Skilled interviewers have a purpose for each question they ask. Your goal as an applicant is to provide an answer that satisfies that purpose. One question that throws a lot of candidates off – meaning they give an answer that doesn’t satisfy the recruiter – is, “Tell me about your proudest achievement.”
A lot of people talk about their children. That’s not a bad thing, but it doesn’t tell the recruiter anything about how well you could do the job. Were you the Student Union president in University? Sure, it’s impressive, but it’s only a good answer if it reveals something relevant to the job. Let’s take a look at how to create an answer that helps you convince the recruiter you’re the best applicant for the job.
What the Question Is Really Asking:
Your response to “Tell me about your proudest achievement” tells your interviewer a number of things:
- Whether you’ve actually accomplished anything: Are you a high-achiever? Have you accomplished anything, or just been sitting behind a desk for years?
- What you value: Do you value hard work? Persistence? Getting things done, even if it means circumventing a few rules? Your “proudest achievement” story says a lot about the qualities you value in an employee.
- What things you see as obstacles: Did you see having to go through the chain of command as an obstacle? Or did you think co-workers who didn’t pull their weight caused all of the problems? Did pesky ethical rules get in your way?
- What motivates you: What outcome made you count this among your proudest achievements? Was it receiving an award? Leading a team? Seeing the product you dreamed up be released to the market?
- Are you a team player? Does your story give credit to anyone else? Does it put the blame on anyone else? Or is it all about you?
How to Develop an Answer
It’s best to plan your answer ahead of time so that you satisfy the interviewer’s purpose and do the best possible job of selling yourself. Follow these steps to come up with an awesome answer.
- Identify the skills that are most relevant to the job. You can use the job description for clues. You can also build on any skills that are universally necessary in your field. If you’re applying for a sales job, that engineering award you won in college might not be the best thing to talk about. Instead, think about the skills that are necessary for success in sales: people skills, good listening skills, persistence, confidence, etc.
- Jot down some accomplishments that highlight those skills. If you don’t have direct sales experience, think about other accomplishments that highlight those same skills. Were you in charge of fundraising for a local charity? Maybe you blew away all previous records for donations. Or maybe you convinced local leaders to reject plans for a casino in your neighbourhood. Accomplishments like those require the same skills as sales jobs.
- Next, write down any challenges you encountered for each achievement. How did you overcome those challenges? What skills did you use? Problem-solving? Consensus-building? Networking?
- Finally, take a look back at your notes, and pick the accomplishment that does the best job of selling you and your skills – and not just any skills, but the ones that are most relevant to the job you want. That’s your proudest achievement. Now all you have to do is weave the different components into a story that sells.
The most important thing to remember when answering, “Tell me about your proudest achievement” is to talk about something that directly relates to the job you want and gives your interviewer all the information he needs to choose you for the job.
Have you ever been faced with this interview question and not know how to answer it properly? Try the tips above? Let us know in the comments section below…