Question 45. Sometimes people have to take up opportunities to achieve professional success. Tell me about a time when you took a chance in your career and the result.

situation: Throughout my career I worked for stable companies. However, when an opportunity to work with a construction startup presented itself, I was drawn in by the calculated risk involved. In addition, the role as construction manager intrigued me, since it meant greater responsibility as well.

action: As part of the startup initiative, I established a market presence, developed OSHA guidelines, and created the budget workflow.

result: Single-handedly I accelerated territory growth and cultivated a customer database, growing annual sales from zero to $11 million in a year.

Question 46. Describe an occasion when you expanded your knowledge base to further your career.

situation: I enjoy technical writing, but it is formulaic. With the growing popularity of blogs, I wanted to take a crack at writing a TV show review site. After reviewing several well-known blogs in the same general area, I found a niche that could balance professionalism with a snarky approach.

action: Since that type of writing was new to me, I contacted several blog sites and agreed to write for a nonpaying Web site about the first season of The Comedy Hour. I figured that the experience and exposure would pave the way to a paying job.

result: Once I developed an online portfolio, I used it to apply for top reviewer sites. For the past three years, I have been writing part time for Rate This, one of the most popular online review sites.

Question 47. Tell me about a time when you leveraged your past experience to advance your career.

situation: After years of teaching biology to ninth-grade students, I wanted to change gears and be a teacher consultant, a position in which I would train high school educators on how to include the ideas in current science textbooks in their lesson plans.

action: I contacted a friend who was a textbook sales representative and asked whether he could serve as a reference, using his affiliation with his employer, Advanced Books. Because of our longstanding friendship, he agreed to vouch for my qualifications.

result: As a result of my experience and his recommendation, I was offered a train-the-trainer position. And that is how I began my career in coaching and mentoring teachers.

Question 48. Give an example of how you put the company's needs ahead of your career goals.

obstacle: Because of financial reasons, the Merit Company downsized several departments. Afraid that their positions were in jeopardy, many co-workers embarked on job searches. Ultimately, a third of them offered their resignations within three months.

action: On the other hand, I reaffirmed my commitment to the organization, and instead of looking for a new opportunity, I concentrated my efforts on ensuring that the company stayed afloat. This meant that I managed my tasks as well as took over the work of ex-employees. Without protesting, I tackled each assignment, bringing work home and working overtime when necessary.

result: Though upper management continued its layoff efforts, my dedication to the company was recognized and I never received a pink slip. In fact, I survived several downsizing cycles. It was a bumpy few years, but the company made it through its economic crisis.

Question 49. Tell me about a time when you assumed a position or took on a task that was below your experience because you knew it would lead to better opportunities.

situation: Though I had many years' experience running a small catering company, I was excited to learn of an opportunity to be a prep cook for the well-known organization Delectable Catering. Knowing that I would have to close down my company if I were to receive and accept the job offer, I applied for the position nonetheless because it would afford me access to high-end affairs with celebrities and politicians, where budget would be unimportant.

action: After three rounds of interviews, the position was offered and I accepted. Without skipping a beat, I immersed myself in the kitchen, making recommendations for menus.

result: Within a year I was charged with directing some of the company's major events. Through word-of-mouth, I was sought after by both new and existing clients. The referrals brought in a great deal of revenue for Delectable Catering, and as I suspected, the large-scale events were challenging, leaving me satisfied that I made the right move.

Question 50. Give me an example of how your first job prepared you for this one.

situation: When I worked as a product demonstrator in a retail environment, I became accustomed to talking to complete strangers about product offerings.

action: By engaging consumers and answering product-specific questions, I developed a strong ability to hold the customer's attention.

result: Owing to that experience, I learned how to connect with customers instantly. This led to my success in securing profitable and sustainable relationships with clients.

Question 51. Tell me about the most competitive situation you have experienced and how you handled it.

situation: When I was employed at Stone Imaging, I was in the running for a promotion; the other candidate was a colleague who was well liked and admired by many people in the company, myself included.

action: I put together a proposal that highlighted the company's most important objectives for the first three months. Though this step was not required, or requested by management, I felt my initiative would give me a competitive edge.

result: In the end, my colleague was awarded the promotion. However, a new position was created for me based on the proposal I had submitted. The outcome was a win-win situation for everyone involved.

Question 52. Provide an example of a real-life experience that prepared you for this position.

situation: Sixteen years ago my son was born with autism.

action: Since I knew nothing about the syndrome, I immersed myself in researching autism, so as to learn all I could about the condition. The information I gathered helped me in my development as a mother, and also in my dealings with the doctor.

result: As part of that experience, I learned where to go and how to research a subject, quickly and thoroughly. My ability to research subjects quickly cuts down on preparation time for completing assignments. In addition, as my son's condition made his behavior unpredictable, I honed an ability to adapt my communication style to meet his varying needs. This flexible communication skill is useful when dealing with co-workers and clients.

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