How to Craft the Perfect Answer to “What’s Your Greatest Accomplishment?”

Interview QuestionOne of the toughest job interview questions of all time:

“What is your greatest accomplishment?”

And yet answering this question in a way sure to impress the recruiter is not all that difficult! Because like your LinkedIn profile and resume should be focused on your accomplishments (preferably quantified), so should your answer to this job interview question!

Start by Preparing Effectively

I recently overheard a job interview in my local Panera Bread, where the restaurant manager was interviewing a job candidate at a table in the the busy dining area. Clearly not prepared, his answer to the “greatest accomplishment” question was:

“Winning a silver medal in a regional ski race while I was in high school.”

While the interviewer didn’t specify greatest professional achievement as a baker — they were not hiring him to ski for them, so this answer completely missed the mark because it:

  • Went way back to his high days
  • Wasn’t quantified, nor did it show a before and after scenario
  • Completely unrelated to his professional life
  • Had nothing to do with job he was applying for

Be prepared for this question with a quantified, relevant answer that will help the recruiter see you in this role!

Writing down your accomplishments before the interview helps you remember them and can assist you in determining the most effective way to describe them. But, do not memorize your answers; recruiters hate that! Just be familiar with your possible answers so you can effectively work them into the conversation.

What the Interviewer Wants to Hear

Having asked — and been asked — this question many times, I know many of the mistakes that can be made. This is an easy question to fail.

The good news is that this question is an invitation to brag about something you have done, maybe several things. They want to hear how great you are, and how hiring you might benefit them. They also want to understand what you view as an accomplishment.


Your “fit” for their job | How do you handle the important issues: successfuly doing the tasks required, making smart decisions, collecting and using data, finding new customers, keeping customers happy, and/or the “transferable skills” you have that will make you a good fit for the job. (Quantified, whenever possible, of course.)

Official awards or recognition | Maybe you were employee or salesperson of the week (month or year), were top student in some relevant training, or won some award, preferably one that is relevant to the job.

Your intelligence, applied to your work | How you improved a process, a product, or a situation that showcases how hiring you might improve something. Maybe you figured out how to improve a report so that the information was more useful, or you discovered how to recycle something that resulted in reduced expenses. (Quantified, of course.)

Your understanding of the work | Describe an event or other situation where you did something that demonstrates your understanding of either (or both) the “big picture” and/or the details that knowledgeable people understand about process or a product. (Again, quantified as much as possible!)

Your ability to be a solid team player or smart team leader | Explain how you provided excellent support to your manager or other employees in a stressful situation.

Any other accomplishment that is relevant | Is winning a ski race relevant? Perhaps fitness is a major requirement, so the answer could be yes. But, do you have an accomplishment that would be more impressive (more relevant) to the employer?

What the Interviewer Does NOT Want to Hear

To help you prepare for this question, it helps to know what the recruiter does not want to hear in your answer:

Don’t trash anyone | It’s a bad idea to try making yourself look good at the expense of someone else.

Don’t be funny/silly/cute | Unless the job requires a very good sense of humor, don’t try to be funny.

Don’t get personal | This is not the best time to go too deep into your personal life! Leave out your recent marriage, the birth of your kids, etc. Keep it professional!

Connect Your Answer to Job Search Documents

Yes, this question is an opportunity to show you’ve done your homework and you can deliver a confident response. It is also a terrific time to draw attention to your resume, LinkedIn profile, and why you are the perfect candidate for this job at this company.

Connect those dots for the employer, and emphasize your qualifications for the job.

Yes, this question is a tough one for candidates. Your answer, however, told in a concise, confident manner, will set you apart from all other applicants. Be ready… and be impressive!


For this post, YouTern thanks our friends at Work Coach Cafe!




Susan P Joyce AuthorAbout the Author: Online job search expert Susan P. Joyce has been observing the online job search world and teaching online job search skills since 1995. A two-time layoff “graduate” who has worked in human resources at Harvard University and in a compensation consulting firm, Susan is editor and publisher of Work Coach Cafe and also edits and publishes

A veteran of the United States Marine Corps, Susan is a Visiting Scholar at the MIT Sloan School of Management and a columnist on HuffingtonPost, AOL Jobs, and LinkedIn. Follow Susan on Twitter (@jobhuntorg) and on Google+.



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