This seems like a straight-forward interview questions, but there is more to it than meets the eye. This is an impact question designed to gain insight into your values and character. To answer it effectively you need to offer more than a standard success story detailing what you did and when. The most important aspect of your answer is the why behind your actions.
Ultimately, the interviewer wants to understand why you chose to spend your energy on that endeavor and what impact the result had on both you and others. To craft a well-formed response, make sure your answer is:
- Timely: When selecting topic, recency matters. You may be extremely proud of putting yourself through college. That’s fantastic, but the achievement loses its luster after a while. If you’re 40 and that’s still your “go-to” win, the interviewer will wonder what you’ve achieved since. Topics should be no more than 24 months old.
- Relevant: Your topic should tie, at least indirectly, to the job you seek. For example, I’m proud to have recently finished my fifth novel, but that accomplishment may not resonate with someone interviewing me for a CHRO role. On the other hand, if I published a well-received research paper on a hot HR topic such as remote working, that might be worth sharing.
- Impactful: You’ll get bonus points if your example had a positive, ideally measurable, effect on others. To use our HR example, perhaps you developed and launched a remote working policy at your company based on the research paper you published the year before. Perhaps that policy not only helped your company respond quickly to the COVID-19 situation but provided best practices for other organizations in your industry.
Having a relevant, timely success story that delivers positive impact to others is a great start. However, what can truly set your answer apart from others is sharing the why behind your actions.
Perhaps you wrote that HR paper on remote working because you believe there is an untapped talent market that could be accessed if more flexible options were offered. Or maybe your research indicates that remote work can reduce employee stress and increase productivity by eliminating commute time. Or perhaps you believe the change would enhance the company’s corporate sustainability program if they do their part to lower emissions and energy usage.
The rationale can differ person to person. The important aspects are that you have clear values, consistently take action, and have a history of creating a positive impact for others. That’s a story worth telling and something to be proud of…in any profession.
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