What would you say is your greatest achievement

This is potentially a bragging exercise, but it's also a matter of proving you've achieved something.

Achievements are obviously merit-based. The achievement, in theory, defines the applicant.

In practice, the achievement has to be meaningful. Some people really can't come up with anything impressive. Achievements are considered to be measures of success, but that can be hard to define.

Which means applicants need to be able to produce something where the success is clear, and measurable.

You do have some latitude in what you use as an example. Success, in this context, is however preferably relevant to the job in question, and career based. Other forms of success are acceptable, they are achievements, but obviously, the more it has to do with the job, the better.

Career achievements in relation to this question, should be:

  • Clear measures of success in the industry or profession
  • Quantifiable in dollar terms
  • Meaningful to the employer as a job related asset
  • Properly expressed so the achievement is understood

Clear measures of success in the industry or profession

The answer to the question is based very much on the interviewers' level of comprehension. It's definitely best to stick to the success stories based on the same industry, because the interviewers might not be able to understand a story outside their own field.

You can use a lot of reliable topics in the value adding range of subjects. The best are related to profits, efficiency, sales, management successes, problem solving, or client management. These all translate into an easily understood business context.

Quantifiable in dollar terms

The achievement, when expressed as a monetary value, does have a real impact. If your achievement includes millions in sales, you're making it clear you're the right person for the sales job, etc.

The figures do impress. The ability to handle big budgets, or complex business schemes with big outlays, is a real talking point. You can prove real abilities and real competence.

If you can't talk about big money, there are other subjects for your answer. Efficiencies, savings, problem solving and other common essential skills are also valuable. Even if you don't have a particular dollar value to give them, it's clear they are valuable.

Meaningful to the employer as a job related asset

This means the employer can see direct applications of your achievement to the job. This is important, because in the competitive interview environment, the most obviously useful person is the one who gets the job.

Properly expressed so the achievement is understood

It is essential that the employer sees the importance of the achievement, whatever example you use.

Think about your achievement.

  • How would you explain it to someone who knows nothing about it?
  • How would they know what's so important about it?
  • How does your achievement relate to the job, and how do you show that?

Keep the story very straightforward. Explain, as clearly as you can:

  • What was done
  • What was achieved
  • What was the value of the work
  • Why was it important

You can add information where required, but this is the absolutely critical information the interviewers must have.

If you don't have a directly job or career related achievement

Even if you can't use a directly related achievement, you can make the association of your achievement with the requirements of the job.

Let's say the essential criteria for a job are:

  • Leadership
  • Communications skills
  • Problem solving
  • Teamwork

If your achievement was leading your local soccer team to a premiership with a team of rookies, you'd be demonstrating all those skills.

It's really a matter of translating your achievement into the skills required for the job.

With that example, you have clear experience covering all those criteria. Remember, even if the achievement story's not directly job related, you do have the other required skills. You'll find you do have examples, whatever field your job may be.

You're at least at the right level of experience, relative to the job, to provide some examples of achievement.

That's why you got the interview.

The answer to this question doesn't have to be flashy, or complex.

All you need to do is make sure your answer is understood as relevant.