If you’re running short on time to prepare for an interview, one question you should definitely be ready to answer is what you’re most proud of accomplishing. This is a tough one because there are a lot of ways in which you can answer it. The worst thing you can do is to answer the interviewer with a blank stare.
First, brainstorm as many things you’re proud of as possible. Unless you’re in sales or a metric-oriented field, you are probably going to come up with vague statements. Below are questions to ask yourself about each accomplishment you’ve listed. This will help you refine them, and in turn, determine which is your best example and the one to use in an interview. You can only answer this question with one achievement. The interviewer has asked what you are most proud of, so you must pick only one example.
Is this a specific example? You may have written down that you’re proud of the teams you’ve built or process improvements you’ve made. These are too general. You need to get into details. For example, what is the best team you’ve built and how did you go about it? Give a specific example with information to support it.
Why am I proud of this? Once you have your list of specific examples, define why you chose each one. Show instead of tell why it was a winning team that you built. Was a direct result of creating this team a measurable increase in customer satisfaction? Or perhaps you received comments from senior leadership about the team’s success? Whatever it is, figure out why exactly you feel proud of what you’ve achieved.
What is it that I am most proud of? Now it’s time to pare down the list and decide what you feel has been most rewarding in your career. Doing this doesn’t give less importance to the others, but you have to pick only one to use because that’s what you’ve been asked. Interviewers often gauge your answers to questions based on how well you listen and how well you express yourself. That means that how you say something is almost as important as what you say. It’s a good thing to keep in mind when you answer all interview questions.
How can I explain this clearly and concisely? Here comes the difficult part. You don’t want to ramble on about your accomplishment, but you also need to give enough information so that the person understands your story. Try this approach: STAR, or Situation-Task-Action-Result. First, very briefly, in 15 seconds or less, describe the situation and the task that you faced. Then leave more time, say 30 to 40 seconds, to describe the action you took and the result. To keep it brief, you must choose your words wisely.
What if I can’t identify a result? This is a common issue, so don’t feel that you’re alone! When people hear the word “result,” they often think, “I don’t have any numbers to associate with what I’ve done.” But that’s a limited way to look at results. There is an end goal or impact to what you do every day. If you’re filing paperwork so payroll can be processed, you’re doing a job so people can get paid on time. If you’re programming meetings for an executive and handling conflicts, you’re maintaining a schedule to ensure that your boss can do their job effectively and efficiently. There is an end goal or impact to everything that you do, and it does not have to be unique or glamorous. The fact is, what we do usually isn’t, but our functions are essential to some end goal or else we wouldn’t be paid to do it!
Don’t be dumbfounded when someone asks, “Tell me about what you are most proud of accomplishing.” If you are prepared to answer this question, you can deliver the kind of answer the person expects – specific and results-oriented. You want to leave the interview proud of your performance, and the only way you can do that is by being ready to answer some of the most-asked questions.
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Originally published at money.usnews.com