What is Your Greatest Accomplishment?



What is your greatest accomplishment!? This is one of the better interview questions because it's really just a chance for you to brag about something you did great! There's not much risk in screwing this one up, other than the fact that you might be missing out on a lot of benefit if you don't take full advantage of this interview question.


The first thing you’re probably wondering is if this needs to be a professional accomplishment, or if a personal accomplishment is alright here. Sometimes they’ll clarify one or the other, but a lot of times it’ll be open ended like this. Even if it’s open ended like this though, they might be expecting a professional accomplishment. If you can’t read the room, it’s fine to straight up ask if they’re looking for a personal or professional achievement.


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There are clear benefits to both personal and professional accomplishment stories.

Some of the key traits that you should see in both are:


1) You overcame a struggle.

2) You became a better person because of it.


Let’s first take a look at a personal accomplishment. There's clearly value in your story of overcoming a personal struggle that led to a great accomplishment. This can be a fantastic way to display your personal strengths and character. You'll also probably be a bit more memorable with a personal story. This might even help you relate to the interviewer and stand out as a compelling applicant amongst a sea of suites. The safer of the two responses, however, is to talk about a professional achievement.


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A great professional accomplishment should still include some form of struggle. Accomplishments without struggle seem less important, so be sure to include that this accomplishment wasn't just handed to you, but that you had to work for it. Whether we’re talking about a professional or personal experience however, the name of the game here is relevance.


Think of this interview question as “Show me how you’ve accomplished great things in a similar job area, so that I can envision you doing the same thing in this new role.” With that in mind, even a heartwarming story of overcoming tragedy or crushing the sales record at your last job won't do the job if you’re applying for a leadership position that has nothing to do with sales.


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Tailor your accomplishment story to as similar a role as the one you’re going for. If you’re going for a manager position, talk about your leadership accomplishments and how you mentored an individual who went on to start their own company and you’re super proud of them. If you’re going for an IT tech lead, talk about how you reduced your teams defect count by 50% by optimizing coding best practices amongst your last team.


Most job roles require some form of soft skills that can benefit from a good personal accomplishment story, but the same rules apply. You still need to tie it to the position you’re applying to, you just might have to get a little more creative about it. Just because the question may seem open ended or appears to be giving you the green light to talk about anything you want, just keep in mind that every interview question is good for something. You want to use each question as an opportunity to round out your interviewers impression of what you’d be like as a member of their team. For example, if before this question you were asked “why are you qualified” and you nailed the response, you might want to take this opportunity to showcase strength of character or leadership rather than simply running up the count on your technical skills.


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Recognizing not just how to answer an interview question in isolation, but how it fits in with the overall narrative that you’re weaving throughout the interview is a skill that will take you from being a qualified candidate, to an outstanding candidate.


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