Similar interview questions: Are you typically a meets expectations person or an exceeds expectations person? What do you do when you are given the goals or requirements for a project? How were you rated on your most recent performance review? Give an example of when you went beyond meeting the basic needs of a user.
Why the interviewer is asking this question: Most jobs have a “meets expectations” level of delivery as a baseline. Yet employers are consistently looking for superstars who will exceed expectations in delivery. Often, just meeting expectations can be difficult, so there are few who actually exceed expectations. But most individuals have an example (or two or three) of times where they were able to exceed expectations. If a candidate cannot provide even one example, it is likely that they will be, at best, a mediocre performer in the role.
The best approach to answering this question: Select a time when you exceeded expectations, even if it was only for one part of the requirements for the project or assignment. If you are an experienced candidate, you should select a recent work project. If you are an entry level or internship candidate, the ideal is to select an internship experience. However, if you do not have one, you can select a school assignment, ideally one that is career related. Give specifics about the requirements and how you exceeded them.
An example of how to best answer this question for experienced candidates: “In my most recent project, our users asked to add a new feature to the product. Since this was essentially a bolt-on addition to some rather antiquated code, I dug deeper and found that we could upgrade that entire section of code to make it more efficient with only a small amount of additional effort. I got the OK from my manager to proceed and we did the upgrade to the delight of the user community, since it increased system efficiency by more than 50% due to the tighter integration with the code base…”
An example of how to best answer this question for entry level candidates: “In my recent internship, I was part of a small team tasked with researching our user experience for a new component which was going to be implemented. Previously, my internship employer had relied on internal employees as test subjects for their alpha and beta testing. I made a recommendation to my project leader that we might want to reach out to our users who are connected to us via social media to see if any would be willing to test the final beta. I got the OK and we assembled a team of 15 external users to do final beta testing. The results were that we got a much more robust and diverse set of responses externally that helped us to come out with a flawless launch later that month…”
An example of how to best answer this question for internship candidates: “In my capstone class, we were assigned a research project which most students delivered based on Internet and library research. However, I went out to several businesses in the area to interview practitioners to get their current views on the subject. The result was a much more current and relevant sample set. My professor had me present my findings to the class and held it up as one of the best reports he had received in the history of teaching that class…”
An example of how you should not answer this question: “Well, I usually do just the minimum required to get the job done. But recently I was able to pad my work estimate so that I finished the project ahead of schedule. The user was really happy about it, even though it was just me giving a lot of fluff in the initial estimate. I always find that it’s best to underpromise so that whatever I deliver is considered overdelivered…” 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 Common Interview Questions to be fully prepared for your interview!
What type of situation and story should you choose for your answer?
I recommend sharing a work-related story, even if they don’t specifically ask for that. Answering this question with a personal story isn’t as effective in convincing an employer that you’re the person they should hire.
Next, make sure it’s a story with a great ending. In the job interview, you want to share examples where your actions exceeded expectations and brought about a great result!
Also, a more recent story is often more convincing, so if there’s an example of a time you had to go above and beyond in your one or two most recent jobs, choose that.
Or, choose an example from a time when you worked in the same industry, or a similar type of role. That way, the hiring manager will view this accomplishment as being more relevant to their job.
And most importantly, ensure that your story is directly answering the interview question. You need to share a situation where you had to go beyond the typical call of duty at work and do something that was not part of your job description, and/or not something you were expecting to do that day!
Why Do Interviewers Ask About When You Went Above and Beyond?
When interviewers ask any question, “They are always trying to identify specific skills, competencies, and personality traits that they need to help them fulfill their goal,” says Eloise Eonnet, Muse career coach and founder of Eloquence Coaching. “Tell me about a time you went above and beyond” is no exception. Interviewers want to know that you’ll go the extra mile when you can, specifically in ways that will help them and their team or their company overall. Additionally, this question can show interviewers how motivated you are and whether youll settle for mediocre or “good enough” rather than striving for great in your own work, says Muse career coach Steven Davis, owner of Renaissance Solutions Inc.
Why Interviewers Ask About a Time You Went Above and Beyond
Employers ask for an example of a time you had to go above and beyond for a few reasons.
First, they’re evaluating your attitude and work ethic. They want to make sure you’re willing to go beyond your job duties.
They don’t want to hire someone who’s going to find the company in a tough situation, and instead of volunteering to do a bit extra, say, “Sorry, that’s not a part of my job description.”
So first, show that you’ve got a great attitude and willingness to fill in wherever your employer needs you! You don’t want to sound resentful, frustrated, or angry when describing the time when you went above and beyond.
So never blame or badmouth coworkers or customers! That’s one of the most critical mistakes. You can say, “I was talking to a customer who was quite upset.” But don’t say, “I was dealing with a terrible customer.”
No company wants to hear you talk like that!
Next, employers ask this to measure your problem-solving ability. Were you able to think outside the box and come up with a smart, effective solution? Can you adjust to difficult situations?
Finally, they want to see how you perform under pressure. Were you able to stay calm and relaxed through this experience? Or did you panic?
This is just one of many job interview questions designed to measure your performance under pressure. Staying cool under pressure is an important skill that many employers look for.