Interviewers often ask questions about taking the initiative to help others because they want to learn more about your collaboration and teamwork skills and determine if you are proactive and take ownership. During this episode, I show you a simple, 5-step approach to formulate a convincing answer.
Welcome to today’s episode, which is about answering the interview question, “Tell me about a time you stepped in to help the team achieve its goals.” Interviewers often ask questions about taking the initiative to help others because they want to learn more about your collaboration and teamwork skills and determine if you are proactive and take ownership. I will now show you a simple, five- step approach to formulate a convincing answer to this question. If you want to learn more about answering behavioral interview questions in general, please tune in to my previous episode on this topic.
Step 1: Identify your example.
Try to remember a situation where you pro-actively offered help that was not part of your everyday responsibilities and where your support enabled the team to deliver an important result. If you have several examples, I recommend choosing one where your commitment involved hard work, required you to get out of your comfort zone, and contributed to achieving measurable business results.
Step 2: Describe the situation.
Summarize when and where the situation occurred, what the team was struggling with and why it was important for the business to solve the problem. For example, maybe you worked as an individual contributor on a team that needed to grow rapidly to ensure a new product launch wouldn’t be delayed. And the main challenge for your manager was to find the time to interview a large number of candidates, which is why you offered to do some pre-screening interviews. Or maybe one of your colleagues was supposed to hold an important customer presentation but got sick the day before, and you offered to step in for him/her.
Step 3: Describe your actions.
Explain how you offered your support when you realized that you could help. Cover also how you made sure you wouldn’t fall behind with your other commitments. For example, after you heard your teammate was sick, you might have called the account manager to offer to stand in for your colleague in the meeting. And before that call, you re-prioritized your other tasks and aligned with the concerned stakeholders. Once you have explained how you initiated your support, summarize your actions that helped the team reach its goal.
Step 4: Describe the results.
Cover how your support contributed to the team achieving the desired result. If possible, quantify the business impact. What would have happened if you hadn’t stepped in? Describe also the feedback you received and, if applicable, what you learned from this situation..
Step 5: Formulate your answer.
Put together a compelling answer by combining the outcome of the previous steps. For example, a good answer for our previous example could be:
“I was working as a project manager at company X, a major IT consultancy firm. Last summer, one of our account teams was pitching an important project to one of our strategic clients. My colleague, who was responsible for presenting parts of the pitch, became sick the day before meeting with the client. Since I knew postponing it was not an option, I decided to offer my support. First, I went through my to-do list and re-prioritized my tasks to ensure I wouldn’t fall behind with my other commitments. I also talked to my manager to make sure she would be okay with me missing an internal meeting that I was supposed to attend the next day. Then, I called the account manager to offer my support. He gladly accepted my help, so I spent the day catching up with the other people on the bid team and finalizing my parts of the presentation, which I then presented to the customer the next day. The client accepted our proposal two days after the meeting. It turned out that they were in a rush to get this project started and would therefore have been forced to pick one of our competitors if we had delayed the presentation. I got a lot of praise from the account manager for stepping in at short notice and delivering a very compelling presentation. Since this project is an official reference, I can disclose that it involved 50,000 consulting hours, which was the largest regional project we have ever done.”
These were the five steps to formulate an answer to the interview question, “Tell me about a time you stepped in to help the team achieve its goals.” If you follow them, you will likely have a great example that shows that you are a real team player who pro-actively supports others to help achieve significant business results.
That’s all for today. Thank you for listening, and I hope this was helpful to you.