I love asking people the question ‘what has been your biggest achievement?’. It allows me to find out more about what makes a person tick, what drives them, what they value in life. We don’t just recruit job titles and responsibilities, we recruit people and this question can inform the interviewer of so much.
Some career coaches and recruiters will advise you to always give a professional achievement. I, however, disagree (unless the interviewer specifically asks you to). Some of the best answers I have heard have been personal achievements.
Keep it real
It is important that you pick an achievement that you are genuinely proud of, something that is true to you. When we tell stories we naturally relive the emotions we felt during that time and you want to be passionate and engaging when talking to your interviewer.
Sell the benefits
Yes, we are having a nice interview and we are probably getting on well, but I am always looking out for the benefits to me and the job I am recruiting for. You need to identify the key attributes that the job requires and sell those benefits as part of your answer.
If you tell me your biggest achievement was winning a management award at your previous company, then the benefit to me is pretty obvious. However, if you choose to tell me that your biggest achievement is losing eight stone and running a marathon (that is very cool by the way) then you will need to sell me the benefit. You should tell me that this shows how dedicated you are at hitting your targets. Tell me that you always achieve what you set your mind on. Tell me that you are self-motivated and determined and don’t like failing.
Keep it recent
Try to pick an achievement that is still quite recent. I once asked someone this question and she told me that moving to university was her biggest achievement as she missed her family terribly. I get this, I really do, but she had graduated 15 years earlier and I was hoping for something more recent and relevant than that.
Keep it professional and positive
Don’t let yourself become a victim during this answer. I have often seen people focus on the negatives of the situation they have overcome, rather than the achievement of overcoming it. Sometimes I don’t think they even realise they are doing it! Keep it upbeat and professional.
The best answer I was given
One interviewee gave me his achievement and then he sold me the benefit. Then he said something that I wasn’t expecting.
He told me that he actually felt that his biggest achievement was yet to come. Now, I loved that because it told me so much more about his character and his personality. He was always looking to achieve more tomorrow than he did today and was striving to improve himself all the time. This is a very attractive quality to find.
Over time, people generally remember the way you made them feel rather than the words you spoke, so it is essential you keep it real. Raise your energy levels, get excited, sit up proudly in your chair and make that impact!
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