Tell Me About a Time You Took Responsibility for a Task outside Your Job Description

Tell Me About a Time You Took Responsibility for a Task outside Your Job Description

During an interview, expect to answer questions about your previous work experiences. Be careful with some questions. They are tricky and you may struggle to find the best answers for them. Sometimes, you may be asked to talk about a time you took responsibility for a task outside your job description. How you answer the question is vital to passing the interview.

Your boss can always assign you a task outside your job description. However, you have the choice of refusing the task. Taking on a task outside your job description can benefit you and your organization which is why interviewers would like to know about your experience.

This guide explains the steps to answer this question during an interview.  First, let’s examine why an interviewer would ask you about your responsibilities outside your job description.

Why Do Interviewers Ask This Question?

These are some of the reasons why an interviewer might ask you to narrate your experience.

To know if you have leadership potential

One of the most craved qualities every employer looks for in a candidate is leadership. Taking on a task that is outside your area of specialization is a brave move. Also, it shows that you are willing to take the lead, especially when the team’s back is against the wall. Not everyone is a born leader. Yet, leadership skills are necessary to spur an organization to greater heights. It is a risky endeavor because you would be prone to mistakes that could have serious consequences. If you are willing to take on responsibilities outside your job description, you have met a crucial requirement.

To know your ability to adapt to different situations

Adapting to new surroundings and working conditions can be challenging for many. When you decide to take on a task outside of your job description, it is most likely a new experience. Those who hardly adapt quickly to new surroundings may respectfully decline. Thus, how you answer the question will make your ability to adapt known to the employer. Someone who can adapt is easily teachable. Also, they will be frontrunners when the company needs to transfer trusted staff to relatively new settings or projects. As long as you can adapt, you will be an asset.

To know if they can depend on you when the chips are down

A change in personnel could affect an organization in various ways. Employees come and go – either temporarily or permanently. When this happens, the company sometimes has very little time to prepare for the departure. For instance, if an employee takes a leave of absence for about a month, the company might need someone to fill in for the absent employee. In this case, the company would be prepared for the temporary exit. However, the untimely death of an employee would leave the company unprepared to find a replacement. If you have ever taken on a task outside your job description, it shows that you will likely fill in for someone else if need be.

To test your problem-solving skills

Working outside your area of expertise can be difficult even for the most experienced professional. Sometimes there is a lot of work to do and not enough hands to do it. Not everyone would be willing to do a job that they are not familiar with and that could put your superiors and the company at large in a state of confusion. Taking responsibility for a task outside your job description shows that you can solve problems for the organization in unfamiliar territory.

To see how far you will go to help the team

It takes selflessness to agree to a task outside of your comfort zone. A lot is at stake when you decide to carry out such a task. The probability of failure is relatively high as well. Yet, when you agree to such a task, it shows great team spirit. It also proves that you are ready to take risks to help your team and the organization at large. When a collective goal comes first before personal accolades for you, you will win any employer over.


How to Answer the Interview Question

Mention why you took on a task outside your job description

Taking responsibility for a task outside of your comfort zone is a risky endeavor. Thus, there must be a good reason for doing so. Before you go into the details, start by explaining why you accepted the challenge. If your reason is based on helping the team achieve a goal, it is admirable. Also, if you had been compelled to do the job, be honest with the interviewer. It is better to speak the truth and sound authentic than to please the interviewer and be caught lying. There is no shame in admitting that you never wanted to carry out the task in the first place. The most important thing is that you did it and it paid off in the end. While you state your reasons for accepting the responsibility, you may also share why you may have refused it.

The events that led to accepting the task

After stating why you agreed to carry out the task, go straight to how the event unfolded. Recall the moments leading up to assigning you the task. It helps the interviewer to understand why you were asked to take on the responsibility. For instance, the departure of a colleague could leave a vacant space to fill. If this happens, the employer may have no choice but ask you to help out. Speak briefly about how you were approached and how your colleague or superior convinced you to take on the task. Also, reveal your reaction and the concerns you may have had at the time.

How you motivated yourself for the task

Sometimes you need motivation for something as simple as getting out of bed in the morning. If you need motivation for even the most trivial activities, you will need more to carry out a task you are not familiar with. To perform the task, you need all the motivation you can get from any well-meaning source you can find. Mention the few things that you needed for motivation. Perhaps you might have gotten inspirational books or quotes to guide you. Also, you might have solicited moral support or acquired the backing of your superiors and colleagues beforehand. Credit whoever and whatever motivated you through this period.

The professional help you got

Besides motivation, you will need assistance from professionals in the field. When you are embarking on a relatively new journey, you are at a disadvantage. You would be lacking in vital skills, hours of practice, experience, and all-around know-how. Thus, you may have to make up for it by involving professionals who have done similar projects successfully. Any advice you got from other professionals would have been vital to completing the task. Also, the equipment you had to buy, lease, or borrow would be crucial. Discuss how you brought all these together and how they helped you carry out the task.

The experience of executing the task and the challenges you faced

In brief, sentences, narrate how you carried out the task. Speak about the challenges you faced during the task, especially the ones you didn’t expect. If you had to work with colleagues, highlight what you went through and how you worked together. Don’t forget to mention the task you carried out specifically. Other aspects of the task you may mention are the duration of the task, the expectations, and how different it was from what you were used to doing.

The outcome

Revealing the outcome might be difficult if the result was not favorable. Yet, it pays to talk about it. Attempting to carry out the task is already appreciated – the bravery and sacrifice shown cannot be underestimated. However, if the task turned out favorably, don’t hesitate to share the testimony. Also, you may quote favorable words of affirmation by superiors and colleagues. If you or your team got an award or a bonus due to the success of the task, mention it proudly. Likewise, if you got a promotion or a raise due to the positive outcome of the task, it is worth a shout.

The impact on your career

Taking on responsibility in an unfamiliar setting can define your career and professional aspirations. Conclude the answer by stating how the experience became a career-defining moment. On the other hand, if it had little to no impact on your career, speak on the lessons you learned instead. Explain how the experience has made you a better person and professional.



Taking responsibility for a task outside of your job description is always challenging, especially if it’s your first time. However, when you are asked to narrate this experience, be descriptive. Use words that show the complexity and gravity of the experience and be brief. Also, focus on how your skills were a vital ingredient in making a difference. The more you sell your skills, the more the employer will see you as a potential asset. Finally, ensure to only speak on an event that happened. Always be factual.

Interview Questions

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