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The Perfect Formula for Answering “What Is Your Greatest Accomplishment” in an Interview

When you’re preparing for a job interview, you’ll be anticipating the most common interview questions, and you’ll want to prepare for a whole slew of behavioral questions that ask about your past experiences.

So compared to stumpers like “Why should we hire you?” or “Tell me about a time you had a conflict with your boss,” “What is your greatest accomplishment?” may seem like a breeze to answer. But actually coming up with your greatest accomplishment—your greatest accomplishment? really?!—can feel daunting on the spot.

That's why it's worth taking a few minutes to think about how you'd answer this question if asked.

Why This Question Gets Asked

Companies look for certain competencies and characteristics in their employees and teams. By asking “What is your greatest accomplishment?” employers can see if your skills and work ethic match up to their needs and fit in with their company culture.

Your choice of greatest achievement will show the interviewer what you consider important, and how you achieved it will tell them how you get things done. Employers can also get a reading on your definition of success.

In essence, your answer to this question will telegraph your hard and soft skills and how you’d fit into a company’s culture.

How to Choose an Accomplishment to Talk About

Research and preparation are key to nailing your interview. This means you’ll want to review the job description, the company’s website, and its social media presence if you haven’t already. Be sure to check out any recent press or employee reviews, too. If you received notes from a recruiter or have a connection within the company who referred you for the job, these will also help you understand the company better.

All this homework can help you choose an answer targeted to the company and its needs. For example, if you’ve read that one of the company’s core values is about having “a sense of ownership,” you’ll want to choose a time when you took on a project because you saw it needed to be done, for example, or stepped up to fill in the gaps on your team when someone left for another job.

Regardless of which achievement you discuss, your answer should show that your skills are transferable and relevant to the role.

Here are a few questions to ask yourself to identify accomplishments that you might talk about:

  • How did you contribute to company goals in previous roles? Maybe you had a big impact on a key performance indicator like increased revenue.

  • What impact did you have on a team as a mentor, manager, or team player? Perhaps you helped onboard an intern and set them up for success, which benefited the entire organization.