Exploring How to Answer "What Is Your Greatest Achievement?"

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 7 September 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.

When preparing for a job interview, you usually begin listing the different kinds of questions that an interviewer may ask, such as those pertaining to the position, your skills and your experience. A key question that an interviewer may ask you is "What is your greatest achievement?". By asking this question, the interviewer is trying to understand what kind of value you can bring to the role and the company. In this article, we explore how to prepare and answer this question by understanding the importance of the question.

Why do interviewers ask this question?

When an interviewer asks this question, they're trying to understand how you view your achievements in terms of what value and importance you give them. Moreover, your response to this question can give employers some insight into how you fit into the company's goals and culture. In asking the question, interviewers learn the following:

  • How your skills and work ethic can bring value to the position

  • How well you fit into the company's culture

  • What your core values are by determining what you consider as your greatest achievement, the reasoning behind your choice and how you define success

  • The nature of the projects and responsibilities you have undertaken

How to prepare your answer to "What is your greatest achievement?"

It's good practice to create a draft of your answers to interview questions. This way, you can structure your points more effectively and feel more confident in front of an interviewer. Below are steps that you can consider while preparing your answer:

1. Research the company and review the job description

Tailoring your answer after reading about the company can ensure that you're able to showcase the qualities and skills that your potential employer is looking for in a candidate. Read through the company's online presence, such as its website and social media channels. You may also read current employees' reviews of the company. Reviewing the job description can help you identify examples that are relevant to the position as you prepare your answer.

Related: How To Prepare for an Interview

2. Create a list of your achievements

Once you have researched the company and reviewed the job description, select achievements that are relevant to the company's goals and the role to which you're applying. For example, if you've read that the company considers customer obsession as a core value, you can choose an achievement that shows your alignment with this value. It's best to select between three to four achievements to demonstrate how you can provide value to the company. Having multiple examples of achievements works to your advantage if the interviewer asks you for additional details or when attending different interviews for similar positions.

If you have trouble thinking about achievements that are relevant to the interview, you may also tailor your response to reflect on how your current skills are transferable to a new role. In this case, consider the other ways in which you have made an impact in your previous positions, or where you received recognition or compliments during the course of your work.

3. Be specific and truthful

Make sure that your answer is clear and contains specific details that relate to the job and the company you're applying to. Avoid using ambiguous language such as "my responsibilities include managing projects". What you consider your greatest achievement is personal to you. Don't attempt to exaggerate or overstate your achievements to impress your interviewer. Instead, focus on showcasing your best qualities and skills that can help you differentiate yourself from other candidates competing for the same position.

4. Use the STAR method

After selecting the achievements that you want to focus on, use the STAR method to structure your answer. This method gives you the opportunity to organise and provide key details of your achievements to your interviewer in a way that leaves a lasting impression. It can help you answer behavioural interview questions that interviewers ask to recognise how well you fit into the position.

How to use the STAR method to structure your answer

Using the STAR method is beneficial for structuring your key points because it creates a clear, cohesive and compelling answer. According to this method, the four components of your answer should include a brief description of the situation, task, approach and result. Below is an explanation of the components, including an example for each component.

1. Describe the situation

Begin your answer by providing a brief overview that offers some context to your achievement. This usually entails describing an issue that impacts your role.

Example: "In my previous role, our digital marketing manager had left just as I came on board."

2. Detail the task

Explain your performance in the role within the situation. This could include your responsibilities, your involvement in the issue or skills that you could offer.

Example: "My main responsibilities were writing copy and performing ad hoc tasks within the team, but I was on track to complete a course in digital marketing and was wondering if I could assist with the management of our online campaigns."

3. Discuss your approach

Discuss how you were able to contribute and create an impact by highlighting any initiative you took or how you were able to solve the problem. Make sure to tailor this section based on your review of the job description and use keywords that get the interviewer's attention.

Example: "After getting approval from my director, I took the lead on the campaigns by managing the marketing collaterals and making certain they met their launch dates on time."

4. Explain the result

To conclude, explain the result of your approach. It helps to provide results with statistics such as revenue or percentages that can showcase measurable impact as a result of the efforts that you had put in.

Example: "Within 6 months and a few campaigns online, we were able to increase online sales by 60%, while also saving 20% of our budget allocation for digital marketing."

Related: How To Use the STAR Interview Method (With Example)

Examples of answers to "What is your greatest achievement?"

Keeping the STAR method in mind, below are some examples of answers to this question that you can as a reference:

Example 1

Here's an example answer from a quality control manager:

"In my previous job, the founder of a company came to stay at one of the hotels where I help train and maintain quality control. The founder had a difficult experience where it took almost an hour to check in and delays in food delivery to the room led to the food being cold. He relayed his experiences to our CEO, who in turn gave the details to my manager and me to look into and resolve the issues. I went through the feedback to note where and how his experience had gone wrong.

I then made changes to our training programme. I facilitated training for our staff to effectively operate the software for the check-in process, shared how to efficiently manage food deliveries to guest rooms and implemented a tighter delivery schedule. I also took the initiative to send the founder a gift basket of fruits and bakery items with a handwritten note apologising for his experience and gave him my contact details. He got in touch to thank me for the gesture and let me know that both he and his employees would be staying at this hotel when travelling for work."

Related: Job Interview Tips: How To Make a Great Impression

Example 2

Here's an example answer from an HR manager:

"In my last position as an HR manager, we normally had the direct managers of our new remote employees complete the onboarding process for them, while we completed the process for new in-house employees at our headquarters. As the number of employees and teams grew at our branches nationwide, we were receiving feedback from new employees not understanding company policy or having many questions that the managers would compile and send in a long email to us. Due to the backlog, we were unable to respond to everyone's queries in a timely manner.

After a discussion and approval from my manager, I equipped the department with a video conferencing tool and made changes to our onboard process and policy presentations to make them more interactive. With my manager's support, I also introduced a software tool to centralise all HR requests and up-to-date HR policy documents in one location. Within two months, we were able to reduce our backlog by over 70% and my manager gave me the responsibility to build a team to take care of the onboarding process of new hires."

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