I find the greatest accomplishment interview question one of the most important, since a good answer can tell an interviewer a lot about who you really are. But as with most there is a best way to handle this question!
What might the interviewer look for as you answer?
Think about your answer to “what’s your greatest accomplishment?” as an interviewer would view it. Here’s what I might look for as I listen:
- Why did you choose this particular accomplishment?
- What steps went into making your greatest accomplishment happen?
- Do you seem sincerely proud of what you’re talking about?
- Does this feel real or like a canned answer?
- Does your accomplishment reflect qualities required by this job?
- Did you show any leadership qualities?
- Did you show resourcefulness?
- Do you give any credit to teammates or even mention them?
How to handle the greatest accomplishment question
As with any question, I would take a second to show I’m thinking about it (no matter how well you’ve prepared). Then look right at the interviewer’s eyes with a small smile (you are proud of this after all), and begin to answer.
- Choose something that connects well with what your new job requires.
- Summarize the outcome something like this: “When I worked at ____, I led / developed / created / solved _____.”
- Then talk about what you did to make it happen.
- Include insights / skills / things you quickly learned / new processes you instituted, etc.
- Add anything the company especially appreciated (increased revenues, savings, customer raves, recognition from executive mgt, etc.)
- Mention how you worked with people to make it happen.
- Finish by tying it to why you’re so excited about the new job.
Some final thoughts
Clearly, you don’t want to go on and on with any one answer. So figure out your key points ahead of time, and do your best to keep your response to a few minutes tops.
Also, you don’t want to sound like a one-man (or one-woman) show. Talk about yourself within the context of the organization in a way that highlights your abilities and confidence in what you’re good at, but it shouldn’t come off as bragging. Or that the co-workers were lost without your brilliance. As great as you may be, you still need others to want to work with you.
And if your greatest accomplishment to date happened outside the work arena, that’s a perfectly fine choice. Just make sure that in your answer you find ways to connect your skills / talents to where you want to go next!
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