Interview Questions About Your Greatest Accomplishment
Strategies for Describing Your Achievements
What's the best way to answer interview questions about your achievements and accomplishments? If you didn't climb Everest, cure cancer, or compose a symphony, this can be a tough question to answer. It's hard if you're a new graduate without much to draw on, and it's even harder when looking back on a myriad of smaller accomplishments over the course of your career.
Furthermore, you may not even consider your greatest achievement to be work-related; you might consider it to be an event in your private life like working with an autistic child or overcoming a personal obstacle. Here are some techniques to answer questions about your greatest accomplishments:
- Start off by telling the interviewer a story. Describe the challenge you were up against, your plan of attack, and the success you saw on the other side.
- Connect the dots. Use the opportunity to relate what you've accomplished to the position you're applying for. Make it easy for the interviewer to see the parallels you're drawing and how your past achievement could benefit their company.
- Focus on achievements. Did you win a swim race or a chess competition? Lose 100 pounds? Sure, that's impressive and shows you are dedicated and a hard worker, but unless the interviewer specifically asked about your greatest accomplishment outside of work or your best personal accomplishment, focus on achievements that demonstrate you're the best person for the job.
- Don't attempt to be funny, silly, or cute. Take the question seriously and answer it professionally. Don't speak ill of someone else in an attempt to make yourself look better, and keep your story positive. Overcoming an instance in which you were a victim isn't a situation the interviewer wants to hear about.
- Use your answer to display specific skills or qualities that you know the hiring manager is looking for. It is a good opportunity to match your qualifications to the job and demonstrate you’re the best candidate for the position. Look beyond hard skills for inspiration; demonstrating that you’re an excellent communicator, a patient person or a motivated and flexible team member will impress the interviewer.
- Convey a recent accomplishment. Sure, getting the entire company hooked up to a server rather than dial-up internet service was an accomplishment way back then; today, it's not so relevant and makes you appear dated.
- As always, be honest. Don’t be tempted to stretch the truth or lay claim to an achievement that wasn’t yours. Dishonesty during the interview process has a way of coming back to haunt job seekers, sometimes long after they’ve landed the job. (If nothing else, you’d have to live with the fear that your fib would be discovered!)
Sample Answers about Achievements
Here is a selection of sample responses you can use to tailor your answer about what you've accomplished:
- "One day at my last position, a young girl came in with her mother looking for a prom dress. She felt that she was a little heavy and she was very self-conscious. There was a lot of tension between mother and daughter, as they tried to choose something that would be flattering. I was able to defuse the stress, inject some fun into the process, and help them find a perfect dress. While I was thrilled with making the sale, an even greater accomplishment was helping a young girl feel confident."
- "I was able to streamline the number of products we needed to keep on our shelves by implementing a new inventory system that allowed us to track more closely the number and type of items sold seasonally."
- "In my last position as an office manager, I identified several cost-saving measures that saved the company thousands of dollars a year, without scrimping on essential services. For example, I doubt the staff noticed we switched to a cheaper office supply package, but it made a huge difference to our budget."
- "I increased the sales at my last position by 20% by organizing and rotating the stock on the selling floor regularly."
- "My greatest accomplishment is running the marketing department while raising triplets. I came back to work 12 weeks after they were born and during the following year, I also went back to school to earn my MBA."