Describe a Time When You Set Your Sights Too High (or Too Low)

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During a job interview- you will be asked a variety of two types of questions: traditional and behavioral. Behavioral interview questions such as ‘Describe a time when you set your sights too high (or too low)’ will be used to predict your behavior and responses to situations that may occur in the job you are applying for. This question may also be phrased as ‘Describe a time when your expectations were not met.’ These questions can be scary to unprepared jobseekers since they do not have right or wrong answers.

Traditional questions such as ‘What hours are you available’ or ‘Where did you graduate from’ have very simple answers. They do not utilize critical thinking or provide any insight into your personality or mental state. As scary as this may seem- there are many reliable methods at your disposal for successfully answering a behavioral question. One of these methods is the STAR approach- which involves a very specific formula for answering questions. The following information will show jobseekers in any industry how to answer any behavioral question with confidence and ease. Before attending job interviews- you may want to take the time to memorize this acronym and the meaning of its letters.

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How to Answer the ‘Describe a Time When You Set Your Sights Too High (or Too Low)’ Behavioral Interview Question

Emphasize Rationality: Employers want to hire workers who have the ability to keep a level head and remain realistic. If you are asked this question- it is acceptable to respond that you have never set your sights too high- but you have demanded a lot from yourself and others. Explain that the only way to get things done is to view things from a logical- levelheaded perspective- and if you set goals that are too unrealistic- you could encounter problems when it comes to achieving them. Simply put- don’t try to avoid the question- but don’t give the interviewer the impression that you don’t have the ability to be rational.

Never Choose the ‘Low’ Option: Do not provide an example of a time when you set your sights too low. Employers want individuals who work hard and set attainable goals. If you have low standards for yourself and your coworkers- the business that you are working for will undoubtedly suffer. It is even acceptable to verbally state that you have never set your standards too low and that you always try to perform your best- even under demanding circumstances. Employers do not want to hire individuals who take the easy way out or who will depress the team with their pessimistic attitude. If you choose to answer the ‘low’ question- you are basically telling the interviewer that it is acceptable to do less than your best. Doing so will not get you hired.

Be Positive: If you do choose to answer with the ‘high’ response- be sure that you discuss a situation with a positive outcome. For example- if you are a nursing supervisor- you could say that you were critiqued for demanding too much from your nurses during a busy shift. Follow this statement up with the fact that your nurses exceeded your expectations and that they provided every single patient with the highest level of care that the hospital could provide. This will show your interviewer you have high yet realistic expectations of your workers.

Utilize the STAR Method: STAR is a method of answering behavioral interview questions in a way that satisfies every single aspect of the question. The method is an acronym for the following:

  • Situation or Task
  • Action
  • Result

If you choose to utilize the STAR method- choose a specific situation first- describe the actions you took in the situation- and finally discuss the end result of those actions. In this instance- you will want to choose the situation- describe the sights that you set and why- and what happened in the end.

Sample ‘Describe a Time When You Set Your Sights Too High (or Too Low)’ STAR Interview Answer

As a former algebra teacher- I set high standards for my students all of the time. Unfortunately- algebra is not the easiest topic to learn- especially if you don’t dedicate time to studying and doing the work. At the end of the semester- the kids had to take a state-mandated exam- and I truly believed that all of my students would at least pass with a ‘C.’ I was wrong- and some of my students failed the exam- so they were required to retake the course. On the other hand- my expectations were exceeded when many of the kids that struggled throughout the semester received a passing grade. I always set my sights high because I believe in my students and their ability to learn- but in the end- some students just struggle with math and learning in general.

The answer above provides an answer that utilizes the STAR method. It answers the behavioral interview questions- but it reframes the situation in a positive manner.

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