How to Answer “What Is Your Greatest Accomplishment?” (Answers Included)

By Mike Simpson

When the hiring manager asks you, “What is your greatest accomplishment?” it’s essentially an open invitation to toot your own horn. Chances like that don’t come up often, which is why you need to seize this one with both hands.

But you also need to make sure you handle the question the right way. Answering can be surprisingly tricky. Out of all of your accomplishments examples, you need to pick the best possible one for the situation.

Luckily, you’re here, and we’re ready to help. If you want to make sure you answer the “What is your greatest accomplishment?” question like a pro, here’s what you need to know.

What Are Accomplishments?

Alright, you can’t answer this question properly if you don’t know what an accomplishment (or achievement) is. So, let’s start there.

According to the folks as Merriam-Webster, accomplishing something means bringing about a result by effort. Yes, that’s a little vague, but it’s part of the equation.

If you put a professional twist on that, accomplishments are positive work-related outcomes that occur thanks to your time, attention, and skills. This could be major projects or professional milestones, interesting innovations, creative solutions to problems, and much more.

Why do you need to be able to talk about your accomplishments during a job search? Well, for one, the hiring manager will probably ask you to. In some cases, that means getting a question like “what is your greatest accomplishment?” as well as variants like:

    • What’s your greatest achievement?
    • Can you tell me about your proudest moment?
    • What’s your biggest professional win?

Plus, you’re going to need to talk about accomplishments when you answer other questions. Sharing examples of when you put your skills into action is critical if you’re interviewing; it lets you show the hiring manager you have what it takes to excel instead of just telling them. And since you want your examples to make a positive impression, focus on your achievements.

So, what kinds of accomplishments stand out to hiring managers? Well, it can depend. First, you want them to be as relevant to the role as possible. When there’s strong alignment, it helps the hiring manager imagine how you’d perform in the job they’re filling.

Second, you need to go with ones that are unique and impressive. That way, the answer stands out.

Why Does the Hiring Manager Ask This Question?

While it may seem straightforward on the surface, “what is your greatest accomplishment?” is actually a bit of a behavioral interview question in disguise! When the hiring manager asks it, they want insights into how you act and think on the job, as well as clues about how you view your capabilities.

As with all behavioral interview questions, the hiring manager wants to learn about your past performance so that they can anticipate how you’ll act in the future. Asking about achievements is a great way to do that, as some studies do indicate that success breeds success.

Additionally, the hiring manager wants to figure out how you stand apart from the competition. If the hiring manager is talking to several similarly skilled and experienced candidates, this could be the one thing that separates one from the pack.

Finally, they are trying to gauge your attitude. How you present your big wins gives them insights into your personality and mindset. Since culture fit is important, that’s vital information to gather.

Common Mistakes When Answering This Question

As with all interview questions, a seemingly small mistake with this one can really hurt your chances of landing the job. Usually, one of the biggest missteps is being too vague.

For example, which of these sounds better:

    • My biggest achievement is that I broke the sales record in my last position.
    • My greatest accomplishment is breaking the company-wide quarterly sales record in my last role – which had stood for the past eight years – by 10 percent, resulting in a gain of about $65,000 over the previous record.

Essentially everyone would agree that the second answer is far more compelling. It has much more detail, letting the hiring manager know exactly what you pulled off.

Now, a statement like that shouldn’t be your whole answer. If you stop there, you’re still not fully seizing this opportunity.

Instead, you want to give more information about what led up to your accomplishment. Outline the starting situation, talk about the actions you took, mention your motivations, discuss challenges that arose and how you conquered them, or dive into other details that bring your answer up a notch.

Another common mistake is using “we” too much in your answer. While you certainly want to give credit to team members if the achievement was a joint effort, it’s important to focus on your contributions.

You need to have “I” in your response. Otherwise, the hiring manager won’t know if it was really your work that made a difference.

Finally, resist the urge to downplay your accomplishments. Yes, bragging a bit can feel a little uncomfortable, but that’s what you need to do. You’ve been given permission to talk about your most amazing moment, so take advantage of the situation and sing your own praises.

Just remember, this is just one question the hiring manager could ask you in your interview! That’s why we created an amazing free cheat sheet that will give you word-for-word answers for some of the toughest interview questions you are going to face in your upcoming interview.

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Tips for Answering This Question

Okay, now let’s move onto how you can start creating some great answers. If you aren’t sure where to begin, here are three tips that will help you create standout responses to the “what is your greatest accomplishment” interview question.

1. Spend Time Reflecting (and Taking Notes)

Sometimes, the hardest part of answering this question is remembering what you’ve achieved over the years. It isn’t uncommon for the details to fade a bit as time passes, making it difficult to add in the information.

Spend a little time reflecting on your career. As you remember an achievement, write down some notes. Include any details you recall about the situation, as well as relevant metrics.

MIKE'S TIP: If you find that you can’t remember much about your past accomplishments, seek out resources that may help. Talk to colleagues who were involved, dig up old files and reports, and reread your performance reviews. Old resumes, cover letters, or job applications may have some tidbits, too, so gather those up if you have them available. You can even check your social media posts if you talk about work, as that may have some information. While going through everything may take time, it’s your best bet to get the details you need.

Then, moving forward, make sure to log your achievements as they occur. Keep them all in one place. That way, when you need to discuss one later, you’ll have a quick cheat sheet available.

2. Do Some Research

When you choose an accomplishment to feature, you want to make sure it’s relevant to the role you’re trying to land.

Take some time to reread the job description, review the company’s mission and values, and check out the company’s social media page. Look for details that showcase the company’s priorities, and use them as a guide when you pick an achievement.

Remember, relevancy really is the key. By doing your research, you’ll be able to figure out what that looks like faster.

3. Focus, Focus, Focus

When you’re talking about a positive experience, it is easy to get caught up. If that happens, you may start to ramble a bit or add details that don’t actually provide the hiring manager with value.

While you want to give them a solid overview, don’t get carried away. In most cases, you want to be done sharing your answer to this question in two minutes or less, so make sure your answer is properly focused.

How to Answer the Interview Question “What Is Your Greatest Accomplishment?”

Alright, now it’s time to dig into the nitty-gritty of how to answer the “what is your greatest accomplishment” interview question.

Creating a great response requires an exceptional strategy. For this kind of question, your best bet is to combine the Tailoring Method with the STAR Method.

The Tailoring Method focuses on relevancy. It helps you pick the right accomplishments examples for the job you want to snag, increasing the odds that what you share will catch the hiring manager’s attention.

The STAR Method lets you take an answer and turn it into a compelling story. You’ll have an easier time outlining the situation, highlighting your skills, and emphasizing the amazing results.

Along the way, there’s also one more thing you want to do: quantify the details. In the world of interviews, numbers matter. They let you show the hiring manager just how much of a difference you can make, and that’s powerful.

So, are you ready to see these tips in action? Awesome. Here are three examples, each focusing on a different kind of job.

1. Sales

“In my last position, our sales targets were relatively modest. Since I appreciate feeling challenged, I decided to set my sights on a long-standing company-wide quarterly sales record, even though I wasn’t required to.

I made it my personal mission to break the record, which had been in place for over eight years. To make it possible, I put my time management skills to work, harnessing every possible minute for sales calls, follow-up contacts, and after-the-sale upselling.

Since I began my mission with just one month left in a quarter, I used that time to hone my approach. I learned which of my techniques were most effective in different situations, helping me achieve success faster with each passing day.

At the start of the next quarter, I had a viable strategy. I put it to work, diligently following my path for the next three months. When that quarter wrapped up, I discovered I had broken the record by 10 percent, resulting in a gain of around $65,000 over the old record.”

2. Technology

“In my last tech role, outdated mobile technology was the norm. When the decision was made to update to a newer smartphone type, I was tasked with completing the entire rollout – which involved transferring service and setting up more than 300 devices spread across the state – in just one month.

I had to coordinate with the existing users before transitioning their phone numbers to the new devices. Since the device setup had to be done manually by me, they would be without a functioning smartphone for one to three days, depending on their location.

I began by developing a schedule, outlining how many devices had to be completed daily to meet the target. Then, I coordinated with users, giving them a limited number of dates for their transition to simplify planning and set boundaries regarding the timeline.

When users replied, they were added to the schedule. When contacting them was an issue, I reached out to area managers to secure replies. This all occurred while handling the daily device transition tasks, arranging for shipping to other cities, and addressing standard tickets.

In the end, the entire project was completed not just on time, but three days earlier, all while making the process as convenient as possible for the users.”

3. Human Resources

“When I began in my last position, I was tasked with handling the new hire onboarding process. After being given the material, I discovered that it wasn’t particularly engaging, leading to poor knowledge retention in critical areas that workplace safety, job-related procedures, and more.

I decided to update all of the training materials. To begin, I issued surveys to 50 employees who recently went through the process, gathering insights about shortcomings. Based on that information, I adjusted the content and approach.

In the end, post-update surveys saw positive feedback rise by 250 percent. Plus, knowledge retention improved, leading new hires to reach full productivity two times faster than before.”

Putting It All Together

At this point, you should have a solid understanding of how to answer, “What is your greatest accomplishment?” Use all of the tips to your advantage, ensuring your response is engaging, informative, and as relevant as possible.

Good luck!

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About The Author

Mike Simpson

Co-Founder and CEO of Mike is a job interview and career expert and the head writer at His advice and insights have been shared and featured by publications such as Forbes, Entrepreneur, CNBC and more as well as educational institutions such as the University of Michigan, Penn State, Northeastern and others. Learn more about The Interview Guys on our About Us page.