Interview Question: Demonstrating Initiative & Willingness to Work

Nilda Melissa Diaz
By Nilda Melissa Diaz, Career Advice Contributor Last Updated: October 26, 2022
What Have You Accomplished That Demonsttrated Your Willingness To Work

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One of the more traditional- most often encountered job interview questions is “What have you accomplished that shows your initiative and willingness to work?” This question can be uniquely tricky to answer because while it may seem to focus on your time management abilities- it can also be a measure of your ability to work well with teams toward a singular goal. Many interviewees also interpret this question as a project management question and instantly scan their brains for any project that they’ve overseen from start to finish. Depending on what types of positions you’ve held in the past- that could be a tough challenge.

In actuality- this and interview questions like it really aim to decipher how dedicated you are to the end result of a project. With a little bit of preparation- you can provide an answer that perfectly captures your commitment to professional excellence and personal advancement.

How to Answer the “What Have You Accomplished That Shows Your Initiative and Willingness to Work?” Interview Question

Think beyond the office

When you’re on a job interview- it’s natural to answer every question in a work mindset. But hiring managers know the happiest and most effective hires are also usually the most well-rounded. This interview question can pose an excellent opportunity to show your ability to finish a project from start to finish while highlighting some of your achievements beyond the office. Maybe you went back to school and earned a second master’s degree. Perhaps you singlehandedly refurbished a vintage car or oversaw a vast remodeling project. Even these personal achievements have value as a reflection on your dedication- drive and overall work ethics. Be ready with details of how the project started- challenges you faced and times where you worked late or otherwise went above and beyond to finish the project. That commitment to the result is what hiring managers find most appealing when asking “What have you accomplished that shows your initiative and willingness to work?”

Consider awards you have received

Internal recognitions can be big- company-wide mentions or low-key accolades that don’t extend far beyond your team. It doesn’t matter; both are acknowledgements of your success- so leverage them when answering this question. Just about any professional effort for which you’ve been rewarded can fit neatly in as an answer for this question because a work recognition is by definition a moment of kudos for working hard. Just have a clear focus on what you did- how you managed the project and what motivated you to do your best. And of course- it doesn’t hurt to throw in there how it benefited the company as a whole.

Think of a big project and drill down to your piece

Depending on the types of positions you’ve held- you may or may not have readily had opportunities to see oversee a big project from start to finish. It may be easiest to focus on the smaller role you played in a bigger project. Perhaps you worked on a website migration but played a limited role like redirecting URLs. Big pushes are made up of a series of small lifts. Highlight how you were assigned the task- what the task entailed and how you went about executing your piece of the project to ensure timely- effective delivery.

Sample “What Have You Accomplished That Shows Your Initiative and Willingness to Work?” Interview Answers

1. One of the biggest accomplishments in my life was getting my degree in biology- and it was also one of my biggest challenges. While I was very excited about starting college- I quickly found myself getting distracted by the excitement of suddenly being independent. Things came to a head when my first semester grades came in and were lackluster. I realized I had a problem turning in assignments on time and I initiated an effort to better manage my projects using a wall chart. I continued this effort throughout the rest of the year and was able to end my second semester on the Dean’s List.

2. I’ve always thought that the smaller roles on a project didn’t count. But over time I’ve come to see that the smaller lifts are the ones that can make the biggest difference. I recall a site migration in which I had to keep track of URLs that needed to be redirected. Using Excel- I created a pivot table and used a color-coded system to keep track of over 300 URLs- slowly adding more of them as the site migration progressed. In the end it was hard work- but I was able to successfully log and submit the URLs on time.

This is one of those traditional interview questions that can be a dream come true if you know how to work it to your advantage. Use the above tips to highlight your abilities with this question and it will soon become one of your favorite interview topics to tackle.

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