How to answer "what is your biggest achievement?”

Tracy Luo December 16, 2017 3 mins read

The question, often asked at interviews, “Please tell me about your biggest achievement”, might seem simple, but many people would not know where to begin when it comes to answering it.

Providing a good answer to this question, however, can certainly play a key role in getting the better of other candidates and being offered that ideal position you are after. It is a real killer question: it allows HR, without doing a skills evaluation in your professional field, to determine the professional capacity of the candidate, evaluate the candidate’s logical thinking and the ability to express him- or herself, assess his or her leadership ability, planning and organisational skills, capacity to work as a member of the team, and work efficiency.

Under-qualified candidates often think that, because their jobs are manual and repetitive, they have no achievements worth mentioning. Highly qualified candidates, on the other hand, have too many achievements they want to share and therefore talk with ease and confidence, but spread themselves too thinly without going into sufficient depth. It is not, actually, that difficult to answer this question correctly and make an impression on the interviewer.

First of all, the achievements you want to share must be relevant to the requirements of the job. Before you state your achievements, it is a good idea to first consider which skills would be the most important for doing the job you are applying for - the ability to develop and grow on the job, creativity, analytical ability, teamwork, or leadership ability. Then you can talk in depth about a past experience most relevant to one of these.

Next, while describing your achievement, you must pay attention to the logic and the depth of your answer. As well as choosing your own, unique experience, you must apply the STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result) formula.

First, you lay down the foundation to your answer by describing the situation –the setting in which the event occurred, and the difficulties and challenges it was fraught with. Then, you talk about the task - the results and aims you wanted to achieve.

The next step is to describe the course of action you chose, for example, did you rely on teamwork or innovation? To put it simply, here you must be as eloquent as possible, as this part will directly affect the interviewer’s verdict on your professionalism, innovation, analytical ability, your ability to work as a member of the team, and your leadership skills. 

Finally, your achievement must culminate in a result. You can say that it enabled you to practice and improve a certain skill, that you brought your colleagues together and improved the cohesion of your work unit, that you won an award, or you can describe how your achievement benefited the company.

I hope you found these interview tips helpful and please don’t hesitate to contact me if you require further advice. 

Tracy Luo's picture
Associate Director | Finance & Strategy Recruitment
tluo@morganmckinley.com