How to Answer “What Is Your Greatest Accomplishment?” 

Greatest Accomplishment

No one can express why you are qualified for a job better than you. If you are getting ready for your first interview with a potential employer, it is safe to anticipate more simple questions than complicated ones. However, a straightforward question, such as identifying your greatest accomplishment, still requires an elaborate answer.

While there is no ‘wrong answer’ in revealing your greatest accomplishment, a lackluster response could prove costly to your chances at the job. Your interviewer does not want to hear an over-personalized, watered-down approach that results in the listing of your day-to-day activities. Instead, he or she wants to listen to a compelling story with specific examples and key learning points.

With the help of our friends Rebecca Kraus and Alison Doyle, we highlight a few critical tips you need to review before your next interview.

Identify Your Accomplishments

Don’t simply blurt out the first thought that comes to mind. Utilize this time to meditate and have multiple responses prepared. Keep your answers specific and recent. This is your opportunity to stand out amongst a pool of qualified candidates, so it’s best to keep your response career-oriented rather than over-personalized. Sorry to say, but your interviewer will not find it unique that you found your soulmate, had a child, or broke a record for your high-school sports team.

From there, ensure your story aligns with the job description at hand. For example, if you are applying for an engineering role in the IT industry, your interviewer will not find value in the fact that you implemented a new layout for your local grocery store as much as an interviewer for an Event Coordinator role.

Consider The STAR Approach

Once you have your story, the most foolproof method for sharing your answer is implementing the STAR approach – Situation, Task, Action, Results. These four steps will allow you to walk through all the basic interview questions without rambling on. You can get your best stories out there and take advantage of every opportunity to connect with your interviewer, but leave it up to them to ask you for more details.

The STAR approach is defined as:

  • Situation – Set the story and provide all the necessary details of your example.
  • Task – Describe the responsibility given to you and, if applicable, how it’s tied to an overarching goal
  • Action – Thoroughly explain what steps you took and WHY.
  • Results – Reveal how the outcome was for the greater good of the company, not just yourself.

For a full breakdown of this method’s framework and real-life examples, check out these articles from The Muse and The Balance Careers.

Don’t Get Cute

Take this question seriously rather than making light of conversation through an attempted humorous approach. Don’t play the victim card. Your answer should undoubtedly portray yourself in a positive light, but be sure your story does not degrade a co-worker or manager. Your interviewer does not want to hear how you found success despite being micromanaged or how you carried the workload for an incompetent co-worker.

Avoid unnecessary details. Make sure your answer offers direct evidence as to why you are fit for the role at hand. No matter how qualified you may be for the position, always express a strong willingness to learn and take on new assignments. If your story portrays you merely as a delegator rather than an inspirer and achiever, your readiness level will not shine through. Illustrate confidence in your accomplishments and ensure that your actions reflect the proper signs of a leader.

Wrap Up

Avoid the cliché response to the cliché questions.

It can be uncomfortable and quite challenging to tout your accomplishments while maintaining a sense of humility and professionalism. Still, your interviewer won’t know the impact you’ve had until you share it with them. Often, the best route is to write out a story of triumph in advance and incorporate action verbs that define leadership. Practice your answer by repeating it back to yourself or recording your response until it sounds natural.

Lastly, if you are still struggling to identify your greatest achievement, reach out to your mentors, family members, or peers to aid your response. Even if you never get asked this question, identifying your answer will allow you to discover yourself and your values better.

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