Employers love to ask behavioral interview questions like, “Tell me about a time you went above and beyond to get the job done.” They ask this question in retail, customer service, nursing and more… to test your work ethic and other important traits. As a former recruiter, I’m going to show you, with plenty of examples, how to handle this question to impress employers. Here’s what we’ll cover in the next ten minutes:
- Why employers ask about a time you went above and beyond, and the three key factors they’re looking for
- How to answer using the S.T.A.R. method (while avoiding crucial mistakes that can cost you the job)
- Example answers to help you practice and feel confident
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.
Watch: How to Answer “Tell Me About a Time You Went Above and Beyond”
How to Answer, “Tell Me About a Time You Went Above and Beyond”
Since this is a behavioral interview question, I recommend using the S.T.A.R. method to organize your answer and describe going above and beyond. S.T.AR. is short for Situation, Task, Action, Result:
- First, describe the situation you were in.
- Then, explain the task at hand, or the challenge you had to overcome
- Next, explain the action or plan you chose and why.
- Finally, describe the result and outcome (ideally a result where you exceeded expectations, helped the customer/client/patient, or helped the company get out of a tricky situation).
Based on my experience as a recruiter, this S.T.A.R. method is the best way to break down behavioral interview questions, which are questions beginning with phrases like, “Tell me about a time…”
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!
Answer Examples that Describe Going Above and Beyond
Example of a Time You Went Above and Beyond in Retail/Customer Service:
I was working as a customer service supervisor and helping a customer return an item. However, from behind the customer service desk, I saw someone drop a glass jar of sauce, which shattered on the floor. I was the closest employee, so I knew I had to act quickly to make sure no shoppers hurt themselves on the glass or slick floor.
I asked the customer who I had been previously helping if they could please wait for one minute, and then immediately went to the area of the accident and positioned myself to make sure that no customers would unknowingly walk through it. Once I was spotted by a second team member, I asked them to call maintenance to clean up the glass and bring a yellow “hazard” sign. I then remained at the site until that maintenance team member arrived. Once the appropriate team member had arrived, I returned to the customer who I had previously been helping, politely apologized for the delay, and completed their item return.
By acting quickly and going outside of my normal job duties, I was able to stop a potentially dangerous situation, while ensuring that my customer understood the cause for the delay so that they wouldn’t be confused or frustrated as I left temporarily.
Additional reading: Top 17 customer service interview questions.
Example of a Time You Went Above and Beyond for a Patient:
I was caring for an elderly cancer patient who didn’t have much time remaining, unfortunately. His final wish was to enjoy a drink with his lifetime friends. Normally, alcohol is not permitted on this floor of the hospital, but I spoke with the department head and asked if there was any way to arrange an exception to grant this patient’s final wish.
The next week, the department head agreed and we were able to let this patient’s friends join him for a small gathering and bring a bottle of whiskey.
Additional reading: 22 common nursing interview questions.
More Examples of Going Above and Beyond Expectations at Work:
- Staying late or adjusting your schedule, even though it wasn’t convenient for you, to help the company
- Filling in for a manager or boss who couldn’t attend work for unexpected reasons
- Going out of your way to fulfill a special request for a patient, customer, client, etc.
- Anything else you did beyond your typical job duties to give your company’s customers or clients a great experience
One More Trick to Stand Out and “Wow” the Interviewer
If you want to give the best answer possible, study the job requirements and give an answer that’s related to the company’s needs! That’s how to take your answer to the next level so you can set yourself apart from other people that the interviewer has spoken with! For example, if the job description mentions that you’ll be working in a fast-paced environment and interacting frequently with customers, share a sample of your past work that involves solving a problem for a customer in a time-sensitive situation or hectic work environment. You can even explain that you noticed that the employer’s job description mentions the same type of work environment and go on to say that this past experience is a reason you’re confident you would be successful in this next role.
The bottom line is: The more you can relate your answers to the company’s needs and job requirements when you describe a time when you went above and beyond, the more you’ll impress the interviewer. So always think about their needs when answering. If nothing else, the recruiter or hiring manager will be impressed that you did your research and took time to study their job posting, since so many candidates go into a job interview without knowing much about the company or role.
If you review the sample responses above, break your answer down with the S.T.A.R. method, and give an answer targeted to the company’s needs, you’ll have an impressive response that exceeds the hiring manager’s expectations and helps you win the job.
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