In this episode, I will share a simple, five-step approach to help you show your interviewer that you can exceed expectations, which translates to you being able to provide significant value to the company.
Welcome to today’s episode, during which I share a simple, five-step approach to answering the interview question, “Tell me about a time you considerably exceeded expectations.” It is crucial to have a good answer to this question, since employers hire candidates because they expect them to deliver value in exchange for their salary. So, showing that you can exceed expectations translates to you being able to provide significant value to the company. And that is not only the key to standing out from other candidates but might also help you get a better offer. So, here are the five steps.
Step 1: Identify your example.
Try to remember a situation where you worked hard, put a lot of effort into a task and considerably exceeded expectations. If possible, choose an example that is not older than 1-3 years and where your work led to quantifiable business results aligned with the value you are supposed to deliver in the role you are interviewing for. For instance, if you applied for an account manager position focusing on growing the business with existing customers, the ideal example should demonstrate that, in your current or previous role, you successfully exceeded your sales targets with existing clients.
Step 2: Describe the situation and your task.
In one or two sentences, summarize the situation: cover when and where it occurred, your task and why it was important. If possible, quantity what you were expected to deliver. For example, you may have worked as an account manager at a software vendor losing market share within banking, one of their focus industries. You were assigned one of the existing customers, a national bank, with the target to grow that account by 10% during the first year.
Step 3: Describe your actions.
Summarize in 3-4 sentences the actions you took. Start by explaining how you identified your strategy to meet or exceed your targets; then, cover the actual steps you took to do so. For instance, in our previous example, you may first have gathered information on your firm’s history with the account you were responsible for. You may have realized that your customer perceived your company as strictly a traditional enterprise software vendor and was not aware that you also offered innovative technologies. Therefore, you made repositioning your firm a priority of your account strategy. And to execute on that strategy, you may have scheduled a series of free workshops with your client’s key decision-makers and your company’s innovation experts, during which you identified new areas of collaboration. You may then have pitched and successfully sold your client new products that addressed their pain points.
Step 4: Describe the results.
Cover how you exceeded the expectations and, if possible, quantify the business impact of the work you delivered. For instance, in our previous example, you may have grown the account by 30% instead of the targeted 10% during the first year. And, thanks to the successful repositioning, you may have been able to double the business with this client during the following two years.
Step 5: Formulate your answer.
Compile the results from the previous steps into a compelling answer. Based on our earlier example, a good one could be, “Three years ago, I started my current job as account manager at company X. The firm had been losing market share within banking, one of the focus industries, for the last two years and urgently needed to turn this trend around. One of the customers I was assigned was a national bank that generated $5 M in yearly revenue. My target was to grow this account by 10% within one year. The first thing I did was gather as much information as possible about the client and our history with them. I then met with them to understand their challenges, objectives and decision-making processes. I quickly realized that we needed to reposition ourselves from being a traditional software vendor that provides transactional applications towards being an enabler for their digitalization journey. I had to internally convince a lot of people to get the resources needed to hold a series of free workshops with the client and our experts within big data, machine learning and artificial intelligence. But it helped us identify the correct solutions to accelerate the customer’s digitalization journey, demonstrate our capabilities and build trust with their key decision-makers. And the hard work paid off. We significantly increased our understanding of the customer’s business, repositioned ourselves and sold new products. And, at the end of my first year as the account manager, we had increased the revenue by 30% instead of the targeted 10%. But, more importantly, by implementing new machine learning capabilities, we also helped the client reduce credit losses by 8%. And this was the door-opener for even more new business with this customer. Together with my account team, I was able to double the revenue with them during the following two years.”
These were the five steps to answering the interview question, “Tell me about a time you considerably exceeded expectations.” After following them, you should have an excellent example that shows that you can provide significant value to the company and help you stand out from the other candidates. Thank you for listening, and I hope this was helpful to you.