Behavioural Interview Question – Tell me about a time you showed initiative at work


In this post We will answer the behavioural interview question:


“Tell me about a time you showed initiative.”


We’ll cover:


  • A sneak peek into the mind of the interviewer and WHY they ask this


  • What to say when you’re answering


  • And a concrete example of my own experience to get you thinking!

Ok So What’s the point of this question?


It’s to see what ‘initiative’ means to you as a potential employee? Where did you see something that wasn’t working and you made it work? Something that needed improving and so you improved upon it? Something that wasn’t getting done, and so you did it? No one asked you to, no one told you to, but you saw something was missing and you took action yourself. That’s initiative.


So the reason they ask this is to see, how you have done it in the past?


The opposite of initiative is doing nothing, saying things like ‘That’s not my job’. This question is a great opportunity to tell a story that shows off a time when you took initiative and it was a success.


So here’s how you answer:


You answer it by telling your story in my favourite Story way using:
The SARI Formula which we’ll go through here. SARI stands for (Situation, Action Result and interesting Features)


The SARI Formula stands for (Situation/Task, Action, Result & Interesting Features)


You want to tell a powerful story that paints a good picture of the situation, how you rose to the challenge and the end result.



STEP 1: The Situation (setting the stage) So For Example:


I was working at a tech company and we had a great VP of Engineering, he was the best boss ever, he was supportive, always chill, never got angry if someone made a mistake, he just dealt with things accordingly, he was good at making unpopular decisions yet he was still able to maintain the coolness factor of being a good boss and he always made us laugh. I’d been working with him for 2 years and we were having a big company event and since he is management and he isn’t able to win awards that employees are eligible to win. I decided I’d see if I could get everyone to pitch in for a surprise award for him.


(This is an example of seeing someone that I thought deserved to be recognized and making it possible) and in the second step I explain the actions I took to to do it. The first step of this story is observing and becoming aware of something without anyone having told you. Something that came from the heart, or something that came out of need.


Step 2: ACTION:


What were the actions that you took and what outcome did they lead to? So for example: Action:
I pitched my idea to the CEO, and he fully supported me. He said he would be happy to help out by paying for his wife to fly over (to where the event was) and surprise him even more with his wife coming in. So I collected all the money from everyone and I got him this award.


Step 3: RESULT


So the result, in this case, was: On the night of the awards, he was the one presenting them, and he was wrapping up the ceremony where he said, ok that’s it everyone eat drink and be merry, when the CEO said: Wait there is one more thing! And we did the presentation of his award.


Step 4: BONUS Interesting Features


Highlight anything interesting about the story – there were too many interesting features to name but I went with this one: “I think he may have shed a tear or two (although he would want to admit it)” – that really paints the picture of the impact that this action had.


There we have it:


Can you think of a time when you observed something that no one else did, and took action on it?
How did you feel afterwards?
How did it turn out!


Thank you for reading! Nailing the interview questions is great! But There is a lot more to interviewing than just answering the questions.


In fact if all you do is answer the questions alone, you’ve already lost at the interview.


There is a whole interview strategy at play and if you’d like to learn more you can get started with me by clicking the link below to grab my free guide:


You get free instant access and Ultimate Situational Interviewing Guide.


Click here to subscribe


What you’ll get when you download the guide:


An in-depth look at The SARI Formula (and the psychology behind it)
A series of Concrete Examples for the top 10 most commonly asked situational questions
Fill in the blank templates for each question


& if you are still getting stuck (because preparing your own stories is tough) I’ve also included


25 Questions to come up with your own stories much quicker.


You’ll also get the beautifully designed workbook, designed specially for you to prepare for your next interview.


By the end of working through the guide you’ll be totally ready for any situational interview question that gets thrown your way!


Click below and grab it now.


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Thanks for reading and I’ll see you next week here in my digital corner of the world.


In Work & Life
-Natalie Fisher


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