INTERVIEWS / APR. 14, 2014
version 2, draft 2

How to Answer "How Do You Measure Success?"

When an interviewer asks you the question, "How do you measure success?" do you know what he or she is looking for?

No, they're not looking for you to answer with a generic, "Every time I reach my goal, I consider that to be a success." They want you to tell them what makes you a GREAT employee, not just what makes you an average worker with minor successes.

So what should you say?

Sample Answer to the Question

"I set goals that either meet or exceed what is expected of me, and I work to reach those goals no matter what. I may encounter setbacks or obstacles or I may make mistakes, but I always try to adjust and improve my work habits so that I can reach my goals. I consider success to be reaching my desired outcome."

How is this a good answer?

  • It shows that you try to go above and beyond what is expected of you. Perhaps not always, but enough that you're an above-average employee.
  • It states clearly that you work to reach those goals no matter what happens. Some people can't adjust to mistakes, failures, or obstacles, but those that fight onward are the ones that make the best employees.
  • It indicates that you're willing to accept your fallibility. No one thinks you're perfect, but showing that you can push past your imperfections makes you look honest while still putting your skills in a positive light.
  • It proves you are willing to be flexible. The fact that you're willing to adjust and improve means that you will always work towards being better.

Three Elements of a Good Answer

To answer this question effectively, you'll find that there are three elements that an interviewer wants to hear about:

  1. The company's measure of success --  Has the prospective company given out an award for excellence or achievement? If you have received a similar award, it proves that you can match the company's standard for success. Whether it's salesperson of the month or Most Valuable Employee, these awards are a good measure of success that will give you a leg up on the competition.
  2. Your professional measure of success -- Saying, "Meeting deadlines 100% of the time is my personal definition of success" is a great way to tie your personal success metrics into something the interviewer can understand. Show that you understand what your company considers success, and how your professional measurement will seek to outperform even the company's ideal.
  3. Your personal measure of success -- You have to have successes outside the office, so think about what you'd consider a success at home. Is it a beautiful garden, a loving family, or a perfectly prepared meal? Interviewers know that a well-rounded employee is a successful one, so defining successes at home as well as at the office is a good way to prove to potential employers that you're the right one for the job!

Don't worry about getting into too much detail when answering this question, but just make certain that the interviewer understands that your measure of success is right in line with their company's! 

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