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What Is Your Greatest Achievement: Why It Is Asked & How To Answer [With Sample Answers]

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Are you unsure how to share your greatest achievement during an interview?

It’s not always clear what the interviewer expects when asking about your greatest achievement, especially if you’re new to the job market. You may wonder what achievements to share and which ones to withhold.

But there’s no need to worry. We’ve detailed why interviewers ask, “What is your greatest achievement?” and how best to answer below.

Why Do Interviewers Ask What Is Your Greatest Achievement?

“What is your greatest achievement?” is one of the behavioral questions during an interview. It’s more than an opportunity to brag about your accomplishments.

Interviewers ask this to learn more about your past performance and how you thrive in specific situations.

What is the Interviewer Looking For?

When asking you this question, interviewers are looking to learn about your genuine accomplishments so far.

While your resume provides them with a summary of what you have accomplished, they want to hear what you think is noteworthy. It gives them an idea of how you view success.

Another reason why interviewers ask this question is to gauge how success-oriented you are. They want to know if you have ever gone above and beyond or if you want to. Interviewers want to gauge your work ethic without asking you directly about them.

How to Answer What Is Your Greatest Achievement

How you answer this question can help you get the job or get you dropped from the list of possible candidates. Let’s go through what you should focus on and what to avoid when answering the question.

What to Focus On When Answering This Question

When answering, “What is your greatest achievement?” you should focus on professional achievements.

As harsh as it sounds, the interviewer does not care about your personal accomplishments. Highlight an achievement in your career or education because that is what the interviewer wants to hear.

Additionally, stick to recent and relevant accomplishments only. Ideally, you should pick an achievement from the last two years.

The achievement you highlight should showcase a job-relevant skill. You can also connect your achievement to the company’s mission or vision to make yourself appear as the best candidate.

What To Avoid When Answering This Question

Avoid using personal achievements to answer this question. Your focus should remain on your career to show the interviewer what motivates you in your professional life.

Highlighting a personal achievement as your greatest achievement can make it seem like you don’t care about the role or your career. It could make a hiring manager second guess your commitment to making a positive impact at the company and take you out of the running.

Secondly, you should avoid stating achievements like you are listing certifications on a resume. Remember that the question focuses on the most prominent achievement, meaning one.

Focus on the best accomplishment and give details but do not lie or brag. Find a balance between proudly sharing accomplishments and being cocky and unlikeable.

Examples: How to Answer What Is Your Greatest Achievement

Now that you understand what interviewers are looking for, you can craft your reply to this question. We’ve shared some example answers for inspiration below.

Example Answer 1

“As a recent graduate of the University of British Columbia, my greatest achievement was completing my Bachelor’s degree in Marketing with a 3.5 GPA in four years.

I was fortunate enough to receive a partial scholarship that covered a third of my tuition, but because I am an international student, I could not receive any government or bank financial aid.

I left my home country with enough money for my first semester only. When I arrived in Canada, I immediately sought an on-campus job to help fund my studies.

I learned how to manage my time precisely, and with hard work and dedication, I managed to balance my studies, working part-time, and volunteering to gain work experience.

My calendar was always full but well scheduled to ensure I never missed paying a bill or completing an assignment. I graduated with no student loans, having worked as the school’s social media associate in my last two years.

It was at this position I learned about social media algorithms and how to engage audiences, increasing our followers by over 5000 across platforms.”

Why This Answer Works

This answer is a fantastic example of how recent graduate can leverage their educational and personal experience to highlight a professional achievement.

It immediately states the accomplishment of graduating with stellar grades, which is relevant for someone with little-to-no experience.

The person then shares the challenge they overcame to graduate on time. They also highlight their values, such as hard work, dedication, discipline, and proper time management, which are reflections of a strong work ethic and transferable in any professional setting.

Example Answer 2

“My most prominent achievement is how I helped save time and resources at my previous company. When I started as an office administrator, I realized it was difficult to locate files, manage documents, and follow projects.

The entire department was struggling and falling behind on deadlines or having to redo work which cost us thousands of dollars annually. I took the initiative to implement new organizing software.

The software helped centralize all our files and matched them to relevant projects and employee numbers. It also kept documents secure by ensuring authorized access only.

I took the time to train new and current employees on how to upload their work documents to the new system and create new documents within the system.

With everything in one place, employees cut back the time spent looking for files or going over projects and focus on urgent tasks, increasing productivity by 18% and reducing overtime by an average of 9 hours a month.”

Why This Answer Works

This is a terrific answer for a professional because it is relevant to their role and the role they are applying to. It shows that the person takes the initiative and doesn’t let problems fester just because they did not create them.

The answer highlights resourcefulness, teamwork, and leadership abilities by showing that the person did not stop at identifying a problem but went ahead and solved it and taught others to handle it.

Finally, it highlights the metrics of success.

Example Answer 3

“My most significant achievement was maximizing team productivity and reducing turnover rates at my previous company.

When I first got the job as HR manager, I noticed that employees spent a lot of time on lunch breaks and reported to work late. It impacted the general productivity of the company.

I decided to talk to several people across departments to see what the problem was and what could be done. I discovered that many employees lived far from the office and couldn’t find affordable places to eat.

I discussed my findings with the CEO and CFO and asked if we could have a bus pick and drop employees or a transport stipend. I also asked for a cafeteria on campus that served affordable food.

Within a month, we had a deli, and three months later, we had a company bus that shuttled people to and fro the office. There was a surge in productivity and motivation, and we retained 98% of our employees for the next three years.”

Why This Answer Works

This answer works because it highlights leadership and interpersonal skills. It shows that the person pays attention to detail and is constantly looking for ways to improve and also highlights the reduced turnover rate, which is a success metric.

With this answer, the interviewer can see that this person has concern for their coworkers’ wellbeing which is a critical quality for someone in management to possess.

It shows that they do not use a managerial position to enforce inhumane working conditions but rather find ways to better the company for the employees’ sake.

Additional Tips for Impressing an Interviewer Asking What Is Your Greatest Achievement

Looking to impress the interviewer? Keep these three tips in mind when answering this question:

Use the STAR method

Formulating an answer to the question is quite simple as long as you use the STAR method:

  • Situation: Describe the situation or context of your achievement.
  • Task: Share the responsibilities or challenges you had. These are the tasks you had to complete.
  • Action: Explain what you did to deal with the challenges or responsibilities you mentioned.
  • Results: State the results you achieved by taking action.

Give Metrics

Use quantifiable data such as revenue, conversions, or hours to highlight the significance of your achievement. Performance metrics show that the achievement was also significant to your company.

Deliver Your Answer With Confidence

Confidence is the key to success in any situation. When answering this question, you want to show the interviewer you have what it takes to step into the role you’re interviewing for.

Don’t stutter or use a lot of filler words. Take a deep breath and speak slowly, enunciating your words.

Additional Questions to Be Aware Of

What is your greatest achievement is not the only behavioral question you’ll be asked in an interview. Some other common questions are:

Wrapping Up

As you can see, answering “What is your greatest achievement?” is simple if you understand what the interviewer is looking for.

When answering this question, be confident, use the STAR method, stick to a recent, relevant, and professional achievement, and provide details. That’s all it takes to impress an interviewer!

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