One of the toughest job interview questions to answer is, “What are you most proud of?” It’s a common question that comes up frequently, but luckily you can prepare so that you don’t get caught out on the day. Interviewers like candidates who answer confidently and without hesitation, and preparation is the key to this.
Here’s how to put together an answer that tells the recruiter about some of your proudest achievements, while also telling them what they want to hear from their ideal candidate.
What’s the point of the question?
The purpose of this question is to allow the interviewer to understand your thought process and your personality type better. It stands to reason that someone who is proud of what they’ve achieved in certain areas of their work will be motivated to achieve that feeling again. The recruiter will therefore be trying to understand what motivates you the most to see whether the role you are applying for will bring out the best in you as an employee.
For example, pride can also come across as arrogance and selfishness, and this won’t sit well if the role you are being interviewed for is team based.
Mistakes to avoid
The best way to approach this question is to think of an answer that complements the job description and person specification given in the original job advert. Focus on an incident where you solved a problem for a previous employer, or made a significant contribution in some way.
One mistake a lot of candidates make is thinking that every example has to be extraordinary or amazing. The answer just needs to be a specific example with evidence of your achievements. Not everything you do in life or at work has an amazing result and the interviewer knows that.
Try using the STAR technique when answering this question: Situation, Task, Action, Result.
When formulating your answer, think carefully about the type of environment you will be working in and the company’s ethos and mission statement. If the role is in a customer or client-facing or sales-driven position, you’ll be seen as a good ‘fit’ if you gain satisfaction and pride from achievements that gain you public recognition. By contrast, if you’re more motivated by fulfilling personal goals, you’d be better suited to a more back-office oriented role.
Bear in mind that companies generally look for high achievers who are motivated to excel in whatever they do, rather than self-centred glory seekers.
For example, if the job you’re applying for is to do with client account management:
“I am most proud of when one of the biggest clients of my previous company was about to switch suppliers, and I had to stop them from switching. I used the excellent personal relationship that I had built up with the client over the past year to persuade them to stay with our company and negotiated new terms. The result was that they placed even more orders than the previous quarter.”
Another example could be:
“I am most proud of when a Google algorithm update made my company's organic traffic plummet, and their Adwords spend increase. My job was to fix the site to make sure that it was compliant with the new Google Update and also wouldn't be affected by any updates for the foreseeable future. I spent hours fixing the blog and putting a new content plan in place to keep everything controlled. The plan worked, the organic traffic picked up, and the company reduced its Adwords budget.”
You don’t need to limit your response purely to work achievements, either; personal accomplishments can be just as important and telling. If this is going to be your first job, there may be things you achieved at college or university that you were particularly proud of. If you’ve had a break from employment to raise a family, you could be most proud of what your children have achieved because of the values you instilled in them as they were growing up.
Pride might be classed as one of the seven deadly sins, but it can also be very informative for interviewers looking for candidates who will be the best fit for their company and the role they’re advertising. Think carefully about your answer and be prepared to modestly blow your own trumpet en route to success.
Have you managed to answer this question effectively? Let us know what you said!
This article was originally published in January 2015.