Interview Question: 'What Is Your Greatest Accomplishment?'

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 5 July 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

An interviewer may ask several general questions to learn more about your personality. One such question that helps the interviewer determine whether you fit the role is 'What is your greatest accomplishment?'. Knowing how to answer this question correctly can help you distinguish yourself from other applicants and increase your chances of getting the job. In this article, we discuss why interviewers ask this question and how to answer it and provide example answers to help you prepare better.

Why Do Interviewers Ask, 'What Is Your Greatest Accomplishment?'

Interviewers often evaluate various aspects of your personality by asking, 'What is your greatest accomplishment?'. Here are the things they are looking to find out from your answer:

Core values

When an interviewer asks you about your greatest accomplishment, one of the things they are trying to understand is what motivates you into action. Accomplishing any task requires a set of values. For example, if your greatest achievement is 100% customer retention, the values behind this accomplishment can be humility and service. Companies typically also have core values. The interviewer can judge whether your core values relate to the organisation through your answer.

Work ethic

Your work ethic is the process you went through or the tasks you performed to reach an accomplishment. For example, you can talk about a situation where you helped meet another team's targets, and the interviewer could ask you how you did it. You may reply that you volunteered to work overtime for them. This can be an accomplishment that shows the interviewer you have a strong work ethic and are willing to work for the higher goals of an organisation.

Related: Strong Work Ethic Skills: Top 10 Values To Develop

Work examples

When an interviewer asks you 'What is your greatest professional achievement?', they usually want to know details about your work experience. It helps to choose your most significant achievement so that it also shows the most important projects you have completed. You can also combine two or three small projects to showcase your skills and help the interviewer understand that your work in all these projects brought you fulfillment that you cherish as your most significant achievement.

How To Answer 'What Is Your Greatest Accomplishment?'

It helps to prepare an outline of how you are going to answer this question before a job interview. Here are the steps that can help in the preparation:

1. Read the job description

It helps to understand what the company is looking for before identifying your accomplishments. For example, the job description might mention looking for someone who can work well under pressure. So, you can think of situations in previous organisations where you consistently delivered excellent results under tight deadlines. Read the job description thoroughly and select the keywords the hiring manager has emphasised. You can identify these keywords by looking at whether they are bold or frequent throughout the description.

Related: Job Description Vs Job Specification: An In-Depth Guide

2. List your accomplishments

Most employees with a few years of experience have more than one significant professional achievement. You can identify your biggest one by listing all of your accomplishments. Pick out the accomplishments the organisation has rewarded or appreciated. You can also list the tasks you performed for the company's overall achievement.

You can pick three or four accomplishments from this list that best explain your work. It helps to choose more than one accomplishment and select the right one to talk about based on the job description. Also, sometimes interviewers ask for more than one accomplishment to better understand your values. In this case, you can pick another relevant achievement from your list.

3. Prepare your story

Once you have shortlisted your accomplishments, you can start preparing your narrative for the interview. To do this, you may follow the STAR technique. STAR stands for situation, task, approach and results. The first step is to outline the situation in which you received your greatest accomplishment. For example, it can be a scenario where your team had to troubleshoot a third-party product. Next, you can talk about the specific task or role you performed. For example, you might have been in a customer-facing position that conveyed troubleshooting steps to the client.

Then, discuss your approach and actions within or outside your role for the specific situation you are talking about. In this case, you can discuss how you extended your working hours to stay alongside the 24-hour support staff to manage client emails periodically. The last step is about the results. You can talk about how your approach helped retain the customer and how highly they rated the service skills of the organisation. You can also talk about any individual awards you received for your contribution.

Related: How To Use The STAR Interview Response Technique

Sample Interview Answers For Greatest Achievements

Here are four examples of how to describe your greatest accomplishment during an interview:

Example 1

"In my last organisation, I learned from a colleague that the Android app development team was short in resources. A leading team member had quit the company, and the organisation found it challenging to replace them. Although they had created all the documentation needed for successful app deployment, the team found out that there were incomplete instructions that only someone with similar work experience could understand. Even though my role was product management, I had worked as an Android app developer in my previous jobs for years.

I approached the project lead and requested access to the documentation. They appreciated my proactivity, and soon I was working additional hours to update the documentation and help the development team with relevant information to develop the app quickly. It took a combined effort, and the team launched the app on the scheduled date. The deployment succeeded with limited defects and a 4.5-star rating on the Play Store. This was my greatest achievement."

Example 2

"My biggest achievement happened when I worked as a program manager in my last job. In the first few months of working there, I noticed that the team had trouble meeting deadlines. As a result, they could not align many resources to the designated roles on time. I soon found out that the filing system that the team used was manual. They spent a lot of time looking for relevant information on their systems and the servers. I researched the scenario and talked to my manager about automating the entire filing process.

I then implemented a trial version of document management software for a select few team members. Before the trial period was over, we noticed significant improvements in the productivity of those who used the software. I pitched these results to the higher management and convinced the company to invest in the full version of the software. In six months, the entire team reported a 30% increase in productivity. It also made a strong case for other teams to apply for the same software license."

Example 3

"My past job as an inventory manager at a restaurant in South Mumbai provided me with my greatest accomplishment. The restaurant was popular and almost always had more than 90% occupancy. I noticed that customer service was often delayed despite the high turnout in the first few months of working there. I examined the inventory and saw a gap between procurement and supply, which caused a mismatch in sourcing raw items from the storage to the kitchen. As a result, there were often delays in serving the customers.

I spoke with the authorities, who supported a change in the process. After some research, I suggested a change in the vendors who sourced the raw materials. It took a few months, but this change enabled us to replenish the inventory ahead of time. The restaurant was then able to serve customers quickly, which improved our ratings from 4 to 5 stars in only a year."

Example 4

"As a training manager in my last job, I found an opportunity that turned out to be the greatest achievement of my professional life. I scheduled training sessions for the company's new hire orientation program for three years. From the fourth year, I noticed that the training team received a lot of negative feedback about the training program. The team agreed that the new joiners were not completing their training on time. So, the program required changing.

I browsed through all the feedback documents, finding the content outdated. I had some content management experience from my previous jobs. I formed a niche team within the larger training team to update some of the content based on my previous experience. When we implemented the new program, we found that the employees were more attentive and almost 95% completed their training. The team also got primarily positive feedback."

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