Understanding how to answer, 'Tell me about a time you went above and beyond,' at an interview
At your next interview, you're likely to face the standard interview question, 'Tell me about a time you went above and beyond,' or a variation thereof. During your job search, learning about what you could be asked and the best way to respond can help your interview performance. If you're prepping for interviews, consider this article, which discusses this question and contains sample answers.
Why do employers ask, 'Tell me about a time you went above and beyond?'
Typically, employers seek the answer to the question, ‘Tell me about a time you went above and beyond,’ because they are interested an applicant’s ability to exceed baseline expectations. While all employees are expected to follow instructions, those who exceed performance expectations are often preferred by most companies. Essentially, answering this question effectively can improve overall interview performance by helping the hiring manager identify you as a high-performing employee.
How to answer, 'Tell me about a time you went above and beyond?'
When preparing for the question, ‘Tell me about a time you went above and beyond,’ consider the following steps to develop an effective answer:
- Research your work experiences. Start developing your answer before the interview by considering your on-the-job performance and finding instances in which you added value by doing more than was expected of you. If you’re just joining the workforce, find times you excelled in college or during an internship.
- Make a list of these experiences. Spend time listing as many as possible so you can identify the best options later on.
- Choose the best experiences. Select a minimum of three experiences that are most relevant to the position you’re interviewing for from your list. Try to choose experiences that highlight different skills, such as customer service or leadership.
- Describe the context to the interviewer. Begin your answer by articulating the surrounding circumstances on which your performance was based. For example, you could describe the exact instructions your supervisor gave you, then detail how your actions exceeded those directions.
- Communicate what you did concisely. Tell the interviewer what you did and use a performance metric if possible to illustrate the extent to which you went above and beyond.
Example answers to 'Tell me about a time you went above and beyond'
As you prepare your answer, consider these example responses:
Example: Senior graphic designer
In my current position, I’m tasked with designing graphics according to creative briefs, and I go above and beyond by developing a 10 question survey on the efficacy of each campaign after drafting the designs. I get feedback on the survey from copywriters on the project and the market research team, make any necessary changes, and, with the approval of my creative director, use social media and my network of contacts to find people that fit the client’s customer profile to give feedback on my work. Once I’ve gathered my sample, I collect the data via social media platforms.
I analyze the data, get feedback from the research team, and document my findings. Then, I make any necessary changes to my work and document the process before the client meeting. This makes my work more effective by increasing the relevance of my client’s marketing to the end consumer. In the last quarter, 70% of my clients reported a 100% satisfaction score with their marketing campaigns.
Example: Entry-level accountant
I go above and beyond at work through my customer service. I define exceptional customer service as anticipating client concerns before they’re addressed. For example, I learned from customers and colleagues that there was a demand for services that my employer did not offer. I devised a quantitative survey to find out what new services most customers wanted. With the go-ahead from my boss, I attached it to the billing documents that clients get.
I collected 100 completed surveys in a two-week period and used the findings to write a proposal to the senior management recommending the inclusion of three new financial services that most customers wanted. The surveys cost me only $30 in supplies, and it was worth it because management agreed to add the services. Business is up by 20% since the change. It felt great to help make that happen.
Example: Mid-level manager
I learned during my scrum sessions with my team members that they spent a lot of time helping customers navigate the brand’s social media pages and the website’s store pages. I worked with my marketing team to develop a series of five-minute videos that explained all the things my customers were having problems with. We put the videos on the company site, emailed customers about the videos, and diverted all related customer queries to our website. It was an effective solution. Some of the more creative videos trended on social media, there was a 30% increase in customer approval ratings in that quarter, and my front-line staff had more time to focus on their other duties.
Another example is the employee surveys I spearheaded to find out about customer requests for products we did not have. Based on the survey findings, we began to add items to our inventory to cater to demand. Now, we’ve expanded and formalized the process to regularly add high-demand products and remove low-demand products from our inventory based on the findings from the employee survey and sales records. In the first quarter after implementing this inventory process change, our revenue increased by 20%, and it’s still increasing.