‘What is your greatest accomplishment?’ is one of the most challenging common interview questions you can expect during a job interview.
Similar ways interviewers can ask this question include: What is your biggest achievement?, What is your proudest accomplishment?, What is the proudest moment in your life?, What were the biggest wins in your most recent role?, What is a professional achievement you’re most proud of?, What is proudest professional accomplishment? etc.
If your interviewer asks you this question about your proudest or greatest accomplishment(s), consider yourself lucky.
They are giving you the opportunity to choose a story you want to highlight in the interview and really want to know what sets you apart from other qualified candidates, and also to get a better sense of what you’ve done and what you value.
It is the perfect opportunity to talk about your most impressive achievements.
Identifying your greatest accomplishments and creating concise interview stories about each of them is a good place to start.
Wondering how to answer the question modestly, while at the same time showing off how awesome you are? In this article, we'll show you how to answer, “What is your greatest achievement?” with example answers, mistakes to avoid, and more.
When answering any behavioral interview questions such as this, it’s best to organize your response with the STAR Method, which is short for: Situation, Task, Action, Result. This is a way to structure your answer to make sure hiring managers can follow your story and to make sure you don’t get sidetracked when explaining the achievement.
The main idea here behind the STAR method is that every answer should cover the following topics:
You’ll notice this format in the sample answers coming up. You start by explaining the general situation. Were you in a previous job? Which role?
Then, explain the task at hand. What needed to be achieved or solved?
Next, what action did you choose and why?
Finally, what was the result, and what did you learn from the experience if anything?
That’s the best way to explain your greatest accomplishments to ensure that you don’t give a long-winded answer that’s too confusing to follow.
Good answers will be detailed but also concise. Aim for 60-90 seconds or less when answering interview questions about your biggest achievement.
Now that you have a general idea what to do when you're asked these questions about your proudest accomplishments/achievements, let’s look at some example answers using the STAR method.
The first example below can be used by a fresh graduate. While the other answers are ideal for experienced job seekers who have previous work experience.
My greatest professional achievement was completing my Bachelor’s degree in 4 years with a 4.8 GPA. I had no financial support from my family and had to work a full-time job while pursuing my Accounting degree. This taught me to prioritize my time, build great habits and stay focused on my goals. I’m proud of this accomplishment and I feel that what I learned is going to give me a big advantage in my career now.
Situation - “I think my greatest accomplishment was during my last job as a HR administrator. The hiring department had difficulty locating specific files and managing documents, especially during busy periods, and this ate up too much time.”
Task – “So, I thought there was room for improvement with employee file management. I wanted to increase productivity and efficiency, and in the end, save time spent on looking for documents.”
Action - “I decided to take initiative and implement a new team HR document management software. One that could also centralize file management within the department, streamline onboarding, and also help with other small tasks (like bulk document importing, automated backfile conversions and so on).”
Results - “In the end, our timesheets indicated that the time spent looking for files and documents had been reduced by 5-10 hours. There was no more lag-time between sharing documents with HR, Payroll, and supervisors. Each team or individual could instantly access the files they needed in one HR filing system, and increase their overall productivity.”
My proudest accomplishment would have to be when I introduced a new application in my previous position that improved the general performance of the company. Initially, we had been using the same techniques which required a lot of human resources and resulted in time wastage. One day when I was watching a technology show, I realized that there is a better and more efficient way to get the job done. With the help of my direct manager and team members, we managed to integrate the application within our department. It was a thrilling experience to come to work every day and see people get trained to do something that I assisted in developing.
My greatest accomplishment was in my former position as a social media marketer. I was eager to prove my value to the company from the onset, and hence developed social media campaigns that aimed to increase brand awareness and boost the conversion rates. I was delighted when the social media campaigns performed even better than expected, which proved my abilities to thrive in my position. Later, I was delighted to receive a promotion as the marketing director of various social media platforms. I hope I can bring my valuable skills and qualifications to your team.
My department is responsible for handling the onboarding process of new hires from training to orientation. However, when I joined the team the training and orientation material was long. While it contained all the relevant information the new hires were required to have, it was difficult to assess how much the candidates had grasped effectively. Hence my team and I decided to improve on the program to make it more engaging. We presented the idea to our supervisor and s/he gave us the go-ahead. As such, we restructured the program and focused on making it more interactive as well as added fun activities in between sessions. The changes proved efficient as more people completed the program and assessment of candidates became easier than before.
When asked what your proudest achievements are in a job interview, steer clear of any of these:
Rambling – A long-winded answer will indicate to your interviewer that you are unprepared. Using the STAR technique to ensure you are only mentioning the key points is an easy way to avoid this problem.
Indecisiveness – Don’t give your interviewer a long list of possible achievements because you cannot decide which one to discuss. Prepare your answer in advance, so you don't have to think up an accomplishment on the spot.
Trying to be funny – For example: “My greatest achievement was when I managed to get to work on time for once. Just kidding, my real greatest achievement is…”
There can be a time and a place for humour in a job interview, but it is not when the interviewer has asked you a serious question.
Putting others down to make yourself look better – Do not fixate on others’ failures or use them to make your accomplishment seem more impressive, even if your accomplishment involves you correcting someone else’s mistake.
Finally, always remember, a great way to prepare for interview questions is to have a friend or family member pretend to be the interviewer who asks you questions while you practise your answers.