Careers Service


What is initiative?

Initiative is the ability to be resourceful and to introduce a new course of action. It requires you to be resilient, tenacious and determined. You will need to be able to demonstrate that you can think for yourself and take action when necessary.

Application form and interview questions

Some examples of application form and interview questions which are designed to test your initiative:

  • Tell me about a time when you spotted an opportunity to suggest a change. How did you put this forward and what was the outcome?
  • Give me an example of when your initiative and quick thinking stopped a problem escalating.
  • When have you had to use your initiative to cope with a change in circumstances?

If you are unsure how to structure an answer for either application or interview questions, visit the application and interviews section of our website and find out about the CAR (context, action, result) and STAR (situation, task, action, result) models. Our recommendations are based on feedback from employers.

Assessment centres

Your initiative may be tested at assessment centre through role play and group activities. Assessors will examine your ability to come up with ideas and recommendations within a strict time frame.

Additionally as part of a presentation exercise, being able to answer questions imaginatively at the end of the presentation, would demonstrate that you can think of your feet and use your initiative.

Activities where you could develop initiative

The following activities, which may be undertaken as part of or alongside your studies, can be good ways to practise using your initiative:

  • Enterprise Modules Gain a practical insight into self-employment and help develop business skills.
  • Manchester Gold Mentoring Apply to be matched with an experienced professional for career mentoring.
  • Manchester Leadership Programme This academic module is open to most undergraduate students at Manchester.
  • Enactus Opportunity to form a team to implement your own idea for a worthwhile project which makes an impact on the community.
  • Volunteering Gives you the chance to develop a range of skills while giving something back to the community. Use your initiative to make speculative applications and make the most of the experience.
  • Work Experience Develop a range of skills and build up your experience whilst at university. Use your initiative to make speculative applications and make the most of the experience.
  • Work Shadowing Short-term activity, a day or two, to gain an insight into a particular role or industry. Use your initiative to make speculative applications and make the most of the experience.
Blackboard with 'Reactive' crossed out and 'Proactive' written underneath