Every interview is unique, but there are some questions engineers can expect to hear time and time again on a job search. “What is your greatest achievement,” is one of the most popular questions among interviewers. Your answer provides insight into the things you value and things that drive you forward. How can you answer this question honestly and effectively?
Professional or Personal?
The interviewer will not always specify whether they are looking for a professional achievement or not. For some people, the achievement they are most proud of might not be tied directly to your job. If they do not specify a professional achievement, feel free to use the accomplishment that you truly feel is your greatest.
Keep It Real
Always choose an achievement you are truly proud of, not something you think would impress the interviewer; and never exaggerate or make up an accomplishment. A hiring manager can see through disingenuous answers, so choose something that brings you a true sense of pride.
Stay in the Recent Past
If you choose an accomplishment from 15 years ago, the interviewer will wonder just what you’ve been doing with yourself since that time. Choose something from recent history, preferably no older than five years, if possible.
Tout the Benefits of Your Achievement
The point of the entire interview, from the hiring manager’s perspective, is to learn, “what’s in it for us if we hire this person?” In some cases, the benefits are rather obvious – earning an additional master’s degree in your spare time, for example. However, if your greatest achievement is losing 200 pounds and completing a marathon last year, you’ll want to tie that back to your career and the ways in which that accomplishment makes you a great hire. In the marathon example, you may say that the process showed you how to achieve your goals in the face of nearly impossible odds, how it taught you to prioritize in order to hit your targets, etc.
End on a High Note
A nice way to wrap up your answer is to say, “I was very proud of that achievement, but I believe that my greatest achievement is still to come.” This shows the interviewer you continue to strive for more in your career and you still have goals you want to achieve.
The best thing about this question is everyone has something they are proud of. Be honest, choose something recent and show how your accomplishment benefits the employer, and you’ll make the right impression with your answer.