Based on insights into who is really getting the job (plus exactly how they do it), this podcast is a new and simple approach to job interview preparation. Each episode is only five minutes long. This way, you can make progress even if you only have a couple of minutes. It contains one specific topic, gives you the relevant background and a clear and simple, step-by-step approach to help you prepare the perfect answers.
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Interviewers ask you about your greatest achievement to understand your definition of success and to assess if you are a good cultural fit, willing to go the extra mile to deliver outstanding results. In this episode, I show you a simple, five-step approach to picking the right example and presenting it compellingly.
Hi everyone, and welcome. Before diving deep into today’s topic, I would like to announce that I have listened to your feedback and finally launched my YouTube channel about interview preparation. Click on the link in this episode’s show notes to check it out. But now, let’s focus on what to say when asked, “What is your greatest achievement?” Interviewers ask this question to understand your definition of success and to assess if you are a good cultural fit, willing to go the extra mile to deliver outstanding results. And for you, this question is an excellent opportunity to demonstrate the value you can create for the company. But it’s crucial to pick the right example and present it compellingly. So, here are five simple steps to help you.
Step 1: Choose your example.
Start by listing your professional achievements from the last 3-5 years. If you find this difficult, try to remember situations where you were praised by a colleague or received positive feedback from your manager. Then, shortlist those examples that were complex and of high impact. Choosing a non-trivial situation is essential to demonstrating your problem-solving skills and your ability to handle stressful situations. And the greater the business impact, the better it shows how you can deliver value and produce results, which is the main reason for hiring someone. Finally, choose the examples that best align with the responsibilities of the job you are applying for. So, reread the job description and ask yourself, “Which of my shortlisted examples would impress the interviewer most?”
For instance, if you apply for a role that primarily focuses on managing a team, an example demonstrating your leadership skills is much better than one that shows that you are good at creating advanced Excel models. And suppose the situation was about you successfully leading your team through a change to meet new strategic targets. In that case, the example is much more complex and high impact than an example of you solving a minor conflict between two of your direct reports.
Step 2: Describe the situation and your task.
In 1-2 sentences, explain the situation and why it was important. If possible, add numbers to quantify the complexity and significance. Then, add 1-2 sentences to describe what your task was. For example, you may have started as a manager for the customer support team at a new employer when the company announced its target to double sales within one year. And your task was to ensure your team could handle the additional call volume while keeping the cost increase below 30%.
Step 3: Describe your actions.
Summarize the steps you took that led to your outstanding achievement. Make sure to explain your individual contributions clearly, so say “I did this and that” instead of “We did this and that.” In our previous example, you might have forecasted your team’s expected workload for the next couple of months and looked for ways to reduce call volume by improving the self-help section on your company’s website. You also might have implemented measures to keep your team motivated and invested in additional training for the agents to decrease the time spent per ticket. And together with HR, you might have quickly recruited additional staff.
Step 4: Describe the results.
You should cover two types of outcomes: the first is the actual results based on the objective you outlined in the second step when you explained the situation and your task. If possible, quantify them with concrete numbers to make the value you created for your employer more tangible. The second type of outcome is why this achievement was important to you. What did you learn from the situation, and how did it help you develop professionally?
Step 5: Formulate your answer.
Combine the results of the previous steps into a compelling answer. Based on our earlier example, a good one could be, “Two years ago, when I started as a manager for the customer support team at company X, the CEO announced new strategic targets to double the business in our region within one year. My task was to ensure that my team could handle the increased number of customer calls while not increasing costs by more than 30%. Based on historical data and the sales estimates from our account teams, I first estimated the expected monthly call volumes for the coming four quarters. Then, I put together a small team to look into ways to reduce the call volume by providing answers to the most common questions on our website and to decrease the average time spent per call by improving our internal onboarding and training processes. I also implemented measures to motivate the team to handle the upcoming workload and worked closely with our HR department to quickly recruit additional staff. Our company successfully doubled its sales within one year, and my team handled the increased call volume, keeping the cost increase below 25%. And, thanks to the improved processes and training, customer satisfaction with the support team improved significantly from 7.1 to 9.3. I learned from this experience how vital communication and collaboration skills are when leading through change and how crucial it is to involve the team early and closely work together with other departments in these kinds of situations.”
These were the 5 steps for answering the interview question, “What is your greatest achievement?” Thank you for listening, and I hope this was helpful to you.