When you’re asked about your greatest accomplishments, you have to opportunity to shine.

It’s a moment to show just how good you are professionally and what a valuable asset you would be for the organization. Surely, it’s impossible to get this wrong?

This common interview question falls under the category of behavioral questions.

Since not all behaviors are good or helpful, you do have to carefully consider just what accomplishment you talk about and how.

While it might seem like a simple question that requires a single sentence answer, this isn’t the case.

So, how do you formulate a good answer to this question? In this guide, you’ll learn to answer this common behavioral question on your greatest accomplishment by:

  • Understanding what behavioral questions are
  • Learning to use the STAR technique
  • Finding the right accomplishments to talk about
  • Learning how to avoid the biggest mistakes

At the end, you’ll also find a selection of example answers that you can use as inspiration.

So, let’s jump into the world of behavioral questions and your greatest accomplishments.

WHAT ARE BEHAVIORAL QUESTIONS AND WHY ARE THEY ASKED?

To understand a good answer to the question regarding your greatest accomplishments, you must understand the reasons behind the question.

This type of question is called a behavioral question and those have a particular place in the interview question list.

The concept of behavioral questions is based on the premise that past behavior can predict future behavior.

The interviewer wants to dig deeper into your actual past behavior at work and in life, in order to make a value-judgement in regards to your chances of succeeding in the role.

Behavioral questions test you, the candidate, in a number of areas of competency.

These can relate to your ability to solve problems, deal with difficulties, communicate with others and so on.

Since the idea is that your past behavior can predict future behavior, these questions test your skills and ability to perform well in the role.

For the interviewer, your answer to a behavioral question will reveal three main areas of concern.

Your answer to the question will:

  • Showcase your personality and character.
  • Highlight the way you work and approach different areas surrounding work.
  • Reveal what your values are.

The examples you choose matter exactly for that reason.

Whatever you choose to talk about as an accomplishment immediately reveals what you value, for example.

If you talk about an accomplishment centered on teamwork, then you show you value good teamwork.

If the company puts teamwork at the heart of what it does, then you are showcasing your fit for the organization.

Indeed, behavioral questions, such as this one, give you an opportunity to highlight your skills. You don’t just talk about your skills and your future ability to perform well but you actually show your skills in action.

When you’re asked to talk about your greatest achievements, you are given the perfect chance to stand out, especially in terms of other candidates.

This is because you are talking about factual achievements and your skillful past behavior.

You have the opportunity to show with confidence that you understand the skills needed in this role and you showcase those in action.

USE THE STAR TECHNIQUE

There is really only one template when it comes to answering behavioral questions and that is the STAR technique. This is the number one technique you have to learn in order to master ANY behavioral question.

Each letter in the acronym forms a part of the answer to the behavioral questions.

Now, let’s consider what this would look like when you’re talking about your greatest achievements.

Situation

Your answer should start with the situation. Consider it as a brief overview of what the project, task and/or situation at hand was.

This is about laying the groundwork for the accomplishment – you paint the picture of what is about the happen and why you had to showcase the skills you’re about to showcase.

For example, you could start by saying:

“In my previous job, my department’s role was to manage the training and orientation of new recruits. However, a lot of the content material in use felt rather dull and uninspiring to me right from the start. It wasn’t inaccurate information but the problem was that people didn’t find it engaging, often failing to complete the course.”

Your interviewer can get the important bits from the above start. You mention where and when your accomplishment is going to take place and you outline the issues that you were faced with.

When you’re talking about the situation, you want to provide enough context to make the interviewer understand the situation. It’s about showing the importance of what you’re about to say.

For instance, in the above example, it’s about mentioning the issue with the boring course material and how it led to problems in completion numbers.

Be specific and don’t go into too much detail. You don’t have to mention anything that’s not directly relevant to your accomplishment.

Task

Now, you then have to move onto the task at hand. This is about showing the situation in a bit more detail, highlighting what you wanted to or needed to do.

If you examine the above answer, you can already see that it touches on the topic of the Task. Here it is again:

“In my previous job, my department’s role was to manage the training and orientation of new recruits. However, a lot of the content material in use felt rather dull and uninspiring to me right from the start. It wasn’t inaccurate information but the problem was that people didn’t find it engaging, often failing to complete the course.”

From this, the interviewer would be able to understand that your task at hand was to make the material interesting. It was the dullness of the material that led to dropouts and this, of course, wasn’t good for the company.

However, you can also say this in your answer and make it more obvious. For example, to the above example, you could add by saying:

“I felt that it was important to find a way to make the material more engaging to stop people from dropping out.”

The point here is to show the interviewer you understand the problem and you’ve identified the main way of fixing it. It’s not a bad idea to start about the goals you wanted to achieve right from the onset.

In this instance, it would be to prevent people from dropping out of the course due to boredom.

Now, the next part has more information on how you pick with the accomplishment.

Right now the important thing to know is that you want to showcase your initiative with the task – this shouldn’t be a mission that was handed to you but rather something you took the time and effort to solve, fix or overcome.

Action

You then move on to actions. This is the part where you get to showcase those critical skills in action.

As you’ll read in the next chapter, the important part here is to ensure the skills are relevant to the job and role you want to get. But more about that later.

Right now, the important thing is to show in detail how you acted and what you did.

It’s important to be detailed, focusing on those actions that had the most impact in terms of the outcome.

For example, you could continue your STAR answer to your greatest accomplishment by stating,

“I presented my idea of improving the content material to the managers and they allowed me to start working on this issue. I looked at the feedback forms from the past and noticed what people really liked about the course and the aspects they weren’t engaged with. This allowed me to come up with a new structure for the courses, still using the same course material. One of the biggest factors was how I switched topics around and added more group work to keep it fun.”

You’re showcasing the key skills with this answer: analytical skills and problem-solving abilities.

You are being careful with your resource use, which is often important – you’re not just buying a solution, so to speak, but being innovative with the company’s resources.

Result

Finally, your answer should get to the results. Since the question is about accomplishments, you want to pay extra attention to this.

You want to show what were the positive outcomes of your action and the impact it had on you and the people/organizations involved in the situation.

You could conclude this example answer by saying,

“I’m extremely happy about the way the new training courses went. New trainees have given us 5-star reviews and I’ve received plenty of praise from the trainers themselves. Right now, 90% of participants complete the course and rate it as very valuable – this is up by 20%. I believe this engagement will continue to bring positive results even further down in the careers of those participating. As a result, I received a 10% raise and a year later was an appointed manager of the teaching staff.”

The above shows a few important points. It:

  • Highlights both results and impact for the wider organization as well as the personal accomplishments you had.
  • Quantifies the results – this could be anything from time, figures, percentages and so on.
  • Outlines your reasons for valuing the accomplishment.

PICK AN EXAMPLE THAT HIGHLIGHTS THE SKILLS YOU NEED IN THE ROLE

As mentioned in the previous section, you can’t just pick whatever accomplishment you like.

You have to make sure your chosen accomplishment works in this particular interview.

Now, what kind of achievement works the best? What is the accomplishment you should pick and use the STAR technique with? What even are accomplishments?

According to the Cambridge Dictionary, an accomplishment is:

So, the first thing to do is to start thinking about situations where you have made a significant accomplishment – i.e. you have put a lot of effort and work into something that ended up in success.

Jobscan’s blog has great suggestions on accomplishments to use in your resume and you can use it as inspiration here too.

As mentioned earlier, you can’t say holding a job for four weeks was an accomplishment. But the example of launching a new training course was.

It’s also crucial to understand that it’s not just about picking a success story.

Remember the purpose of the question – the interviewer wants to use your past behavior as an indicator of future behavior.

What this means is that your chosen accomplishment must highlight skills and values you’d need in the role.

So, how can you pick the right accomplishment to do just that?

To know the skills you want your accomplishment to highlight, you need to research the role and its requirements.

The first resource is the job post – you need to pay attention to the skills it lists and the tasks it talks about.

It’s a good idea to print out the job posting and highlight the skills and tasks it mentions. You could use a template like the one below to list all of them, paying attention to the ones the employer mentions multiple times.

Tasks the role requires me to doSkills I need in the role

You will now have a good idea of what kind of tasks you have to mention as part of your role. But you can widen your research and look at the company website as well.

Many companies have things like employee profiles that can give you an idea of the day-to-day things you might be doing.

Furthermore, study the website and the company’s mission statement and company values.

These can be a good addition to figuring out what might be the kind of accomplishments you want to talk about.

For example, if the company keeps talking about sustainability, you could pick an accomplishment that relates to this and shows your appreciation of it.

Perhaps you managed to pull off a concert to help wildlife preservation or you created an office-wide recycling scheme at work.

Now that you have all the skills, tasks and actions written down that you need to perform in the role, and you are aware of the company’s values, you can move on to finding the right accomplishments to talk about.

You could use a template like the one below and write down any accomplishment you can think of that showcases that specific talent, skill or action:

The action/skill/valueExample accomplishment

Don’t be too discriminate in terms of the accomplishments you choose just yet – you can start narrowing them down later. Right now, you just want to include accomplishments that fit the description and are professional in nature.

Once you have them all listed, you can start the search for the right accomplishments. Think if there’s one that showcases multiple skills, actions and values needed in the role.

This would be the best option to choose since you would be highlighting a range of skills that match with the role.

You can also just pick two of the ones you think are the best and start working with those to formulate the best answer.

You know the best way to answer this question is with the STAR technique so you simply have to turn your chosen accomplishment into one.

You can use the template below:

SITUATION
TASK
ACTIONS
RESULTS

The goal is not to come up with the perfect answer line-by-line.

You shouldn’t read it out like a script – use the above just to come up with the right kind of structure and to pick the key actions to mention to highlight your skills.

THE BIGGEST MISTAKES TO AVOID HERE

The above will help you draft a response that’ll impress the interviewer and helps you focus on the issues that matter the most.

But it’s also worth paying attention to the things you don’t want to say – the biggest mistakes you could make when answering this question.

There are four wrong answers and mistakes you have to avoid when talking about your biggest accomplishments.

Saying you haven’t accomplished anything

This is wrong because it’s just wrong. It’s possible to say this even without knowing a single thing about you because one thing is certain – you have accomplished something in your life.

The things we do might now always seem like a big thing. But we still accomplish lots of things during our lives. In fact, you have probably made a lot of small victories even today.

Of course, not all of these make great answers in a job interview but saying you’ve never achieved anything is simply not true.

With the above techniques, you should find those professional accomplishments you can talk about at a job interview.

Don’t be too critical when thinking about them and if you feel like you have nothing to talk about, start asking around! Your friends, peers and colleagues are bound to shake your memory in this regard.

Lying or over exaggerating

Now, it’s super important to stay away from lying, even if you feel you’ve not accomplished anything big. You do not want to make up accomplishments for the single reason that interviewers are professional.

These people have heard all kinds of stories throughout their careers so they can spot the BS.

Let’s say for some reason the interviewer buys your amazing accomplishment. They still have the option to check it – they will contact those previous employers and ask them about the accomplishment.

If you’ve lied, you’ll simply get caught, lose the job opportunity and you could even end up on a recruitment blacklist!

Your new employer could even expect certain things of you now that you’ve lied. If you told them about your stunning ability to rescue a failing company in two weeks and you fail to save this company; well, you ruined your reputation right there!

In a similar fashion, over exaggerating your accomplishment won’t look very good. Remember that a good answer is about what actually happened and what your specific role in it was – don’t try to make yourself look better or smarter.

Downplaying the achievement

While you don’t want to end up over exaggerating your accomplishment, you also don’t want to go down the opposite response. There is no reason to downplay your achievement. You should learn to be proud of your accomplishment no matter what.

Saying negative things like, “Well I didn’t do it alone, of course”, or “It wasn’t really such a big deal”, are not going to help. Too much humility won’t look good on anyone.

The interviewer wants to know what you’ve done and how well you can perform in the role – if you make it sound like you don’t really even know that much; well, there isn’t much reason to hire you, right?

Picking an obvious and dull achievement

Finally, you don’t want to pick a mundane and obvious task as an achievement. For example, if you work as a barista at a coffee shop, your achievement isn’t to successfully serve coffee for people – that’s your job.

Instead, your achievement could be how you manage to come up with a speed dating event idea, put the event together and make it into a success!

If you remember, accomplishments by their dictionary definition are things that require a lot of work and effort.

They are about using your skills to achieve something great and not things that are rather expected of you. Getting up and going to work is not an achievement.

So, pick professional achievements that highlight your skillset. Use the tips above and avoid these simple, yet costly mistakes.

3 EXAMPLE ANSWERS & WHY THEY ARE GOOD

Now you have to tools to formulate a good answer, a way to pick a good accomplishment to use and knowledge of those big mistakes you want to avoid.

To help you improve your answer, here are three example answers to examine.

Remember these are just there to inspire you and to help you see the STAR technique in action.

Your accomplishment will, naturally, be different and so your answer shouldn’t be a copy of what’s said below.

“When I was an operations analyst at my previous company, my task was to work in the small business division. I noticed that some small businesses kept leaving, always giving the same reason of having excessive returns on low margin products as the reason. I spoke to the team about a solution to this. I worked with the consumer insights team to have access to more data and spoke with the actual businesses on ideas to implement based on findings. I designed a new experience for customers with the product team to help small businesses. As a result, small businesses stayed and we caught the attention of 100 new SMEs. Of course, the business grew its revenue too and I found the new relationships I forged the most fulfilling about the process.”

This STAR answer keeps it simple and straightforward. You can immediately understand the reasons why the person wanted to take the actions they took.

The skills this example clearly highlights are those of problem-solving, co-operation, innovation and creativity, and analytical skills.

So there are a lot of good skills the candidate is showcasing right there.

“In my current position, I have managed to reduce costs by reviewing the contract system to reduce billing errors. I also worked with the financial team to better check up on late payments. These changes ended up boosting the company’s revenue by 20% in a month.

This is not a full STAR answer if you look at it strictly.

However, it gets to the point quickly and shows where and what you did, emphasizing the results.

It fits interviews with specific roles and tasks you need to perform – especially if those closely match with what you were doing in your previous role.

“In my previous position, I had a client come in clearly distressed about having to purchase a dress for a party. She was very self-conscious and nervous. I tried to infuse the situation with some general talk and opened about my own past with anxiety. I was able to use my skills as a good fashion seller by finding the colors and cuts I knew would help her feel more confident. I ended up making a sale but the main thing was that she left happy and confident.”

This is a different play on the answer because it plays on the values.

It’s clearly about showing how committed you are to customer service and going the extra mile – it would work great in interviews where these are the key values the company appreciates.

CONCLUSION

Your greatest accomplishment is a behavioral question that might seem tricky to answer at first. But it offers you one of the best chances of standing out from the crowd and impressing the interviewer.

The above has shown that it’s all about understanding the skills and values the company is looking for.

When you find an accomplishment that highlights those exact skills and values, you simply need to put it to the STAR format and you have a successful and powerful answer to give!

Answering Behavioral Interview Questions: Your Greatest Accomplishments

Answering Behavioral Interview Questions: Your Greatest Accomplishments - #Accomplishment #BehavioralInterviewQuestion #JobInterview #Cleverism

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