How To Answer 'What Is Your Greatest Achievement?' Interview Question

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 4 November 2022

Published 4 October 2021

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.

Many hiring managers have a set of common questions they ask candidates. Questions about past accomplishments and achievements are a popular way of discovering more about the candidate. By answering these types of questions well, you can show the interviewer that you're a good fit for the position. In this article, we explore how to answer the 'what is your greatest achievement' interview question, explain why interviewers ask this, show how to respond and provide sample answers you can adapt to create your own response.

Related: How to List Work Accomplishment Examples on Your Resume

How to answer the 'what is your greatest achievement' interview question

Consider following these steps to help you answer this question:

1. Research the company

Since preparation is essential to interview success, the research you carry out about the company may help you to understand the organisation better. This research may include browsing through the company website, looking at their social media platforms and reading up on any news stories you can find. This research may help you choose an answer directly related to your future employer and their needs. You may want to spend some time planning and thinking about how your experiences could contribute to the values of the company.

If, for example, you read that one of the company's core values is its commitment to customers, you may want to choose a time when you went out of your way to help a customer. This shows you possess fantastic customer handling skills. Whichever achievement you choose to discuss, it is important that your answer reveals that your skills are relevant and transferable to the role.

2. Select an achievement

To help you select a single achievement, consider reviewing your CV to help you remember tasks you have done well. The following questions may help you formulate an answer:

  • How did you help an organisation become more profitable?

  • What impact did you have as a team player, manager or mentor?

  • How did you contribute to company goals in the past?

  • What did you do to improve customer experience?

  • How did you help a business become more efficient?

If it's hard to choose one single achievement, it's a good idea to think about it in terms of how your achievement would translate into a benefit for the business or organisation you're interviewing for.

Related: How To Prepare for an Interview

3. Consider achievements outside of work if necessary

If you're a recent graduate or you're at the beginning of your career, it's fine to use an example outside of work. Think about your time at school or university, extra-curricular activities and hobbies to identify something that would impress a potential employer. Some examples might be:

  • winning an award or competition

  • running a marathon or cycling a long distance

  • winning at a team sport, or any other sporting achievement

  • volunteering at a charity event

  • fundraising for a community organisation

  • mastering a new skill

Related: How To Be a Good Team Player in 7 Steps

4. Use your answer to demonstrate specific skills or qualities

It's a good opportunity to match your experience to the job description to show that you're the ideal candidate. If the job description asks for an excellent communicator, or someone who is motivated or works well in a team, look for experiences you've had that show these soft skills, or 'people skills.' Try to be specific in your response to show the hiring manager your qualifications.

Related: Common Interview Questions and Answers

Why do interviewers ask about your accomplishments?

This question is very popular with hiring managers. Potential employers ask this question to discover the value you can bring to the workplace. Hiring managers use this question for a variety of reasons. They may also ask similar questions like:

  • What work are you most proud of?

  • What would you say are your greatest accomplishments?

  • Can you describe an important goal that you achieved?

  • What is your greatest professional achievement?

Hiring managers often look for certain characteristics and competencies in their staff. By asking what your greatest achievement is, employers can see if your work ethic and skills match their needs. It reveals whether you fit in with their company culture. Employers can understand how you work and what your definition of success is. Essentially, this question showcases some of your personality traits and demonstrates your outlook on life.

Related: Tips on How To Find a Job

Tips for structuring your answer

Competency questions like this rely on your ability to tell a story. A good story has a beginning, a middle and an end. You might want to use the STAR technique (situation, task, action, result) to structure your answer. Here's an example of the STAR technique:

1. Situation

The situation is the position you were in. Start by describing the scale of the challenge you faced. This is an opportunity to grab their attention. Describe the context of the challenge you faced at work. For example, perhaps you were working as an account executive for a major client on a new marketing project and your line manager had to take two months off work after suffering from a heart attack. Try to be as specific as possible to draw the interviewer into the story.

2. Task

The task is where you can describe your responsibility and how the problem affected other people. Perhaps you helped your group complete a project before the deadline. Or maybe you needed to fill in and orchestrate the presentation by coordinating the design and marketing teams.

3. Action

Now you may describe how you resolved the challenge and how your actions directly assisted the situation. Try to focus on what you did, rather than what your manager or other colleagues did. For example, you presented the pitch which was received very well by the client.

4. Result

Finally, explain the outcome and the result of the action you took. Try to emphasise what you accomplished, or what you learnt. Give details about how your action benefited the company or organisation and how they rewarded you.

Example: 'After I stepped in and managed the project, the client said they loved the pitch and opted for our campaign. Three months later I was promoted to the role of account executive.'

Example answers for 'what is your greatest achievement?' interview question

Here are more examples of the type of experiences you could use to answer this question:

Example one

This example shows a response for an HR role:

"I think one of my greatest achievements was during my last job as an HR administrator. The human resources department wasn't very organised and it was difficult to locate files, especially during busy periods. So we would waste hours looking for specific documents. I thought the file management system needed to be improved. I wanted to save the time spent looking for documents, while also increasing productivity.

I took the initiative and researched a new HR document management software that could manage files much more efficiently. The idea was to save time looking for documents and to be able to keep a track of things like job applications, onboarding and training.

I suggested the new software and we started using it. The new system was a great time-saver and we were able to focus on other goals rather than spending several hours a week looking for files and documents. It helped other teams too, such as the payroll team as they switched to the new HR filing system. I won Employee of the Year soon afterwards."

Example two

Here is an example showing someone applying for a project manager role:

"One of my greatest professional achievements was when I worked at Kim Lee Properties as a project administrator. The management was concerned about rising costs and how we could reduce them. Our office supplies contributed to some of the biggest increases in overall expenditure.

I decided to look for ways that we could save money, starting with how much we were paying for our office supplies. I began negotiating with our regular suppliers to secure a discount on office equipment, which matched one of their low-cost competitors while keeping our long-standing relationship as a customer. To reduce costs further, I introduced a new software which meant we could go paperless for some of our systems. I also set up staff training to introduce the new system.

The reduction in the costs of office supplies resulted in a saving of 17% per year, with a further 20% saved with the new paperless system I introduced. The savings impressed my supervisors so much that I was promoted to the position of a project manager six months later."

Related: A Guide to Strategic Interview Questions to Ask Candidates

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