Answering Behavioral Interview Questions: ‘Your Greatest Accomplishments’
What is your greatest accomplishment?
If your interviewer asks you this question, consider yourself lucky. It’s the perfect opportunity to talk about your most impressive experience. Unfortunately, most candidates waste this wonderful opportunity because they aren’t prepared and/or don’t feel comfortable “bragging.”
Most people don’t have a lot of practice talking about their accomplishments.
If you’re an introvert or a bit on the modest side, this can feel very challenging. You may even have been taught that it’s rude or obnoxious to brag about your achievements.
What might come across as obnoxious at a cocktail party, however, is perfectly acceptable and welcomed in a job interview.
If you can’t get comfortable talking about yourself and your accomplishments, you are not giving yourself the best shot at the opportunities that you deserve.
You can’t rely on the interviewer to read between the lines or notice how great you are from just your resume and a little chit chat.
On the other hand, you don’t want to come across as full of yourself, entitled, or rude.
You can easily avoid this by preparing in advance so that you’ll feel comfortable talking about yourself and your work in a positive, natural way that conveys confidence, but not cockiness.
First, a little trip into the mind of the interviewer to understand their perspective.
If an interviewer asks you about your greatest accomplishment(s), that means they really want to know what sets you apart from other qualified candidates, to get a better sense of what you’ve done and what you value.
In fact, every hiring manager wants this information even if they don’t know enough to ask you about your greatest accomplishment. Interviewing is not a lot of fun for them. They’re in the room because they want to find the best candidate. You can make it a lot easier for them by cutting to the chase and leading with your best material.
That way, you have great answers for this behavioral question and also develop a comfort level talking about your achievements in general (which will help you in so many other parts of the interview as well).
The Importance of Behavioral Interview Questions
“What is your greatest accomplishment?” is a behavioral interview question.
Some variations include: “What are you most proud of?”, “What were your biggest wins in your most recent role?,” “Tell me about a time when you went above and beyond the call of duty.”
Before we dive into how to answer this particular question, a quick refresher on the concept of behavioral interviews: Behavioral interview questions are the ones that ask you for specific examples of past work experiences. The ones that start with “Tell me about a time when you…”or “Give me an example of…”
The idea is to understand past job performance as a way to predict how a candidate would approach the job if hired.
Behavioral questions can be used to test a candidate in any number of competency areas (a few popular examples: teamwork, leadership, work ethic)
Job interviewing is an imperfect process. It’s impossible to truly know who’s the best candidate after just a couple of conversations. However, we (interviewers and candidates) do the best we can with the best process we have.
For interviewers, asking behavioral interview questions is the most reliable way to get a sense of who the candidate is and how they approach their work.
For candidates, strong answers to behavioral questions allow them to stand out from the pack and highlight their best qualities.
Your Greatest Accomplishments = Your Greatest Selling Points
With a question about greatest or proudest accomplishment(s), the interviewer is giving you the opportunity to choose a story you want to highlight in the interview. You’re not being limited to talking about teamwork or leadership or even necessarily a work accomplishment.
This puts some power in your hands to influence how the interviewer sees you, so you want to be prepared.
The example that you choose will say a lot about you. First, it will give clues about what you value most. Were you most proud of closing a huge deal or building a great team? This will help indicate if you’re a good fit for the job and the culture.
Your answer will also help them envision you at your best. This is why it’s important not to choose an underwhelming example and to prepare how you tell the story to make sure you emphasize your best thinking and contributions.