Learning the best way to answer “What is your greatest accomplishment?” or “What is your greatest professional achievement?” is extremely important when interviewing with a potential employer. The question is among the most common interview questions asked because it gives the interviewer and prospective team members more information about you and your capabilities and allows them to see how well you communicate. For some job candidates, it’s difficult to determine what accomplishment to use and how to communicate it effectively, so we’ll try to get the juices flowing with some sample answers here.
What is the best answer to “What is your biggest achievement?”
A great answer includes a real accomplishment that’s free of BS, includes a specific example, and is concise in a way that entices engagement from the interviewer.
At MatchBuilt, we’ve counseled 1000s of job seekers on how to answer common behavioral interview questions just like this one. In this post, we hope to take some of the hard work out of your preparation by sharing some sample answers for the most significant accomplishments. No matter how you frame up your answer to this sometimes tricky question, you should have a prepared answer to maximize an opportunity to showcase why you’re a good fit.
What is the best way to answer “What is your greatest achievement?”
Utilize the STAR Method, Situation – Describe the situation in your personal life or professional career that led to the achievement; Task – talk about the task you had to do to accomplish the achievement; Action – describe the actions you implemented to achieve the accomplishment; Results – discuss the results.
While it’s sometimes not easy to talk about ourselves and our past experiences, practicing for this and other key behavioral questions will pay dividends in the long run. When answered properly, you’ll be able to share what you value most, your level of ambition and drive, your views on success, and whether you have the soft skills they are looking for. Further, great answers about your proudest accomplishment can show how well you communicate and display your creativity, leadership skills, and other useful skills that the job requires.
Top 10 Best Example Answers When a Hiring Manager Asks “What Is Your Greatest Achievement?”
There is no standard answer to the question, “What is Your Biggest Achievement?” similar to discussing your greatest strengths because people come from different backgrounds and have different levels and ideas of success. However, you should always discuss what sets you apart from the other candidates with specific accomplishments in life or in previous roles.
Give an answer demonstrating your abilities as the best candidate for the job. By reading and understanding the job description, you should know what the job requires. That way, you can tune your answers to every question the interviewer throws at you. You can also use the STAR method to help you find the answer.
S – [SITUATION] Describe the situation that led to the achievement
T – [TASK] Talk about the task you had to do to accomplish the achievement
A – [ACTIONS] Describe the actions you implemented to achieve the accomplishment
R – [RESULTS] What were the results of what you did?
Achievements are the building blocks that enable someone to construct a sense of themselves as a success. The achievements that matter most combine to form a version of success that has meaning and substance for the individual. Achievements also provide tangible evidence that colleagues, competitors and the wider world use to judge a person as more or less successful. – Women at Cambridge
Sample Answer 1 – Sales Achievement
SITUATION: My biggest achievement was growing sales in an underperforming territory. In my previous position as a sales representative, our team produced at lower levels than in other regions. The company was taking a loss every time we entered a new market. In fact, they had talked of stopping supply to that market due to the limited sales volume.
TASK: The only way to keep the region open was for sales to improve.
ACTION: I asked my manager to give me a month to work on my regional sales. I was living just a few towns away from the market, so I decided to move there temporarily and observe the behavior of the targeted consumer group to understand why they did not interact with our product. I collected feedback from various people for about two weeks, then used the other two weeks to create awareness about the product in the area, with specific demonstrations on how to use the product.
RESULTS: After one month of the new demonstrations, that region was our biggest market, and our sales as a company increased by 10%. I was promoted to sales manager in charge of the region and ensured that we hit the set target every month.
Sample Answer 2 – Continuous Learning Professional Achievement
SITUATION: My greatest achievement was being promoted through self-motivation and learning. My first job out of school was as a customer care agent at a fast-paced tech company. We had a month of training and a test to show we understood the terminologies used by callers, and I passed with flying colors. However, the tech world is dynamic, and even with our weekly knowledge update sessions, I would come across questions I did not understand during calls. For background, I studied literature in school, which did not involve any tech information.
TASK: I decided to leave my comfort zone and change that by taking coding courses online as I continued working at the company.
ACTION: I would use all my breaks to do assignments or write some code, which was exhausting but very helpful.
RESULTS: My calls started getting better, and after a month into my course, I was awarded employee of the month for offering the best solutions to our customers. I finished my course and went on to learn more programming languages, and I am now about to graduate as a software engineer.
Sample Answer 3 – Side Hustle Personal Achievement
SITUATION: My biggest achievement was earning money after starting a blog from scratch. I started a blog last year on a topic I was passionate about, but it did not do as well as I had expected. I used to post weekly and engage with the comments on a particular day of the week. I really wanted the blog to work, and even though I used to share the link to my contacts on Whatsapp and followers on Instagram, it was still underperforming.
TASK: I had to try something different to gain more awareness, or else my blog would not grow.
ACTION: I decided to actively look for answers on why my blog was not growing by talking to experts in the field and researching techniques for growing my audience. In my research, I learned about SEO and engagement, which made me drop a few things I was doing on the side to focus on the blog fully.
RESULTS: Today, my blog is one of the biggest in its niche, and I no longer write articles because we produce long-form content every three days a week. I have delegated duties to my team, signed up for affiliate marketing sites and google AdSense, and monetized the blog without doing anything other than managing the blog.
Sample Answer 4 – Paying For College Myself Achievement
SITUATION: My greatest achievement was paying for college myself. My parents could not afford the tuition fees initially for me to attend college, but I knew I wanted to further my education no matter the circumstances.
TASK: I made a commitment to myself that I would find a way to finance and pay to attend the college of my choice.
ACTION: I started working toward this goal in high school and took any job that was a skill match, no matter how much I hated it. Soon after, I started a summer landscape business where I earned over $10,000 in my sophomore, junior, and senior years.
RESULTS: Between saving in those summers, working during college, and applying for scholarships, I graduated from Michigan State University debt free.
Sample Answer 5 – Persevering Through Injury Achievement
SITUATION: My biggest achievement was persevering and thriving following an injury. I was diagnosed with a hip impingement and torn labrum after dealing with months of pain during the travel softball season.
TASK: To get back on the field in time for the high school season, I had to physically and mentally prepare to endure a rigorous therapy process.
ACTION: I endured painful physical therapy and light walking for the first three months. For the next three months, I was able to begin a weight training program and hitting lessons. In month seven, I rejoined my team in time for the high school season.
RESULTS: Following months of hard work and my doctor telling me he’s never seen anyone recover so quickly, I lead the team in batting average.
Sample Answer 6 – Living Abroad Greatest Personal Achievement
SITUATION: My greatest achievement was learning a new language by living abroad. I recently moved to a different country, and the first few days were so hard because I could not understand what anyone was saying.
TASK: But now that I was there to stay, I had to find a way to learn at least words that would get me the basic things like food and help.
ACTION: I started by talking to my neighbor who could speak a bit of English, and then my interest grew to me signing up for a French class and dedicating hours a day to learning the new language.
RESULTS: After three months, I could construct full sentences, and I was well on my way to getting the accent down too.
Sample Answer 7 – Management Achievement at Work
SITUATION: My biggest managerial achievement was maximizing team effort and reducing lateness. When I got to my previous company as a human resources manager, employees spent so much time on lunch breaks, which would interfere with the working hours and the team’s output. The company had instilled fines for that, but certain employees still came in late regardless of multiple fines.
TASK: I was tasked with understanding why people stayed out so long on their breaks, even after the fines were introduced, and how to overcome the issue.
ACTION: I decided to talk with the team, especially the ones with multiple fines, and understand where the problem was. I learned that they only took a long time because they had to walk a very long distance to find a place with affordable meals for their breaks. I discussed a plan with the CEO and the accountant to see how we could use the kitchen in the office to make lunch for the workers at an affordable price they could pay at the beginning of the month, and everyone agreed.
RESULTS: We took a month to find the right suppliers and implement the plan, but after that, lunches were less than 30 minutes, and work output was never affected again.
Sample Answer 8 – Building Back After Loss Achievement
SITUATION: My biggest achievement was building after a devastating loss. I lost everything in a fire two years ago, and it couldn’t have come at a worse time as I was also supporting a sick family member and was trying to finish my degree.
TASK: I had to stay positive, take control of the situation, and find a way to start over and rebuild.
ACTION: I took a second job to help with the extra bills, maximized my time so I could continue with a rigorous college curriculum, and leveraged help from neighbors and friends.
RESULTS: I rebuilt within a year after the ordeal and learned much about what I can accomplish and how resilient I can be.
Sample Answer 9 – Overcoming Bad Online Reviews Achievement
SITUATION: One of my biggest achievements at work was turning around terrible online reviews. In my previous role as a health-focused restaurant manager, customers always complained about food having ingredients they did not eat and not knowing about it until they tasted it. We were losing customers and getting brutal reviews online. Mistakes continued, even after teaching the waitresses all of the receipts so they could explain the ingredients clearly to the guest.
TASK: Find a way to let customers know what was in the food before eating it.
ACTION: We decided to upgrade our ingredients and showcase them in all of our marketing. This was a win-win as not only did the food taste better, but we broke even with the change. Now, when you walk into the restaurant, you learn all about where our ingredients come from and their health benefits.
RESULTS: As a result, our food tastes better, and positive online reviews increased threefold.
Sample Answer 10 – Understaffed Project at Work Biggest Achievement
SITUATION: One of my greatest achievements at work was wearing numerous hats and working long hours to achieve a huge goal. I was newly hired as a junior developer in a small tech company that had just started a branch in my area. We were understaffed and needed to complete projects on time to retain our only clients and attract more.
TASK: Find a way to still deliver each project on time per customer expectations.
ACTION: I was still new to the job and had no car, so I could not stay late in the office for safety purposes. However, I decided to find a way to get to the office at least four hours before opening to pull in my weight and help with the extra work. I would get to the office at 5 am by hitching a ride on one of my neighbor’s cars and managed to work extra four hours each day for a month.
RESULTS: Our client was so happy at the end of the project that he decided to give us another contract and refer two more clients to the company. By taking initiative, I earned myself a senior developer position and a company car to help me navigate from home to work.
Tips To Improve Your Answer To “What Is Your Greatest Professional Achievement?”
- Highlight your best qualities and values in your answer
- Learn more about the company and the job
- Be clear, detailed, and specific
- Give a relevant accomplishment
- Be honest
A few more tips from HEC Montreal for students seeking jobs.
- Write about the moments in your life when you felt the proudest, such as when you finished a marathon or were congratulated by your boss.
- Explore various aspects of your life: work, hobbies, studies, extra-curricular activities, etc.
- Don’t just stop at your work-related achievements.
- Try to determine if your involvement made a difference, such as creating a new website, a fundraiser, or a department restructuring.
- Then you can determine to what extent you made this change happen or contributed to it.
One final note from Idealist is to keep track of your achievements as they happen at work.
What Not To Say or Do When Answering “What Is Your Greatest Achievement?”
- Do not focus on other people in your answer
- Avoid rumbling
- Avoid unnecessary jokes
- Do not list so many achievements
- Read on for 15 more job interview mistakes
Summary of How To Answer “What Is Your Biggest Achievement?
Learning the best way to answer “What is your biggest accomplishment?” or “What is your best professional achievement ?” job interview question is a great way to show an interviewer and prospective team members more information about you and your capabilities. For some job candidates, it’s difficult to determine what accomplishment to use and how to communicate it effectively, but the tips in this post should help you get started framing up a great answer.
The best answer to this tough interview question will entail a real accomplishment that’s free of BS and includes a specific example. In addition, good answers are concise and entice further follow-up questions. Sometimes, it’s not easy to talk about ourselves and our past experiences but practicing for this, and other key behavioral questions will pay dividends in the long run. When answered properly, you’ll be able to share what you value most, demonstrate your work ethic, and showcase why you’re the best person for the job. In addition, your great achievement can show how well you communicate and display your creativity, leadership skills, and other useful skills that the job requires.
At MatchBuilt, we’ve explored other common interview questions, such as “Why do you want to work here?“, “Tell me about yourself,” “What are you passionate about?“, “What areas need improvement?” and “Why should we hire you?” and we invite you to review them as well.