Interview Question: Putting Co-workers’ Needs Before Your Own

Nilda Melissa Diaz, CPRW
By Nilda Melissa Diaz, CPRW, Career Advice Expert Last Updated: October 28, 2022
Describe A Time Where You Put Your Needs Aside To Help Another

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During a job interview you can expect to be asked common questions such as “Talk about yourself” or “Why do you want this job?” However, you should also be ready for behavioral interview questions, including “Describe a time when you put your needs aside to help a co-worker or classmate understand a task. How did you assist him or her? What was the result?” These questions give you a chance to actually talk about your work experience rather than merely giving a “Yes” or “No” response. Hiring managers love them because they get a much better sense of who you are as an employee.

The main thing an interviewer is looking for when asking this question is if you can work well as part of a team. The hiring manager wants to know that, when needed, you will be there to lend a helping hand. It is possible that the interviewer will ask something similar such as, “When was a time you had to work as part of a team?”

While behavior-based questions require a little more finesse to answer, it is possible to provide an outstanding response by preparing thoroughly before going into the interview and becoming familiar with the STAR method.

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How to Answer the Star Interview Question

1. Implement the STAR Method

When it comes to properly answering behavioral interview questions, you do not want to go in completely blind. You should prepare a few anecdotes from your previous work experience or instances from when you were still in school so that you can talk about certain events in detail.

A good way to structure your responses is with the STAR method, which goes like this:

  • Situation: The situation with this question should involve describing what difficulties a co-worker or classmate was going through and why you were in a position to help.
  • Task: Once the situation is established, talk about your main objective. What was the co-worker trying to achieve? What was the ultimate benefit to your company?
  • Action: These are the actions you took to help your co-worker. What exactly did you do?
  • Result: Once you helped your co-worker, what resulted from it? This should be a positive thing for the company you were both working for, because you want to convey to the interviewer that you could do the same at this job.

Star Method

2. Make It Clear Your Responsibilities Did Not Fall to the Wayside

Interviewers sometimes ask this question in order to see if you are a team player. Being able to work as part of a team is a useful skill, but at the same time, an employer wants to know that you will still be able to get all your tasks done. You do not want to talk about how you did something for a co-worker at the expense of a task you needed to do on your own.


3. Explain How You Realized the Person Needed Help

You want to come across as someone who notices the little things. Perhaps you saw someone actively struggling with a project and decided to step in. Noticing areas needing improvement is an excellent trait for an employee to have. You should have a keen eye for detail and elaborate on that skill during the interview.

Need Help

4. Put the Needs of the Company Above Your Own Needs

You do not necessarily want to describe a story of a time when you helped someone, and you were rewarded in some capacity. It is great to merely do something because it was the right thing to do and the company needed it. If you benefitted in some way, then that is fine. However, when preparing a response beforehand, don’t focus on the ultimate rewards.

Company Needs

How to Answer Star Interview Question

When a new receptionist was hired at my last job, I could tell that he was having some problems. My boss was busy handling a new client at that time, so he did not give the new hire all the training he needed. A lot of paperwork was piling up and was not getting filed quickly, so whenever I had some downtime, I offered to help my new co-worker out a bit. I showed him some techniques so he could file papers relatively quickly while not allowing his other responsibilities fall aside. We even got lunch together several times during his first few weeks so that I could go over some other basic tips. After a month working there, he was flying through his tasks, and a few months after that, he got a promotion for all the good work he had done.

Take time to practice your interviewing skills before you head in. When asked behavioral interview questions, you will be thankful for the extra preparation.

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