Interview Question: How Did You Impact the Bottom Line?

Job interview meeting
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Whenever employers are hiring new employees, they're always looking for candidates whom they know will make a difference for the company. To gauge your potential for adding value to the company, an employer might ask, "How did you impact the bottom line in your last job?"

Understanding the Bottom Line

The "bottom line" traditionally refers to an increase in revenue and/or a reduction of costs or expenses. Obviously, this is something that’s of interest to every company. However, you need to think more broadly about what the bottom line is for your particular field and job. The bottom line has different meanings for different fields. Here are some examples of what the bottom line means for different jobs:

  • For a potential recruiter, the bottom line might be the relative productivity of new hires or the longevity of those hires. A recruiter whose new hires only stay for a short time or aren’t productive isn’t helping the bottom line.
  • For an admissions representative, the bottom line might be the quality of candidates who end up applying to their institution. Quality may be defined by students’ grades and test scores, or how many eventually graduate from the institution.
  • For a quality control specialist, the bottom line might be a reduction in waste as part of the manufacturing process. It would be important to demonstrate specific examples of how the specialist worked to reduce waste.
  • For a clinical director at a hospital, the bottom line might be a lower rate of misdiagnoses, malpractice claims, or administrations of the wrong medicines. These are all crucial for a successful clinic.

Include a Quantitative Measure of Success

In preparing your answer, first, you need to determine what the bottom line was in your past jobs. Be mindful of how success was measured by your job and department.

The optimal answer will involve some quantitative measure of success, like "I increased sales in the Northeast region by twelve percent.” If an answer like this is appropriate to a field, try to have some actual numbers ready to share with the interviewer.

You should also substantiate your assertion by describing how you were able to generate those results. What exactly did you do that worked? So, for example, you might add, "I achieved this result by implementing a customer service program that expanded repeat business."

Whenever possible, incorporate references to a critical skill that your prospective employer may be seeking. For example, if the employer is looking for a sales manager with training expertise, you might add that you "introduced a training program to help salespeople to uncover and address customer issues with our product."

To demonstrate how you brought about specific change, you'll need both a baseline for where things stood prior to your involvement as well as an indicator of your results. But, in some cases, ​a specific measurement will not be possible, and your response will be more qualitative.

When Results Aren’t Quantifiable

If the change you brought about was more qualitative than quantitative, then in order to be convincing, you’ll need to share evidence of how your efforts brought about a marked improvement, without any specific numbers.

One approach is to report the feedback of other people who were in authority. For example, you might say, "Customer satisfaction improved greatly, and my supervisor mentioned that the number and types of complaints were reduced, and positive feedback from clients had increased." 

A good way to provide extra emphasis to these anecdotes is to have your past supervisors affirm their support for your accomplishments in their recommendation letters. Again, it will be important for you to explain your strategies for improving things and to cite skills that you applied to bring about the change.

More Job Interview Questions and Answers

Asking about how you impacted the bottom line at your current or previous job is just one type of questions you’ll be asked at your next job interview. You’ll want to be prepared. Start by examining these interview questions and answers to get an overview of the typical job interview questions you can expect plus some sample answers.

In addition, your interviewer will ask questions specifically about you. Reviewing this article on how to answer interview questions about yourself will be very helpful when you prepare for your next interview. You’ll probably be asked about your strengths and weaknesses as well.

Finally, your interviewer will expect you to have some questions for him or her – about the company or the job you’re trying to get. Review this guide on job interview questions for the candidate to ask if you need a little help trying to come up with questions to ask the interviewer.