How to Answer "How Do You Define Success?"

Interviews are effective tools employers use to identify interviewees who are most suited to a certain position. Question after question, interviewers seeks to test your knowledge of several occupational aspects. Although some questions don’t simply have standard answers, the way you respond to them reflects your wit, goals and work ethic. If you aren’t adequately prepared, this is yet another question that will put you on the spot: “How do you define success?”

Employers want employees who can steer their organizations to greater heights. Before they can determine whether you have what it takes to succeed, they must know what success means to you.

Well, success has many definitions. Generally, it is the accomplishment of desire, purpose and goals. However, for some people it’s the amount of money one has. For others, well-known individuals with a good reputation are the epitome of success. It all depends on the context. So, to answer this question, it is crucial to consider the following points:

The Context

You are certainly attending an interview. So it is an occupational context. If you are looking to secure an entry-level position, your interviewers may be keen on measuring your aspirations. Do you have what it takes to work your way up? In this case, you can say success is moving from an entry-level position through middle management jobs and finally landing the top job!

The Profession

If you are looking to become a doctor, it would be unethical to tell potential employers that success is having lots of money. Ideally, success as a doctor should be saving many lives and helping people lead healthier lifestyles. If you are a prospective stock broker, then the sound of money should mean everything to you! The point is, you definition of success should be consistent with the objectives of your profession.

Your Background

Occupational success if often a product of your personality. What is your character? What are your beliefs? Employers want to hire workers with a good background. This explains why people with a criminal past often face an uphill task finding a job. As such, success can be defined as raising a good family, or the ability to maintain a healthy work-life balance. Employers certainly know that workers who can’t maintain a healthy work-life balance are more likely to burnout, hence lowering the performance of the company.

The Future

Success is a process. You don’t stop working simply because you have already achieved some of your goals. Without sounding like a philosopher, you can define success as what you would want to be remembered for when your time comes to an end. Do you want to be remembered as a person who made a difference in improving the performance of many organizations? Or would you like to be remembered as an office gossip, someone who could mind his own business? By taking this approach, you will portray yourself as a person who can stick to his or her ambitions.

Finally, as you define success, it important to back your point of view with solid examples. They could be personal experiences or those of well-known people. This will save you the agony of trying to rack your mind with lots of ‘ahs’ and ‘ums’. To your success!

Image: Getty Images