Tough Interview Question - Give me an example of a time when you took initiative to get things done

Give me an example of a time when you took initiative to get things done.

Similar interview questions:
Tell me about how you move forward with getting things accomplished in your job.
When have you had to step out in your work to move things forward?
Where would you say you rank on a 1 to 10 scale for taking initiative?
Give me an example of when you took the lead in finishing a stalled project.

Why the interviewer is asking this question:
It is a behavioral question (“Give me an example of…”) and specific on the competency (taking initiative). So the interviewer will use it as a way to probe not only your ability to take initiative, but also your willingness to do so.

The best approach to answering this question:
Focus on a time when you had to take initiative in your work or projects. The best answer would also involve others, but it can also be simply taking personal initiative on your own. The ideal answer is one where you took initiative independently, without prompting from others.

An example of how to best answer this question for experienced candidates:
"On my recent project, we hit a roadblock with the use of a third party vendor tool, which was causing ongoing issues for everyone on our team. I took the initiative to reach out to the vendor to see if there were any alternatives we might be able to use. The vendor was able to offer us a free upgrade to the latest release, which solved the technical issues we had been facing…"

An example of how to best answer this question for entry level candidates:
"In my internship project, I took the lead on researching several different external best practices at our competitors. Then I compiled that external information along with our internal data to write up an internal best practice white paper which is still in use today. In fact, that white paper earned me the CEO Award at the end of my internship. I was the only intern to ever receive that award…"

An example of how you should not answer this question:
"I’m pretty negative on having meetings of any type. We just sit around talking and don’t really accomplish anything. So I took the initiative to tell my boss I wasn’t going to attend any more meetings so that I could get something productive done during that time when everyone else is in the stupid meetings. Of course, my boss wasn’t very happy about that, which is why we’re sitting here talking today…"

Remember to answer each interview question behaviorally, whether it is a behavioral question or not. The easiest way to do this is to use an example from your background and experience. Then use the S-T-A-R approach to make the answer a STAR: talk about a Situation or Task (S-T), the Action you took (A) and the Results achieved (R). This is what makes your interview answer uniquely yours and will make your answer a star!

Further review: know the answers to these 100 Standard Interview Questions to be fully prepared for your interview!

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