One of the common interview questions a recruiter may ask a potential candidate is, “What is your greatest accomplishment?” Potential employers prefer this question as it gives them insight into what you consider important parts of a job and how motivated you are to reach your career goals.
While behavioral questions may make you nervous, there are ways to prepare the best answer and come out ahead of other qualified candidates who are interviewing for the same position.
5 Tips for Your Answer
- Choose your greatest achievement that is relevant to the position.
- Try to stick with professional career or job-related strong answers.
- Follow the STAR method as an answering format for a comprehensive reply.
- Be specific in details, but make it short and to the point.
- Practice your example answers before your interview.
5 Mistakes to Avoid
- Do not enhance your part in group achievements or take credit for a team effort on projects.
- Do not just brag about what you have done or let your ego take control.
- Avoid “winging it” as not preparing ahead for a good answer can derail your interview.
- Avoid saying you do not have any accomplishments, even if you are recently out of school.
- Refrain from including confidential information from previous employers in your own answer.
How to Answer: STAR Format
The most effective way to answer any tough interview question is to follow the STAR approach. This way, you are sure to construct the best answer and help the recruiter take notice of your specific skills and abilities.
Here are the four parts of the STAR method:
S: Situation – The situation or the task that is relevant to the job description. It could be from a previous job, volunteer position, or another event.
T: Task – The goal you aimed to achieve, such as increasing sales, decreasing costs, or others.
A: Action – The actions you took alone or your specific contribution as part of a team to obtain the objective.
R: Result – Was the outcome successful? Did you learn anything or determine how to complete the task differently next time? Be sure to take credit for your accomplishments.
Best Example Answers to “What Is Your Greatest Accomplishment” Interview Question
Take a look at the following great answers to this common behavioral interview question and how they cover some of the candidate’s greatest strengths. In addition to showcasing their strengths, a job seeker should be effective in mirroring a company’s core values and fitting in with the company culture in their answer to this behavioral interview question.
Example 1: Organized an Equipment Enhancement Initiative
- Situation: The branch office was operating with outdated computers and hardware, affecting productivity and motivation.
- Task: I organized a group of employees to begin an initiative to show management the benefits of better equipment.
- Action: I drafted a survey that each employee completed that stated their needs and wants for an effective work environment. I created a summary report with the responses to collect everyday needs and the benefits and presented it to the management team.
- Result: Our branch management team implemented an upgrading plan in stages over two years to upgrade our computers, software programs, and other equipment.
Example 2: Updated Website Content
- Situation: Our company website was not attracting the traffic we wanted from a specific demographic.
- Task: I drove increasing traffic to our product page for the male/female demographic, ages 30-50.
- Action: Redesigned the graphics and theme to have a more retro vibe familiar for the target audience.
- Result: Within one month, the entire organization saw an increase of 15% more sales. After six months, the sales of our products jumped to 25% more than previously.
Example 3: Secured an Internship at ABC Company
- Situation: I was the only intern for the summer at the office.
- Task: I applied for and secured a highly desired internship at a reputable firm.
- Action: I had to gather recommendations to help support my internship application.
- Result: Out of 35 candidates, they chose me for the position last summer.
Example 4: Received Volunteer of the Year in 20__
- Situation: Our community league hands out volunteer awards each year at a banquet.
- Task: A fellow resident nominated me for my volunteer work with the senior community hall.
- Action: I regularly volunteer as a recreational attendee for the seniors in our local residence. Once a week, I would spend a few hours playing cards or board games, watching television, or just visiting with the seniors.
- Result: Because of my time with these isolated seniors, I received the Volunteer of the Year Award in 20__.
Example 5: Reduced Operating Costs for the Production Team
- Situation: The production team’s operating costs came in over budget for the last fiscal year, and someone needed to quickly and effectively reduce it.
- Task: Management assigned me to analyze current costs and find ways to reduce the operating budget.
- Action: I spent two weeks examining all our third-party suppliers’ invoices and determined that we could save money by making bulk purchases bi-annually or using competitors’ supplies and services.
- Result: After creating the complete report, I presented it to the management team, which showed how we could bring the operating costs down for the Production Team and get it under budget.
Example 6: Re-signed Previous Clients
- Situation: After a change in office location, my company lost several significant clients, which dramatically impacted our monthly sales.
- Task: The Sales Manager asked my team to re-sign any clients who did not renew their contracts.
- Action: After determining why my clients did not re-sign, I developed strategies that included promotional items, referral discounts, and seasonal pricing for products.
- Result: With my strategies, I successfully re-signed 50% of our previous clients that we lost from our relocation.
Example 7: Completed My Master’s Degree
- Situation: I set a personal goal to obtain my master’s degree with a high GPA.
- Task: I had a personal goal to finish my master’s degree with a GPA of 3.8 or higher while working part-time.
- Action: I became highly effective at time management to ensure enough study time after working part-time on the weekends. I did get creative with switching shifts with other employees, so I had enough time to study and prepare for exams or school projects.
- Result: I finished my master’s degree last year with a GPA of 4.0, exceeding my original goal.
Example 8: Volunteered as an English Teacher at the Local Library
- Situation: Our local library asked volunteers to head up the English As A Second Language program for new residents in our community.
- Task: I volunteered as the instructor, and they provided me with all the necessary study materials and sample lessons to use.
- Action: Once a week for an entire year, I created lesson plans and ran the EAASL program for 12 new residents.
- Result: After the class completion, all the 12 attendees remarked that they had a better sense of the English language and found my instruction extremely helpful.
Example 9: Improved Efficiency at the Office
- Situation: My last position had my office duties overlapping work and tasks, creating inefficiencies.
- Task: I took the initiative to examine all my duties and pinpoint where I could save time.
- Action: I managed to figure out several ways to combine tasks, so I was not repeating the same duties during the workday.
- Result: Once I implemented the changes I wanted, I streamlined my job duties, which freed up an extra hour each day. This way, I was able to take on additional work to help the team.
Example 10: Successfully Designed a Client’s New Logo
- Situation: Our advertising firm had to design a new catchy logo for a prospective client.
- Task: I sat with a team of three others to design an attractive, eye-catching logo for a potential client. Each team player had to come up with their own design to present.
- Action: Management gave every team member specific parameters to meet while designing a new logo. Not only did I include all the requirements, but I dove into the company’s history to incorporate some past attributes as well, from now on with a new look.
- Result: After presenting the four different designs to the client, they loved my logo, and because of this, we managed to sign them with a new advertising contract for last year.
Example 11: Revamped the Hiring Documents in Human Resources
- Situation: The hiring documentation for new hires at our company was outdated and included several errors and misinformation.
- Task: My hiring manager approached me to provide him with specific tasks that I could complete during our off-season while improving company operations.
- Action: During the slow months of December and January, I combed through our hiring documents and rewrote the procedures and hiring booklets for any new employees. I completed this task before our contracts picked up again in February.
- Result: I found a much-needed task to complete during the time of year when our company was not busy with clients so that I could focus on the task at hand without interruptions. Once this project was complete, the hiring process went more smoothly for the HR Department and the employees.
Example 12: Reached My First Sales Goal as a New Employee
- Situation: I started as a new Sales Rep with ABC Company, and we have three months to hit the first sales goal to remain as a full-time employee.
- Task: I had to achieve $10,000 worth of sales before my 90-day employment trial contract expired.
- Action: I was extremely motivated to ensure that I remained at ABC Company and did everything I could to learn the ropes and close sales during the first 90 days there.
- Result: I am proud to say that I managed to reach my first sales goal of $10,000 in sales in less than 60 days, and they immediately offered me a full-time position on their sales floor.
Example 13: Founded My Own Company
- Situation: I started my own window-washing company right out of school.
- Task: Once I graduated, the job prospects were minimal, but I needed a way to make money and survive in the business world, using my hard skills.
- Action: I saw a need for a reputable window-washing company in my hometown, so after graduation, I started canvassing businesses for clients in hopes of building a reputable business.
- Result: Within two weeks, I had regular contracts for cleaning services. After six months, I was so busy that I hired two employees to keep up with everything. Starting a business has given me so much work experience and knowledge about what it takes to succeed.
Example 14: Made Speech at Annual Conference
- Situation: My company hosted the annual conference for our division last year and needed speakers from each department.
- Task: My boss asked me to speak on behalf of my team in the Accounting Department about our yearly successes and challenges.
- Action: Since I work in the accounting department, I am not prone to public speaking engagements regularly. I had to construct a report with a slideshow presentation, showing how the department was successful throughout the year and what obstacles we overcame.
- Result: Although I can get nervous speaking in front of groups, by taking time to prepare and practice my presentation with my team members, I was ready for the annual conference, and everything went smoothly.
Example 15: Acted as a Student Mentor and Liaison
- Situation: While at graduate school, there was an opening for a student mentor that would be available to help new students and act as a liaison between them and the teaching staff.
- Task: I applied for the position and was accepted for this role during my last year at graduate school.
- Action: During this time, I guided new students at the school with housing needs, financial assistance questions and referrals, and educational requirements.
- Result: I was able to help one student get the support he needed to complete his exams for graduation, despite some personal obstacles he was facing. I felt my time as a student mentor and liaison was beneficial for the student body and myself as I gained expertise on how to help and lead a team of peers.
Example 16: Raised Money for Charity
- Situation: I frequently help out at my local animal shelter, and they rely on donations for most of their operating costs.
- Task: Because I have an educational background in advertising and marketing, I volunteered my knowledge to help orchestrate a fundraising event for their annual spay and neuter clinic they held last year.
- Action: By utilizing what I know about demographic targets and closing sales, I organized a team of volunteers to bring awareness to the upcoming spay and neuter program and raise funds for the shelter.
- Result: I managed to create a successful spay and neuter clinic that raised enough funds to cover the shelter’s current costs of all their 65 animals in care, as well as have money left over for their emergency account.
Example 17: Got a Promotion to Floor Manager
- Situation: There was an opening for the position of floor manager after the current employee retired.
- Task: I was interested in the position the minute I heard that the current manager was retiring, and I wanted the management team to know that I wanted to throw my hat in the ring.
- Action: Once the HR Department posted the position, I spoke to the current manager about the types of job duties he enjoys and what changes he feels could help the department. After collaborating with him, I applied for the position. During my interview, I shared these pieces, letting the management team know that I intend to continue the same high-quality duties and take the team even further for future success.
- Result: I was up against four other employees for the floor manager position, and they offered it to me after being impressed with my background research of the job.
Example 18: Learned a New Software Program on My Own
- Situation: In my previous role, they upgraded the software programs but could not have a training program before the roll-out.
- Task: All the employees were allowed to take a laptop home with the new software program to become familiar with it.
- Action: I was only one of three people in our branch office that volunteered to take home a laptop to learn the functions of the new software program on our own. For the next two weeks, I went through several YouTube video tutorials and the programming whitepapers to learn all the ins and outs of the program.
- Result: After learning how to navigate the software on my own in only two weeks, my boss asked me to lead an introductory course for the rest of the employees on becoming familiar with the new program.
Example 19: Saved Previous Employer Thousands of Dollars and Man-Hours
- Situation: In my last role, my boss took bids for new contractors for our upcoming branch office and needed help whittling down the candidates.
- Task: He approached me to help categorize each bid from the contractors and break them up into several elements, making it easier to decide.
- Action: I was extremely thorough in my analytics of each contractor’s bid. I was careful to include all the critical aspects of each submitted document and some pertinent information that may be critical to completing the task.
- Result: Because of my attention to detail and thorough research with the contractors’ bids, I saved my employer thousands of dollars and man-hours by showing him the best proposal for the job at hand.
Example 20: Found a Problem No One Else Could
- Situation: Working as a mechanic at XYZ Company, vehicles regularly came in with problems that were hard to diagnose. One truck had an electrical issue that no other mechanic could pinpoint the cause of and was in the shop multiple times.
- Task: My floor manager asked me if I had any ideas on the root cause and wanted me to look at the vehicle.
- Action: I spent some time examining the truck and doing extensive research online and through the manufacturer for any possible electrical issue causes.
- Result: After exploring every piece of documentation I could find about this make and model of truck, I determined the cause for the problem. I was able to find a workable solution that ensured it would not happen again for the client, providing exceptional customer service.
Example 21: Found Accounting Mistakes to Help Balance the Annual Books
- Situation: I was hired late in the year to help balance the annual financial documents for a mid-sized company that was afraid their expenses were more than their revenue.
- Task: They needed an examination of all the vendor accounts, along with the Accounts Payable and Receivables for any discrepancies. This task required completion before the auditors came at year-end.
- Action: I buckled down and spent many days and weeks putting in extra hours to ensure that this task would be complete before the deadline. I had to double-check past invoices and employee pay schedules along with vendor receipts, making the job very tedious at times.
- Result: In the end, I found a typo in one of the vendor entries, which caused several invoices to be misfiled. This error created a significant discrepancy with the budget sheets. Still, once I corrected it and reallocated the funds where they should go, the company’s financials were balanced and ready for the auditors.
Answering this common behavioral question about your greatest professional achievement is a great way to show you are the best candidate for the role. The best way to answer this job interview question is by incorporating a great achievement that includes a work ethic that mirrors the company’s culture.
This way, a recruiter will see how your soft skills can work successfully in their organization. So make sure you think about your proudest accomplishments and rehearse giving specific examples so you will be ready to nail this question during the interview process.
Keith Miller has over 25 years of experience as a CEO and serial entrepreneur. As an entrepreneur, he has founded several multi-million dollar companies. As a writer, Keith's work has been mentioned in CIO Magazine, Workable, BizTech, and The Charlotte Observer. If you have any questions about the content of this blog post, then please send our content editing team a message here.