During a career, there are times to be a follower and other times when it's important to take the initiative. Taking the lead when necessary is an attribute that interviewers will focus on during an interview.

Question 117. Recall a time when you were given a set of instructions that you were unable to follow.

situation: When I first joined the Trading Company, I thought it was a sign of weakness to acknowledge that I didn't grasp a concept and needed clarification. This mind-set led to my struggling on a project and spending more time on it than necessary. I met the deadline, but only by a hair.

action: For the next task assigned to me, I asked questions until I understood the project's scope and the steps I needed to take to complete it.

result: I was able to finish my projects without feeling undue pressure. In addition, by asking questions of others, I built rapport with my co-workers.

Question 118. Give an example of a situation in which you did something that you knew had little chance of success.

situation: In searching for ways to save the company money, I discovered that many offices were going paperless.

action: I researched several software applications and identified the one that best fit the organization's needs. My research showed me, however, that the software license made the idea cost-prohibitive.

result: Nevertheless, since I took the time to conduct the research, I submitted my findings to my immediate supervisor. She was so impressed not only with my initiative but also with the idea of going green. She forwarded the research to the head of the company. As I suspected, the licensing fees were out of reach, however, the company implemented the change a few years later in a satellite office. Eventually, the process was applied company-wide.

Question 119. Describe an occasion when an idea you had was met with enthusiasm by management.

situation: The manual system for recording employee participation in training programs was cumbersome.

action: I implemented a learning-management system whereby employees could register for courses, view a history of courses they had taken, receive reminders of upcoming workshops, and notify supervisors when the staff registered for courses. In addition, I created an e-mail announcement for the system, developed a tutorial with step-by-step instructions on how to use it, and offered training workshops.

result: Since Human Resources was no longer required to provide employees with a list of training programs, their time was freed up to attend to more important departmental matters.

Question 120. Describe a time when you took an active role in a project for which you had little experience.

situation: I worked as an administrative assistant for years. Though I had no experience, when the position of special communications specialist opened up, management approached me to consider it.

action: I suggested and then launched a new intranet Web site to promote an Executive Briefing Program on a cross-company basis.

result: The efforts resulted in 50 percent greater participation from all levels of management. The initiative also generated internal strategic partnerships based on improved interdepartmental communications.

Question 121. Give me an example of a time you worked for a startup.

situation: Because it would be a challenge, I decided to work for a startup company that was obtaining a patent for LCD displays in elevators.

action: I set up a client list of potential customers, and I introduced the idea of elevator commercial placements to the executives.

result: Though I was successful in selling the product, unfortunately the patent was not approved and the operation shut down. That said, the experience I garnered, including how to expand territory and handle consultative sales, was instrumental in my later success as an account executive.

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