Artwork by: Antonina Kasyanikova
Before you go in for an interview, it’s often helpful to review some common questions. In this blog, we’ll help you answer the question “What is your greatest accomplishment?”
It’s not always easy to talk yourself up, but it’s essential when it comes to interviewing. Your interview is the perfect opportunity to show a potential employer that you have what it takes to succeed. All recruiters are looking for candidates who have a proven track record of success and a sense of confidence in their accomplishments.
When hiring managers want to find out more about a candidate’s professional background, they often ask them to describe their greatest achievements. This not only gives them more insight into the applicants’ skills but also helps them understand the candidates’ motivations and personalities.
If you’re getting ready for an interview, it is crucial to prepare for this question. In this blog, we’ll provide some tips for identifying your accomplishments and incorporating them into an answer. We’ll look at:
Why employers ask “What is your greatest accomplishment?”
How to identify your greatest accomplishment
How to answer ”What is your greatest accomplishment?”
Sample answers to “What is your greatest accomplishment?”
While the question may seem pretty straightforward, your answer might provide more information than you think. Here are some of the reasons that an interviewer might ask you this question:
To discover your qualifications. The first and most obvious reason that hiring managers ask this question is to find out whether you have the chops to fill their open jobs. This question is the perfect opportunity to show how you can bring value to a company and stress your past successes.
To differentiate you from other candidates. Recruiters may receive hundreds of resumes for an open role, and their goal is to identify the candidate that stands out from the pack. A carefully crafted answer to “What is your greatest achievement?” can help them find out what makes you different.
To verify your skills. When you created your resume, you likely included an extensive list of skills and competencies. Hiring managers may see a lot of dishonest resumes, and they might ask you to identify your greatest achievement to verify your claims. You can add a lot to your application by describing how you put your skills to the test in real-world situations.
To identify your motivations and priorities. While recruiters definitely want to know more about your professional life, they may also want more information about you as a person. The answer that you choose can tell recruiters a lot about what you value, how you define success, and how you set your priorities.
To gauge your confidence. While personalities differ, confidence is often a sign of competence. If you can confidently describe your professional achievements, it can tell the interviewer a lot about your ability to excel at work.
To find out how you communicate. Like other interview questions, the question “What is your greatest achievement?” can help interviewers understand how you communicate about the things that matter to you. This information can often tell them whether you’d be a good fit for their work environment.
To find out how you handle pressure. The question “What is your greatest accomplishment?” is a pretty big one, and it can be stressful to answer under pressure. Your answer to this question shows recruiters whether you can demonstrate coolness and competence, even when you’re in the hot seat.
While identifying your greatest accomplishment might seem simple enough, people often get stuck when choosing one. If you’re like most people there are many things that you’re proud of and it’s hard to pick just one. It might also be challenging to identify an answer that’s relevant to the job you’re pursuing. Here are a few tips that can help you identify your greatest accomplishment:
Think about what your future employer is looking for. Focus on accomplishments that reflect well on your ability to do the job. Start by reviewing their job listings, browsing their website, and exploring their social media profiles. Take a look at the requirements listed in the job posting and the values that the company espouses. See how you can incorporate these into your answer.
Although you want to impress recruiters, it’s also important to stay true to yourself. Your answer will be much more convincing if you really mean it. With this in mind, describe an achievement that you’re truly proud of. Don’t pass up the chance to really advertise your talents in favor of small workplace successes.
Make sure that the achievement you choose to highlight is relevant to the job you’re interviewing for. Although it’s not usually specified, most interviewers are asking you to describe a professional accomplishment. Even if your personal life is full of victories, a job interview might not be the best place to describe them.
Having said this, it’s important to use your discretion. In some cases, it might be appropriate to describe events in your personal life, especially if they demonstrate a quality that the employer is looking for. This might be especially true if you’re a young professional with little work experience. In these cases, consider highlighting achievements in your education.
If you’ve been in the workforce a long time, your career is probably littered with victories big and small. However, when describing your greatest accomplishments, try to choose something recent. This will give your answer more immediacy and more likely to impress an interviewer than something you did 15 years ago. Recent accomplishments are also more likely to reflect the current status of your skills and experience.
Once you have chosen your greatest accomplishment, it’s time to think about how you’re going to answer. Here are a few pointers to keep in mind while you do so:
Provide detail. One of the main points of this question is to gauge whether or not you have the right real-world experience. In order to make your answer believable, try to include a fair amount of detail. This demonstrates first-hand knowledge and honesty.
Keep it short. While it’s important to provide detail, you also need time for the interviewer’s other questions. Try to answer in a minute or less to keep the attention of the hiring manager. If you go on too long, your answer may begin to sound disingenuous.
Display confidence. As we mentioned above, this question is meant to gauge how well you handle pressure and how confident you are in your abilities. When you answer, try to speak clearly and audibly and make some eye contact with the interviewer.
Remember STAR. STAR is an acronym that represents a way to structure answers to interview questions. The letters stand for Situation, Task, Action, and Result. Structuring your answers with this method is a great way to keep your answer focused and thorough.
Below, we’ll provide several sample answers to the question, “What is your greatest accomplishment?”:
This is an example of a short but effective answer to the question:
“I believe that my greatest professional accomplishment was becoming the top salesperson at my company after only six months. I started out making six sales a week and after three months, I was selling as much as the top salesperson. After six months, I was the top seller by 30%.”
Here is a second example answer that’s a little longer but still succinct:
“I’ve had a couple of successes over the course of my career, but the one that’s most important to me was getting my first job in digital marketing. I never had the opportunity to go to college, so most of my early jobs were in the service industry. After several years, I was tired of the grind and wanted to earn a better living.
I had a thriving blog and an Instagram account with over 10,000 followers, so I decided to use these to my benefit. I put together a portfolio and then began to look for jobs in digital marketing and social media management. Within two months, I had my first job, without a degree and without formal experience.”
Here is an example of a thorough answer to the question. This answer uses the STAR method to provide context and extra detail:
“My greatest professional accomplishment in the specialty coffee industry was when I had the opportunity to open a new shop. Two years ago, I was managing a coffee shop called Arabica. The owner of the cafe came to me and explained that she wanted to open a second location in another part of town.
We knew we would face an array of new challenges, including building a new customer base, introducing advanced coffee equipment, designing the interior, and training an all-new staff. I addressed the first issue by starting an Instagram account and organizing several pop-up bars and community outreach events to spread the word.
While the owner took charge of the interior design and equipment setup, I was responsible for training new staff. I started by hiring several new employees who I split between the old and new locations. This freed up some of the old staff, allowing me to strengthen the new crew with some veteran baristas. I led the new staff through basic training and brought in a training expert from New York to hone their skills.
Because of our social media presence and outreach, the store generated a lot of buzz and was busy from day one. Within a year, the new shop was generating more revenue than the original downtown location.”
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Employers ask “What is your greatest accomplishment because it offers them an insight into your skills and motivations.
Your answer to this question can help recruiters discover your qualifications, differentiate you from other candidates, verify your skills, identify your motivations and priorities, gauge your confidence, explore your communication skills, and see how you perform under pressure.
When identifying your top accomplishment, choose one that reflects your values and the priorities of the employer. Make sure to choose a relevant professional accomplishment that happened relatively recently.
When the time comes to give your answer, keep it detailed but brief, display confidence, and use the STAR method if possible.
Patrick specializes in career services, and is passionate about helping professionals define and achieve their career goals. As a skilled writer and editor, Patrick knows how to create flawless application documents—blending technical perfection with a personal touch that makes candidates jump off the page and impress hiring managers. Whether it’s finding new job jobs or growing in a role, Patrick guides professionals to their goals.