The intention behind this popular interview question
Amongst all behavioral questions that could be asked in an interview, this particular question stands out due to multiple reasons. Invariably speaking, this is one of the most challenging questions as it deals directly with the trait of humility. Even though we feel awkward talking about our accomplishments and achievements in public, humility is one of the useful traits in the job market. The entire purpose of the interview is to make your case stronger and help you stand out among other candidates. Hence, it is crucial that we understand the real intention behind this question and what the hiring officials expect from us.
The interviewers expect the following from us when they ask this question.
Your prospective employer may be interested in hiring an employee who is down to earth. Even though you have multiple achievements and accomplishments to brag about, it is not a great idea to talk endlessly and extensively about this during an interview. This will leave a bad impression on you, and you may not be seen as a perfect person to work with. The level of humility you have may be highly decisive when it comes to the final selection of the candidates. This is because no employer wants to risk the team’s performance for any candidate.
This question comes with an added advantage for the hiring officials to understand your perception of success and achievement. There is no other way for them to understand it better. The importance you give for success and accomplishments in your career talks volumes about your job approach and work ethic. They may be interested to know in detail if you have an aptitude for the job position you have applied for. In other words, if your perception of accomplishment matches with the requirements of the job.
Since this is an open-ended question, there are chances that different candidates talk about a wide range of things. The hiring of officials may be interested to know if you are a success-oriented candidate or not. It is assumed that a candidate who is focused on goals and targets can only help the company achieve its short-term and long-term goals. For example, being punctual at the office is not a great achievement. It is just a minimum job requirement.
How to craft a perfect answer?
There is a huge spectrum of things that is to be kept in mind while you craft a perfect answer for this classic interview behavioral question. Here is a list of a few of such things.
1. STAR technique
STAR technique is one of the most celebrated methods to craft an answer to behavioral questions during an interview. Your focus has to be on proceeding with the presentation of a situation and the task and challenges assigned to it. You may later go ahead with explaining the action you took and the skills you implemented for the same. In the concluding session, you may explain in detail the results, your learning experiences, and your greatest accomplishment.
It is suggested that you dedicate your time to explaining an accomplishment at your workplace. If you are a fresher, the best way out is to take examples from your college days regarding any accomplishment which is related to the requirements of the job you have applied for. In short, your focus area has to be about mentioning those skills that the company is looking forward to.
2. Identify your positives
You must dedicate some time to identifying your values and qualities. You must sell yourself perfectly by highlighting these qualities. For example, if you are applying for the position of an accountant, it is highly rewarding if you make explicit your accounting skills and your experiences at college. In this scenario, you can bring to the attention of the hiring of officials an accomplishment that is closely related to the skill set you have and the skills they are looking for.
In any situation, you can channel the story of your accomplishment to include the necessary soft skills of interpersonal communication skills and professional writing.
3. Background research
This is a necessary step in the preparation of any answer for your interview process. You must craft your answer in such a way that it suits the requirements of the company and aligns with its policies. Background research is the only solution for this.
There may be certain skills and qualities prioritized by the company depending on the industry and the particular job position you have applied for. Background research can be pulled off from the company’s profile, websites, or LinkedIn updates. One additional tip that can be put into use is to explore recent news articles and the business performance of the company. This will give you valuable information that can be included in your answer during the interview process
Your answer explaining your accomplishments has to be realistic and honest. Indeed, the hiring of officials is not expecting a world-changing idea implemented by you. They are looking forward to a practical accomplishment that you achieved in your day-to-day life. Even though it is highly tempting, you should refrain from making lies and false statements. This will invite unnecessary and inevitable embarrassment later in your career. Also, if it is the case that they come to know that you have lied, you do not stand a chance even though you are a good candidate in all other dimensions.
The hiring of officials may not have a long day to listen to all your stories. You have to be well prepared to express your accomplishments and achievements as short as possible with perfect detailing. This can only be achieved through continuous and dedicated preparation along with multiple practice and mock sessions.
6. History not appreciated
The accomplishment and achievement story you are presenting must be recent and relevant. The job market is a highly dynamic field where they look for a candidate who is up to date. Even though your accomplishment sounds great, but it is from a few years ago, it may not have the impact you expect it to have.
7. Professional achievement
Even though they do not specifically ask for professional achievement, it has to be understood that what they are looking forward to is nothing but a professional achievement. You may have a good track record on any artistic thing not related to the requirements of the job you have applied for. This will not reap the benefits you expect. It is always a great idea to mention something which is closely related to the skills they are looking for from you.
Common mistakes to avoid while answering
Avoiding mistakes is as important as finding a relevant achievement. There are a few common mistakes that candidates usually make while answering this classic question. It is described below so that you can circumvent that during your interview.
It is to be ensured that you do not stretch your answer unnecessarily. The more you stretch, it becomes more evident that you are underprepared and you haven’t given enough attention to this question. It is not a great idea to exhibit that you didn’t expect this question during the interview. You have to ensure that you are mentioning only the relevant details to avoid this issue. Always keep in mind that they do not prefer to listen to a long story, especially when it is a pointless one.
2. Non-prioritized answer
It is not a great idea to present a long list of accomplishments you have had in recent history. This will give a negative impression that you could not find what is important and what is relevant. This also hinders the possibility of discussing one or two of your achievements in detail through follow-up questions. The best way to avoid this crisis is to prepare your answer well in advance so that you do not have to spend time thinking of an accomplishment and eventually present a long list of such things.
3. A funny attempt
This is true for any interview question. Presenting yourself as a funny candidate will not reap benefits in most situations. This is a highly risky approach and has to be refrained from. When the hiring official is asking about your achievements, you have to keep in mind the fact that it is a very serious question and super decisive in determining the course of your career path.
4. A negative approach
If you put in the strategy of explaining how others failed in a particular situation to solidify your accomplishment, it is the gravest mistake you could commit. Even if your accomplishment includes correcting someone else’s mistake, it should not be given priority while you answer.
Examples of “my greatest achievement.”
1. “My greatest achievement happened when I was working as an entry-level accountant at my previous company. It came to my attention that the team members could not excel in their work and be highly productive due to the difficulty in locating specific files. I suggested an idea to the manager and took the initiative to put into action a team filing system. We ensure that all files are sorted in such a manner that they can be pulled off very easily, even when there are huge time constraints. The actual result surfaced by the end of the month when it came to our attention that the time spent looking for files has decreased to a great extent resulting in the time spent on specific tasks alone.“
2. “My greatest professional achievement during my college days was the learning process regarding time management. Even though I enrolled for an honors degree, I ensured that I spent enough time polishing my soft skills. I enrolled myself in the debating society and the career placement cell to increase my exposure to the real challenging world. I was decisive on the fact that I’ll stay in the past I have chosen by focusing on my career goals. I am proud of the numerous opportunities I got through the decision I made in my first year of college.”
3. “One of the biggest professional skills I think I have is that of my perceptions. I actively look for issues and troubles faced by my colleagues by noticing a shift in their daily routine. This has helped to meet you to increase my leadership capabilities during my college days and in my first job. This has helped me to find solutions quickly before the issue escalates. I am proud that this has contributed grossly to the performance of my team and in meeting the short term and long term goals assigned to us.”
➔ Always give priority to a professional accomplishment even though it is not asked explicitly. Any of your accomplishments may not be of great help when it comes to the selection process.
➔ If you are a fresher and do not have any experience, it is better to mention any of your achievements related to organizational or professional skills. This can be from your experience at college events and programs.
➔ It is expected that you are proud of your achievement. But extending it unnecessarily will give a negative impression about your personality. It is better to describe your accomplishment in a few words and focus on the insights.
➔ Always ensure that you are humble and down to earth when you express your success and qualities.
➔ Implement the STAR technique while drafting your answer to ensure that you present a highly impactful answer.
➔ It is always a great idea to leave room for improvement and correction and not be completely satisfied with your performance.
➔ You must refer to examples and do background research about the goals and ambitions of the company. You can also search about the skills they are looking for in their job description.
➔ Do not underestimate the role played by practice sessions and mock answering sessions. You may request your colleagues or friends to help you out with this.