How to answer "Tell me about a time when you had to take a risk in your work. What was the outcome?" (with sample answers)

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This post is part of our series on behavioral interview questions.

Why employers ask this

The question "Tell me about a time when you had to take a risk in your work. What was the outcome?" is a common interview question that is used to understand how a candidate approaches risks and challenges in their work. This question is asked to determine if a candidate has the ability to take calculated risks, learn from failures, and make informed decisions that benefit the company.

Employers want to see that a candidate is able to take risks and make tough decisions that can drive the company forward. They want to know that the candidate can handle the pressure and uncertainty that comes with taking risks and can think on their feet when faced with difficult situations. A candidate's response can provide insights into their judgement, decision-making, problem-solving, and leadership skills.

Therefore, it is important for job seekers to be prepared to answer this question and demonstrate that they are not afraid to take risks in their work.

How to answer the question

When answering the question "Tell me about a time when you had to take a risk in your work. What was the outcome?", it is important to provide a specific example from your past work experience. Here are some tips to help you answer this question:

  1. Choose an appropriate example: Choose an example that is relevant to the job you are applying for. It should also be a situation where you took a calculated risk that had a positive outcome.
  2. Describe the situation: Provide context around the situation and what led you to take the risk. Explain the potential risks and benefits associated with the decision.
  3. Describe your actions: Explain the steps you took to execute the decision, including how you communicated your plan and gained buy-in from others.
  4. Describe the outcome: Explain the result of your decision and how it had a positive impact on the company. Describe what you learned from the experience and how you would approach a similar situation in the future.
  5. Be honest: Be honest about the risks involved and any challenges you faced. It's important to demonstrate that you can handle difficult situations and learn from failures.

Sample answers

  1. Good answer:

    One of my previous roles involved managing a large-scale project for a client. We were behind schedule, and the client was getting frustrated with the lack of progress. I took a risk and decided to pivot our strategy, which involved proposing a new timeline and a different approach. The outcome was positive - the client was impressed by our agility and willingness to alter our plan, and we were able to complete the project ahead of schedule.

    Why it's good: This answer shows that the interviewee is willing to make tough decisions when necessary, and is willing to take calculated risks. It also demonstrates the ability to adapt to changing circumstances, which is a valuable trait in many roles.

  2. Bad answer:

    Uh, I can't really think of a time when I took a risk in my work. I usually just follow the instructions I'm given.

    Why it's bad: This answer shows a lack of initiative and creativity, which are important qualities that many employers look for. It also suggests that the interviewee may be unwilling or unable to go above and beyond their job description.

  3. Good answer:

    In my previous role, I was responsible for designing a new website for a client. I proposed a new layout that was more modern and user-friendly, but it was a departure from the client's previous website design. I took a risk and presented my idea to the client, who was initially hesitant but eventually agreed to try it out. The outcome was positive - the new website design received more traffic and positive feedback from users.

    Why it's good: This answer shows that the interviewee is willing to think outside the box and suggest new ideas, while also being able to back up those ideas with data-driven results.

  4. Bad answer:

    One time, I decided to try a new coffee shop instead of going to my usual spot. The coffee wasn't as good as what I'm used to, and it threw off my whole day.

    Why it's bad: This answer does not relate to the topic of the interview question and is not relevant to the job. It also shows a lack of seriousness and professionalism.

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