Life sucks sometimes. You cannot sleep at night, haunted by ghosts of the past, or doubt of the future. There is war in one country and famine in another, and the temperatures reach record heights once again. What’s more, your bank account is almost empty, your wife keeps telling you that you should earn more money, and bills keep piling up… I hope you haven’t found yourself in this description, but let’s be honest–everyone has their fair share of troubles. And that’s why it is nice when someone gets out of their way to make our day better. And it is even nicer if you are that person, improving someone else’s day :). But why do the hiring managers use this question in an interview? Well, they do so for a few reasons.

First of all, it isn’t a typical question, one that everyone prepares for in advance, such as “What motivates you?”, or “What are your goals?” Hiring managers catch many people off-guard with this one, and hear an authentic response, which is exactly what they are after. And secondly, your answer tells a lot about your attitude to people, the way you will likely treat your colleagues, customers, and simply any person you come to contact with in the job. And that’s important for every employer.

Let’s a have a look now at 7 sample answers to this one. It is a tricky one, but I tried to come up with a nice mix of conventional and “out of the box answers”, and hope at least one of them will resonate with you, and with the attitude you try to show in the interviews. I added a few philosophical answers to this list as well, perhaps to make you think, or to make the hiring managers think–which can often help you. Anyway, enjoy the answers, and good luck in your interview!


7 sample answers to “Tell us about a time you went out of your way to make a difference to someone that improved their day” interview question

  1. I recall such an experience from my last job in a restaurant. It was on a hot and busy day, and the place was full. I had my hands full, and really had to keep my concentration on the duties. But I still noticed one guy who looked extremely sad. Had no idea what happened to him, but he just sat there, lonely with this broken look in his eyes. And so I decided to bring him some desert we had left from last day, that we could not sell anymore. Just came there, smiled on him, and said him it was a present from the restaurant. He raised his head, smiled back at me, and I really felt this little gesture made his hard day at least a bit sweeter. Needless to say, it gave me good emotions too, and I no doubt hope to repeat such a gesture another time, when there is an opportunity.
  2. As a busy manager in my last corporate role, with deadlines looming all the time, I honestly didn’t have many opportunities to go out of my way for others, unless I wanted to neglect my job. But I recall one specific situation, when I was passing by a conference room, and saw one manager giving a hard talk to one of the employees. I knew that guy personally, because before he was a part of my team. And I knew he wasn’t a person one should talk to in the way the other manager did. Hence I went out of my way, entered the conference room, intervened a bit, and shared a nice word for the guy. I think it made his day at least a bit better, though of course I could not prevent his current manager from telling him the things he had told him.
  3. I just did that today in the morning. Walked around one of those guys living on the street, like I do on many mornings. But this time I decided to stop, even though I was in rush, just like one almost always is in this strange world… I stopped, greeted the guy and started to talk to him. Which surprised him a lot–guy like me talking to a guy like him. But once I broke the ice we had a nice conversation about life and his story, problems that brought him to the streets of Chicago. And in that moment I realized that such things can happen to anyone, including myself… Eventually I even gave him a bit of money, but I think that what really made a difference to his day was the talk we had. I am proud of my attitude, and hope it wasn’t the last time that I actually stopped in my rush and did something good for another person.
  4. To be completely honest with you, I cannot recall such a situation. Maybe until now I’ve been always too busy, lost in thoughts, occupied by my own duties and problems. Having said that, I realize that life is too short and can perish at any moment, and we should perhaps think a bit more about other people we meet and interact with, including the strangers on the street. With your question you really motivated me to give this a thought, and while I cannot recall any situation right now, I will walk with my eyes open from now on, and hope to have an example ready for you once we talk to each other again–perhaps in my new job :).
  5. I almost feel I’m doing that constantly as a teacher. Just always trying to go above and beyond, staying extremely attentive to the needs and feelings of the children in the classroom, trying to make their day better. Because I realize many of them don’t have it easy in their families, and that a teacher can sometimes make a difference in the life of a child, or at least make their day better. As I said, I always try to do it, and it doesn’t matter when I have to go out of my way because of it. I simply will do it, because I consider it my personal mission.
  6. Well, it not only improved their day–it saved their life. I was walking down a busy street, and saw a guy who looked really strange. His face was totally white, and he was breathing heavily, clutching a railing with his hand. As you can imagine, everyone just passed by, staring at their smartphone, or listening to music. But I immediately realized something was very wrong with this guy. And though I was already late to a meeting, I went out of my way and approached him. I quickly realized he wasn’t drunk or high or something similar. He was sick in some way. After judging the situation, I called an ambulance, and the doctors who came said that I actually saved his life, because he suffered a strange type of a heart attack. If the ambulance arrived just ten minutes later, there wouldn’t be a chance to save him anymore. Hence I am extremely glad that I went out of my way, and made many of his days better, since hopefully now he still has at least some years in front of him.
  7. This is a hard one, because, to be honest, we never know how other people will react to our actions, regardless of whether they understand our intentions, and what we try to achieve. Sometimes I tried to make a difference for someone that would make their day better, and it ended the other way around. I made their day worse. What I try to say here is that I typically do not think about situations in the way you suggest. I simply try to follow my values, and do good things to others whenever I get the chance. However, how they perceive it and whether it actually improves their day, or on the contrary, is out of my control.

So that’s it! I hope you enjoyed my list, and that the answers gave you some inspiration for your own, perfect interview answer. And if not, than at least I hope they gave you some food for thought, and perhaps made your day a bit better :). Do not forget to check also 7 sample answers to other tricky interview questions:

Matthew Chulaw
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