How to Answer: What is Your Greatest Accomplishment?

A popular behavioral job interview question used by interviewers is: ‘what is your greatest accomplishment?’. It’s a frequently asked interview question that is asked for a specific reason. Usually, people do not have a lot of experience talking about their greatest achievement, but it’s actually a great opportunity to discuss your most impressive accomplishments. However, it happens often that job candidates do not get everything out of this opportunity because they don’t feel comfortable not being humble or they do not want to ‘brag’ in such a serious situation. This is the main reason you should prepare an answer you discuss your greatest accomplishments. By doing so, you show the interviewer that you have self-knowledge and that you take the interview seriously.

Other ways the interviewer can ask about your professional accomplishments:

  • What is your greatest achievement?
  • What do you consider your most impressive accomplishment?
  • Tell me about your proudest professional achievement?
  • What work are you most proud of?
  • Can you describe an important goal that you have accomplished?
  • What is your biggest accomplishment in your previous job?

Why the interviewer asks ‘what is your greatest accomplishment?’

Yes, the interview questions require you to talk about yourself in a very positive way; your answer regards your greatest accomplishment. This means that you should be able to provide a solid answer on the spot when asked about your career achievements. In other words, this is your time to ‘brag’; not to be humble. Don’t overdo it, but show confidence when describing the situation. The interviewer is interested in what possibly makes you stand out from the crowd; it’s not a trick question. You can imagine that a company receives tens of applications for the same position. By asking certain behavioral questions, interviewers try to assess which candidates are more qualified than others for the job.

This behavioral job interview question gives the interviewer the ability to really zoom in a situation that you regard as a great achievement in your career. He or she can focus on the details of the situation that you provide. That’s why you need to ensure that you provide the interviewer the situation you were in, your task in that situation, the action you took, and the specific results that can come out of those actions. In short, this is called the STAR-method of providing an answer.

The interviewer wants to gain knowledge about your proven work and which accomplishments in your career are most valuable, according to you. He or she wants to get insights into who you really are and how you approach your work. Basically, they are interested in the following things about you:

  1. Work ethic

It’s interesting for an interviewer to hear you talk about what you find important. Also, he or she is interested in what you view as an achievement and what’s needed in terms of completed work to achieve them.

  1. Core values

Follow-up questions about why you chose the discussed achievement as your ‘greatest’ gives the interviewer more insights into your core values.

  1. Work examples

The specific work examples you choose to use in your answer about your greatest accomplishments give the interviewer insight into how you approach projects. By describing your achievements, the interviewer can get an idea of what to expect from you.

How to prepare your answer

Even though it may seem hard to talk in a very positive way about yourself, if you practice in advance, all will be fine during the interview. For introverted personalities, it might feel more like a challenge to discuss your accomplishments, but still, practice makes perfect.

Think of a moment in your professional career that you would regard as a great achievement. Also, think about how you achieved it. If you want to provide a solid answer, use the STAR-method. This acronym stands for Situation, Task, Action, and Result. Use the checklist below to prepare a perfect answer to discuss when you’re asked about your greatest accomplishment:

  1. Think of your accomplishments and list them

By ordering your accomplishments, you can compare the top ones to make a decision about which one is the best to bring up during an interview. However, there’s always a chance that the interviewer follows-up with ‘what’s your second greatest accomplishment?’ or even asks about your third. Make sure that you have a rough outline in your head of two more achievements besides your main one.

Avoid using any personal accomplishments in your answers. Don’t talk about getting married or having your first child. Even though this is important, it’s unrelated to the job you’re applying for.

Use an example that demonstrates transferable skills and also positions you as a suitable candidate for the job. Think of achievements such as:

  • Giving a successful presentation at work
  • Beating set goals or targets (i.e., sales targets)
  • Organizing a company event
  • Coaching or mentoring a coworker
  1. Analyze the job description and company

If possible, it’s always the best to relate your answer to the skills and qualities required for the position that you’re applying for. Reviewing the job description is a great start. Other than that, do thorough research on the company as well. Making your answer relevant for the interviewer and demonstrating needed skills through something you already accomplished is a winning strategy.

  1. Formulate your answer according to the STAR-method

The STAR-method is the way to answering behavioral job interview questions. STAR is an acronym that stands for Situation, Task, Action, and Result. You can use this method to answer questions that require you to give information on how you handled situations at work. These are, for instance, questions that start off with:

  • Describe a situation in which…
  • Tell me about a time when…
  • Give me an example of…
  • What would you do if…
  • Have you ever…

In short, the STAR-method explained (more information here):

Situation:

First, you describe the situation, and you give the needed details to set the scene. Don’t include unnecessary details but paint a clear picture of the situation that you were in and focus on the complexities.

Task:

After that, you follow up with what you were tasked within that particular situation. This could be a goal you were working towards or a certain responsibility you had. It’s important that you focus on yourself and provide information on what was expected from you as an individual, rather than your team.

Action:

Here you explain what action you took to address the situation. This is the most important part, and it should be the majority of your answer. This is your opportunity to show the interviewer how you approached a certain situation and what you did in response to the situation you were in, based on the task that you had. If you can get this answer in line with the job requirements for the position that you’re applying for this is even better.

Result:

After you describe how you handled the situation, you can discuss the result of the actions you took. Always make sure that the outcome of your situation is positive. You won’t impress the interviewer by ending with ‘and then they fired me right after.

Final Tips to discuss your greatest accomplishments

  1. Use your strongest accomplishment in your answer to make sure that you tell your best story. Your goal is to convince the interviewer that you’re the right candidate for the job.
  2. Use a recent and relevant accomplishment. This is your moment to really connect to the interviewer by mentioning details that are related and relevant to the company and job you’re applying for.
  3. Give details that are important to the project you’re discussing. You need to provide just enough detail to give the interviewer an insight into who you are and how you approach your work.
  4. Don’t ramble and only give the details needed to outline the story and your responsibilities. The STAR-method is the way to go.
  5. Practice, practice, and practice some more until you’re able to provide a solid scenario fluently when you get asked about your greatest accomplishments. This goes for all frequently asked job interview questions.

Mistakes to avoid

  1. Keep your story about your accomplishment and your role. Don’t put others down to make yourself look better for the interviewer. Your accomplishment could, for instance, involve you fixing somebody else’s mistake to meet a deadline. However, this does not mean you should make yourself look better through other people’s failures and emphasize this. Describe the situation but focus on yourself.
  2. Don’t Ramble, as stated above. Keep your answers concrete and concise; tell the interviewer what he or she wants to hear, nothing more, nothing less.
  3. Provide a serious answer. This is not a moment to be funny and tell a random story; take the question seriously because the interviewer is expecting you to provide information about yourself and how you handle situations.

Sample answers to discuss your greatest accomplishments and achievements

Below some example answers to describe your greatest accomplishments are written out in the STAR format so that you can clearly see how you can structure your response.

STAR-Method Example 1:

Situation: My greatest accomplishment happened in my previous position as sales manager.

Task: I often saw team member struggling to locate specific, but essential client details in the system that we were using at the time. As a result, productivity went down, and it became harder to reach sales targets every month.

Action: After noticing this, I took the initiative to implement a new, more up-to-date CRM system that I already had experience with. After implementation, I trained and coached my team members on how to use it and showed them with what ease they could find and file client information.

Result: We reviewed the results after 2 months of working with the new system, and our time sheets indicated that we spent multiple hours less on collecting client data. As a result, we were able to increase our sales targets, which we already met in the third month of implementing the new system.’

Why is this a good answer?

  1. The provided example is related and relevant to the workplace.
  2. This answer shows important skills such as problem-solving skills, teamwork, innovation, adaptability, and creativity.
  3. The project turned out a success, which gives more weight to the achievement discussed.

STAR-Method Example 2:

Situation: ‘After I graduated, I started a marketing internship at online retailer ‘ABC.’ The team worked several hours a week on organizing budget sheets and planning models.

Task: My tasks consisted of supporting the marketing team with their daily needs, such as proof-reading marketing materials, helping structure marketing campaigns, and other creative activities. However, during my graduate internship at ‘XYZ,’ I followed a course about structuring planning models that I implemented with my team, and they are still using this model over there today. I thought my experience might be of use at ABC company as well.

Action: I talked to the team manager about my idea, and he approved a trial version to see if it could work at ABC as well. I developed a structured and more effective planning model that was linked to the budget sheets as well. This allowed team members to organize their own parts of the planning and budgets that they were responsible for. This saved the team a lot of time because everybody could work on their own specific part of the planning that was automatically updated while being linked to the budget sheets.

Result: After the new planning was fully integrated into the first team, they saw a decrease of 30% in time spent on planning and budgets sheets. This allowed the team to use there valuable time more effectively and efficiently and focus on the actual marketing projects.’

Why is this a good answer?

  1. This example shows management skills and leadership potential because the solution to an issue caused a more effective process overall.
  2. The provided example is related and relevant to the workplace.
  3. This answer shows important skills such as problem-solving skills, teamwork, innovation, adaptability, and creativity.
  4. The project turned out a success, which gives more weight to the achievement discussed.

Job Interview Topics – Common Job Interview Questions & Answers

Below you can find a list of common job interview topics. Each link will direct you to an article regarding the specific topics that discuss commonly asked interview questions. Furthermore, each article discusses why the interviewer asks these questions and how you answer them!

  1. Accomplishments
  2. Adaptability
  3. Admission
  4. Behavioral
  5. Career Change
  6. Career Goals
  7. Communication
  8. Competency
  9. Conflict Resolution
  10. Creative Thinking
  11. Cultural Fit
  12. Customer Service
  13. Direct
  14. Experience
  15. Government
  16. Graduate
  17. Growth Potential
  18. Honesty & Integrity
  19. Illegal
  20. Inappropriate
  21. Job Satisfaction
  22. Leadership
  23. Management
  24. Entry-Level & No experience
  25. Performance-Based
  26. Personal
  27. Prioritization & Time Management
  28. Problem-solving
  29. Salary
  30. Situational & Scenario-based
  31. Stress Management
  32. Teamwork
  33. Telephone Interview
  34. Tough
  35. Uncomfortable
  36. Work Ethic