Getting ready for the big interview involves many different skills than simply preparing your resume or filling in your employment history. The interview is the opportunity for your potential employer to ask you complex, in-depth questions that reveal your character and illustrate behaviors that you are likely to carry into your next job. These behavioral interview questions, such as ‘Give me an example of a time when you took initiative,’ can be tricky to answer but are vital to you getting successfully hired.
When interviewers ask you behavioral interview questions like this, they are trying to get at your true character as it relates to motivation. By asking you this question, they are also asking other questions indirectly, such as ‘Are you self-motivated, or do other factors motivate you? Are you a lone wolf in the workplace, or do others inspire you to do your best?’ When you discuss your example of a time when you took initiative, you will be illustrating to your interviewer how you are motivated, what type of work environment you might be best suited to and many other influential factors.
Because questions that relate to your behavior are deeply personal and sometimes tough to talk about, they can be by far the most challenging part of an interview. Luckily, there are several ways, including the STAR method, that can prepare you and help you manage your stress, shape an in-depth answer to an in-depth question and give your interviewers what they are looking for: insight into your professional personality.
How to Answer the Interview Question: About a Time When You Took Initiative
1. Rely on the STAR Method.
The STAR method, or situation/task, action and result, is a reliable and appropriate way to help frame your answer to a behavioral interview question like the one at hand. When asked for an example of a time you took the initiative, begin by describing the situation or task in which the scenario took place. Make sure to mention whether it was professional or personal, recent or long ago. Then, take time to explain the action or initiative that you took in reaction to the situation you were in. Was this action prompted by anything? Were you the only one to take it, or were there others involved? Why did you take initiative? Finally, talk to your interviewer about any results that occurred as a product of you taking that first step. The STAR comprehensive method will walk you through the entire process of answering your question from start to finish.
2. Talk About Your Motivations.
Of course, your interviewer wants to know what initiative you took and the details of the situation, but the real meat of the question is what your motivation behind taking the initiative was. Do you often find yourself stepping up to the plate when others don’t? Or are you typically the last person to take action? What was the primary deep motivator that caused you to want to step in and take action in your scenario? Go into depth in discussing your motivators with your interviewers so that they can get a good idea of what inspires you to action.
3. Tell a Story.
From setting up the scene of the situation itself to concluding with your reflections and thoughts on the entire decision-making process, the example that you give should not just be a flat few sentences but a well-rounded story with meaning to it, a beginning, a middle and an end. Offering your example to your interviewers in a story format will infuse it with significance and help you to illustrate more of your true personality.
Taking Initiative Example Answers
Last year, when I was working in the development department, I found myself in a situation in which action needed to be taken, and I was the only person available to do it. While I am very skilled at following directions and don’t find myself in the position of the primary initiator very often, I got into a scenario that involved me alone witnessing the dishonesty and theft of another employee. It’s not like me to get involved in the dramas of my co-workers or take things to our human resources department, but in this situation, what was happening was very clear, and there was nobody else who was going to take the initiative. I ended up beginning a case with human resources, exposing the theft situation which had been going on for some time and solving the mystery of the disappearing products. Looking back on it, going to human resources was one of the hardest decisions I have made in my professional life because I don’t generally like to get involved with other people’s business, but it was the right thing to do.
Behavioral interview questions are a chance for you to show off your personality traits and put your character on display. Make sure to practice your answers to these queries before the big day arrives.