvement. I am always looking for ways to improve my skills and to make the people and processes around me better and more efficient. I wouldn’t go as far as saying it is my passion but something I very much enjoy doing is automating repetitive functions.
One such occasion was in a previous role where I was working in the accounts department of a flooring company. This firm employed numerous contractors across the country who would be submitting expense reports and invoices regularly.
My job was to receive these emails and transpose the data into our accounting software in order for payment to be made.
As I was interested in automation I knew that a lot of repetitive type data entry tasks could be automated. But I wasn’t sure how. So before I approached my managers with my idea I did some research into various solutions.
Once I found how it could be done I pitched the idea to my managers who were totally on board. We hired an IT contractor who automated the entire process within a week.
The end result was instead of spending 20 hours a week on expense reports and invoices I spent just the 1 hour doing quality checks of the tool, leaving me an additional 19 hours a week to spend on other value adding tasks for the firm”
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