What Has Been Your Greatest Accomplishment?

Strategies for Describing Your Achievements

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If you didn't climb Everest, cure cancer or compose a symphony, this can be a tough question to answer. It's hard if you're a new graduate without much to draw on, and it's even harder when looking back on a myriad of smaller accomplishments over the course of your career. Furthermore, you may not even consider your greatest achievement to be work related; you might consider it to be an event in your private life like working with an autistic child or overcoming a personal obstacle.

Techniques to Answer Questions About Your Greatest Accomplishments

  • Start off by telling the interviewer a story. Describe the challenge you were up against, your plan of attack and the success you saw on the other side.
  • When you've been given the floor to brag, use the opportunity to relate what you've accomplished to the position you're applying for, and show off how your achievement could benefit the company if you were hired. Connect the dots and make it easy for the interviewer to see the parallels you're drawing.
  • Did you win a swim race or a chess competition? Lose 100 pounds? Sure, that's impressive and shows that you are dedicated and a hard worker, but unless the interviewer specifically asked about your greatest accomplishment outside of work or your best personal accomplishment, focus on achievements that demonstrate you're the best person for the job.
  • Don't attempt to be funny, silly or cute. Take the question seriously and answer it professionally. Don't talk down about someone else in an attempt to make yourself look better and keep your story positive; overcoming an instance in which you were a victim isn't a situation the interviewer wants to hear about.
  • Convey a recent accomplishment. Sure, getting the entire company hooked up to a server rather than dial-up internet service was an accomplishment back then; today, not so relevant.

Sample Answers about Achievements

Here is a selection of sample responses you can use to tailor your answer about what you've accomplished.

  • One day at my last position, a young girl came in with her mother looking for a prom dress. She was a little heavy and very self-conscious. There was a lot of tension between them, trying to choose something that would be flattering. I was able to diffuse the stress, inject some fun into the process and help them find a perfect dress. While I was thrilled with making the sale, an even greater accomplishment was helping a young girl feel confident.
  • I was able to streamline the number of products that we needed to keep on our shelves by implementing a new inventory system which allowed us to track more closely the number and type of items sold seasonally.
  • I increased the sales at my last position by 20 percent by organizing and rotating the stock on the selling floor regularly.
  • My greatest accomplishment is running the marketing department while raising triplets. I came back to work twelve weeks after they were born and during the following year, I also went back to school to earn my MBA.

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