Interview questions and answers: Greatest achievments

The 'greatest achievement' interview question has several purposes. It's designed to test skills, quality and experience levels. What you've done is your best. Your interview answer is a virtual map of your work standards.

Some people aren't even sure why they get asked this interview question, and react badly, like it's a trick question. This is yet another case of an interview question giving opportunity for a good response and a very effective answer going begging.

The type of interview question will define what the interviewers need. Whatever the achievement, it's really a 'personal best' they need in your interview answer.

Interview questions about achievements should:

  • Describe the achievement clearly
  • Describe what happened
  • Quantify the success, in dollar values, if relevant
  • If performance based, give comparisons to standards
  • Be relevant to the position

Describe the achievement clearly

When giving your interview answer, just say in so many words what you did. This is like saying you won a trophy, then telling the story of how you did it. It's the easiest way to answer the interview question.

Describe what happened

Say simply what you did in your interview answer. You don't need to be too detailed in description, just give a clear outline. The interview question is really about the achievement, so stick to basics.

Quantify the success, in dollar values, if relevant

If your achievement was something value-based like a sales figure, or other quotable number, use that in your interview answer. It does give the interviewers an idea of the work value, which is often very useful.

If performance based, give comparisons to standards

Many interview questions want performance levels in particular. In some cases, achievements are outstanding performances compared to other performance levels. If you can say you did 1000 of something a day when the average standard was 200 a week, it's a good comparison.

Be relevant to the position

The interview answer should relate to the job criteria, if possible. Many competent people can give very good examples of achievements in their work. Don't miss the chance.

Example

The job is a supervisory position in a call center. The applicant is a call center operator. The interview question is 'What's your greatest achievement in your current job?'

'I did 2000 inquiries in one week. The required KPI is 420. I also got 32 Thank You letters from customers for calls I did that week. I was awarded Employee of the Month, and they gave me my incremental pay rise a year early.'

Analysis

This interview answer demonstrates:

  • Ability to work above performance standards
  • High value work performance
  • High quality of work according to client feedback
  • Clear indications of competence of high level
  • Management recognition of achievement
  • Standard of performance in excess of position requirements

The applicant's hard work is paying off as a career achievement. The performance is directly relevant to the position.