Tough Interview Question - Tell me about a time when you went above and beyond the requirements for a project or assignment

Tell me about a time when you went above and beyond the requirements for a project or assignment.

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!

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