What has been your biggest achievement in life? – Interview Question with Answers

biggest achievement

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This question is one of the trickiest ‘behavioral’ questions asked in an interview. And answering to this is, again, not a cake-walk because the so-called ‘humility’ trait than we have been knowingly or unknowingly teaching of doesn’t let us brag about our achievements at any time in front of others, especially when they are a level higher than us. We don’t simply or easily go into conversations like “Why don’t you tell me something about your biggest achievement?” unless and until we have a whole story to talk about. Coming to the matter, such humility in an interview is of no use because what matters more at the end is your answer to this question and convincing the interviewer that you are apt for a post in his/her organization.

This is another important question you may encounter in your interview where some faces with an expression of doubts are staring at you. But, with good preparation, you can turn the tables in your favor. A good preparation needs you to know that you have to ‘Brag about your achievement with humility.’ This may sound crazy, but it will do the trick.

What Interviewer is trying to judge?

In the first step towards preparing the answer to this question, you need to know what exactly the interviewer wants to ask about? For that, the question can be rephrased as:

  1. What is your greatest achievement in life that our company is benefitted from?
    Or
  2. What has been the greatest goal in your life yet that you have achieved?

Firstly be happy that the interviewer asked you about this. This question can be a chance for you to impress the interviewer by explaining about any or all of the exemplary traits that you hold. Apart from interested in knowing that what “in your views are your biggest achievement” or “which achievement you consider the biggest”; the interviewer is also keen to see that ‘how do you talk about yourself?’; “Whether or not you are comfortable about talking yourself and if yes, then to what extent?”

Apart from these, the interviewer may also be interested in learning these things about you:
1. Work-ethic: This is represented by your selection of achievement. What do you consider an ‘accomplishment’ for yourself?
2. Your perception level of the matter: This means how you represent your achievement in front of the interviewer. Do you directly state about it or do you make a story around it and then describe your goal achieved.
3. How to stand different: Since the company would have received many applications for the job that you are giving an interview for, the company may also be interested in knowing that how and in what ways do you stand different from all the other aspirants.

Pre-Requisites:

There go two parts in making the answer to this question:
1. What achievements to choose?
2. How to represent?

The ones who are very clear about their “greatest achievement” can give a read to the following techniques explained below:

STAR TECHNIQUE: For a cohesive and concise answer about your achievement follow the STAR technique. The acronym goes like:
S- SITUATION: It refers to the context of your achievement. The situation can be an issue that you alone or with your work-group or your seniors faced and deemed to be challenging.
T- TASK: It means the challenges or issues that were to be faced and the tasks that you were supposed to perform to help in achieving the goal of tackling up the challenge.
A- Action: It means the approach that you selected or the steps that you took to solve the problem. All the skills that you used must be spoken in the interview.
R-Result: For completing your answer, do mention about the result or the goal that was ultimately reached or achieved after so much of your work/action. It can be in figures and any other achievement.

For those who are not sure about their “greatest achievements” can certainly look up to the points mentioned right below:
(A.) Making your list of accomplishments: Think over ‘what BIG have you done in your life?’; ‘what was the task accomplished, when you got praises to form your seniors, juniors, peers, etc.?” or maybe something when you did not get so much of recognition but your work added a lot to company’s value or some accomplishment at time of your degree-course. Once you can think of all such achievements, go on making the list for them.

(B.) Choose relevant answers: Now, out of the list that you made, choose only those achievements which directly relate to the job for which you are giving the interview. For this, you need to go through the ‘job description’ part of the post and the ‘target/ goals’ of the company. You may also go through the ‘past-achievements’ of some ‘important personnel of the company’.

(C.) Relate your accomplishments with the ultimate result: If possible, make a story out of your ‘BIG TASK DONE’. Do include what challenges you faced, what were the problems, and how did your tackling of those problems help the company or organization you were associated with? Try to quantify the results like your contribution helped the company to reduce cost by 10% etc.

Tips on what to include and what to avoid

What to INCLUDE

Just knowing about your achievements will not help you during the interview; you have to be prepared thoroughly with a proper answer to the question. For that, along with using the above-mentioned STAR Techniques, the following tips will be helpful-

1. Professional achievement: You may have many of the personal achievements that were huge targets for you but here, you need to mention just about your professional achievement but this is what the interviewer is more interested in.

2. Recent and relevant one: Make sure that the achievement that you talk about should not be something that you have achieved a long time back because they may not define the traits of personality that you hold on this date. And try to inculcate a relevant accomplishment, as stated above.

3. Be honest: You may think of bragging a lot about your achievement and then add unnecessary details or matter to your answer which is not true just because you want to impress upon the interviewer. But, here is the time you need to be honest and say only true details because such answers can be verified by your interviewers just over a call or so.

4. Be specific: Just talk directly about the task or project that you had and how you did it. Don’t go on adding useless words just to increase the length of your answer or to fill up the gap in the conversation. Talk about your achievement with as relevant words as possible.

5. Mention your skills: You can go on mentioning what change of traits or what new qualities you developed in your personality after you tackled that situation. The interviewer would be interested in knowing how you evolved as a person through this.

6. Give a proper description: As earlier stated, you should start by mentioning the basic problem, then your ways/tasks to tackle it, and then the positive impact that your action had on the organization as well as on you. Do make it a story, as the interviewer wants to hear, which is filled with right selected words. For e.g. – you may say “I had a certain task to accomplish within 2 days” instead of “Within just a short time period of two days, my boss expected me to do this”


Things to AVOID

1. Don’t add useless details: You should be speaking for your achievement in a positive and impressive way but not in a lengthy way. Avoid mentioning certain irrelevant details. For e.g. If you were working in a team just say that “It was a team of 4 members” instead of saying “My team members were Ram, Sham, Gyan, etc.”. The interviewer wants to know just about you, not other irrelevant things.

2. Don’t be inconsistent: If you have mentioned the biggest achievement of yours in your resume then don’t change the answer in your interview. The interviewer must have already read your resume; he might deliberately be asking this question. Try to be consistent with your answer.

3. Don’t go against the previous employer or anybody: There are many times when you may not get the recognition that you deserve for your work or some non-deserving may get a pat on the back. But avoid mentioning it in the interview. Don’t go on saying that my employer didn’t recognize my efforts instead; you may choose a positive attitude that I was motivated in myself to perform better the next time.

Preparing your answer:

Don’t cram or memorize your answer. Just try to be familiar with it. You don’t have to mention the minute details in your answer but yum just know about them because the interviewer may go on asking anything from the incident that you mention. So, remind the whole matter once, before you sit for your interview. Apply the STAR technique in the preparation of your answer and also mind the Dos and Don’ts of answering as mentioned above. Along with preparing one accomplishment, you should be ready with one more from your side because it may be possible that right after finishing talking about the first one, the interviewer may ask for your second biggest accomplishment in life.



Sample answers:

Depending on the position of the candidate, whether he is an experienced person or a fresh graduate/post-graduate applying for a job, the answers vary. Given below are few examples for both the categories, have a look:


SAMPLE ANSWERS FOR NON-EXPERIENCED CANDIDATES:

EXAMPLE: 1 (Completing graduation with weak financial background)

The greatest professional achievement for me is completing my graduation degree (Bachelor of Technology) with a good score of 8.2 CGPA. Hailing from a family which doesn’t have a strong financial-backbone and being an elder son to my parents, I was required to do a part-time job along with my graduate degree. I did not get any financial support from my family rather I supported them with whatever I could earn. This taught me good management of time, building good-habits, staying focused, working hard during day and night. I and my family are so proud of my achievement and the qualities that I hold today will surely be helpful to me in my career.

EXAMPLE: 2 (Achievement in the field of sports)

Winning football tournaments at the national level are certainly the biggest achievement for me to date. This is a great achievement not just because we won that tournament but because the journey was worth living. I was required to travel an extra 15 km every morning to reach the stadium where I and my team used to practice. We used to start practicing early in the morning at 5:30 a.m. because later we had our classes at 8:00 a.m. onwards. The same routine was repeated during the evening time from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. The schedule was running very hectic as I was supposed to take my studies along. But, during the whole process, I developed as a more responsible person with more and more dedication by each passing day. I learned team-spirit and leadership skills during my whole practice time.

EXAMPLE:3 (Achievement in the field of academics)

Reaching the finals of “spellathon-quiz” was my biggest achievement. Being studious I always wanted to do big, to do something which will make my parents, teachers, and the school proud of me. I read about the ‘spellathon-quiz’, the word-spelling competition at the country-level in the newspaper when I was in my first year of college. I talked to my seniors and teachers regarding the same as I wanted to prepare for it and wanted to win the competition. I got good guidance from my professors and the principal of the college. I made my schedule and strictly followed it. During my second year of college, I could not make it but in the final year, I made it up to finals. I don’t regret that I didn’t win it rather I cherish whatever I have learned during this journey.

EXAMPLE: 4 (Managing a committee work)

I was a student-coordinator of the placement cell of my college. My duty was to maintain a liaison between the teachers of the placement committee and the rest of the students (either volunteers or others). I won’t say it was not an easy task because the students have their own demands and expectations from the teachers and the teachers had their own way of working. Sometimes if certain circular/notice was required to be passed to the students it was to be done cautiously as to not disclose any confidential information by mistake. And sometimes if students’ requirements were to be told to the teachers it required a lot of deliberations to know what the majority of students want rather than looking into the needs of a few volunteers. So, that taught me team-work, maintaining secrecy without hiding necessary information, and maintaining a balance on both sides.



SAMPLE ANSWERS FOR EXPERIENCED CANDIDATES:

EXAMPLE: 1 (Achievement incapacity of responsible personnel)

I used to work as an HR Administrator in my previous organization. I was happy with the kind of work I used to do and I always wanted the company to grow more productive in all ways possible. At a certain point in time during my duty, I noticed that my team-members had difficulty in locating certain files which then reduced their productivity and wasted their time in the unproductive activity. So I took the action to implement a team filing system. I scanned every crucial file and saved it to the shared folders on our computer system. The impact was not seen right away but at the end of a month or so, that aggregate time spends on searching for a certain file was reduced by several hours. I was able to help my team-members by saving those hours and this is, in my view, a big achievement for me. As they have been doing this for a long time back and may have to continue doing it in the future as well. I was happy that I could figure it out and provide the timely help.

EXAMPLE: 2 (Managing a work apart from regular duty)

I am a person who is always on his/her toes when it comes to fulfilling the duties and responsibilities of the job. But my biggest achievement comes from a separate area. It was a volunteering task. The task was ‘food-packets distribution in nearby slum areas’ which was entrusted to our organization by the local-area authority. Organization personnel were divided into different groups. I was the leader of the 7 member team. From motivating my team-members to accomplishing the back-breaking task, I learned that sometimes we all need to hold each other and boost each other. No one is weak in himself/herself but the strength that a team gives is unmatchable. The 14-days task was difficult in itself but we made it effectively.

EXAMPLE:3 (Accomplishment in the organization)

“I hold several accomplishments in my career. The most recent accomplishment was the delivery of the latest version update to one of our core products for customer payments. Our 10 months-long project and 9 team members proved to be a great experience for me. My role in the team started as a team-member but I eventually took the ‘leader’s path’. I took lead on making the mobile component of the project. And in order to accomplish that task, I was required to initiate 2 more projects. I worked hard and co-ordinated well with all the teams to deliver the product on time. We received many accolades from all the personnel of the organization. It was surely not possible without my diligent team-members. I thank all my team members for it and also those who held faith in me for entrusting this big responsibility. This all was really a good learning experience for me.


EXAMPLE:4 (Accomplishment in the organization)

My greatest achievement in the professional sphere was turning the loss-making company into smooth sailing, profit-earning entity. When I was recruited, the entire company and the employees were struggling to achieve even their monthly goals. When I was hired, I was asked to suggest a new strategic plan. I came up with a new plan and implemented it without any delay. Within a year, we were achieving 20% above our goals, and also, we were able to earn additional revenues. This additional revenue brought the company from loss to profit state.



Along with the above correct ways of answering the question, you must also have a read at “Bad examples of answering”. These depict the ways how you should NOT be answering this question.

EXAMPLE:1

“Mmmm…my greatest achievement in life? Well, I have not pondered over it yet and in-fact I’m not sure I even have the greatest accomplishment. I have done many projects out of which many were successful and many got a bad review but since it was a team effort, I gave my 100 percent, the rest were not so active members. Most of those projects were under-funded, so of course, they ended up bad. I think, even after so much failure, I had the courage to take another project in my hands; this can be my biggest achievement. Maybe someday some project will work wonder, I believe in staying positive.”

EXAMPLE:2

“What’s my greatest achievement? I don’t know, it might be that I stopped my boss and my co-worker from arguing to each other. Huh… well, if not that then one of my presentations at work can be termed as my biggest achievement because I garnered praises from everyone in the room and it was one of my presentations those I delivered without any much practice”.        

“What’s my greatest achievement? I don’t know, it might be that I stopped my boss and my co-worker from arguing to each other. Huh… well, if not that then one of my presentations at work can be termed as my biggest achievement because I garnered praises from everyone in the room and it was one of my presentations those I delivered without any much practice”.

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