One of the most maddening questions ever to come out of the interview process is “What is your greatest accomplishment?” This question is uncomfortable for a number of reasons. You might be afraid of giving the interviewer a wrong answer, or you don’t feel particularly accomplished in your current position.
Why this question is so popular?
Every interviewer is different and possesses their own reasoning for their interview questions. However, the most prevalent logic is that the question gives interviewers helpful insight into your ability to evaluate your own performance and your propensity to perform above and beyond normal expectations.
How to find an accomplishment at every level?
If you are a student with no internship experience, your accomplishments may be largely academic and focused on team performance or professor feedback.
If you are an intern, junior or entry-level, you may or may not know the true impact of your accomplishments because you’ve been working at the ground level. Discuss with your direct report and other coworkers to gain insights into how your work fits into the larger picture of what the department/company is trying to accomplish.
If you’re at the professional level, your greatest accomplishment should demonstrate both self-awareness of your proficiency in your area of expertise and exceptional contributions to your team/ department/ overall company goals.
At the executive level, your accomplishments are very clear and you just need practice voicing them.
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How to answer the question?
First, state your accomplishment. Then tell the story of how that accomplishment was achieved and your role in making it happen. If you were part of a team, describe how your interactions with teammates helped in the achievement of the goal.
Your statement of accomplishment should quantify and/or qualify your achievements.
A quantified accomplishment adds facts and figures, for example: My work redesigning the UI resulted in an increase of 2,000 site visitors per day and a 20% decreased in cart abandonment.
A qualified accomplishment strengthens your statement with specifics, for example: I brought 15 years’ worth of sensitive customer data back into relevancy by data scrubbing and adding more security through encryption and restricted-use of the database.
You should avoid, at all costs, emphasizing your role in the achievement by downplaying or denigrating the role of other people. Such an answer will tell the interviewer that you do not work well with others, and create a possible red flag to getting the job.
Be sure to keep your responses relevant to your professional performance, and for more impressive results, relevant to the job you’re interviewing for. And as always, never lie in an interview. As long as you stick to the facts, there is no wrong answer to your greatest accomplishment.