What Are Achievements in Life? Definition and Examples

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated June 21, 2022 | Published June 8, 2021

Updated June 21, 2022

Published June 8, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Interview questions about your life achievements are common. The achievements you share and how you discuss them can help you stand out among other applicants and improve your candidacy for a job. To give the best response, it's important to understand what your answer can reveal about you. In this article, we define what achievements in life are and explain why interviewers ask about them, how to discuss your achievements with interviewers and provide examples of life achievements to guide your responses.

Related: 125 Common Interview Questions and Answers (With Tips)

What are achievements in life?

Achievements in life are successes you've attained, particularly those that you're proud of. When an interviewer asks you about your achievements, they're asking you to share experiences that you consider impressive, proved your capabilities or helped you develop in an ideal direction. What you consider an achievement may differ from what others think, but there are often common traits that achievements share, such as:

  • A problem you addressed

  • A challenging process

  • A realization of your values or goals

  • A change in your condition or outlook

In an interview setting, the achievements you discuss can be professional or personal. When deciding on achievements to share, it's a good idea to target the employer's needs. For example, if the employer is seeking candidates with soft skills such as dedication and attention to detail, either a professional or personal achievement can convey these qualities. However, if the employer specifically needs an individual with management or software experience, a professional goal is likely the better choice.

Related: Interview Question: "What Are You Most Proud of?"

Why do interviewers ask about achievements in life?

Interviewers ask about your achievements because they want to see how well your experiences and character align with their needs. Specifically, they're looking to analyze three elements of your response:

Your choice of achievement

To answer the question, you must first decide which of your life's achievements to discuss, and your choice may reveal facets of your personality that interviewers can base their hiring on. For example, if you discuss a project you successfully managed at your previous job, this might show that you value professional success and strive to be a leader, implying that you are ambitious.

Your skills and attitude

How you achieved something can show interviewers can reveal a couple of your personal qualities. First, it can show what experiences you've had with specific tools, processes or skills. For example, you might mention that your achievement involved communicating with team members or using a specific piece of software. Second, it provides an idea of how you handle challenges, such as whether you approach them systematically or learn as you go. Together, these qualities function as an example of you in top form.

Your idea of success

Because achievement is an instance of success, the achievement you share can show what you believe success means. To you, it might be a personal triumph or a group victory, and either can give interviewers an impression about your outlook on work and life. For instance, if you say your greatest achievement was graduating from college because of how proud it made your family, this might show that you view success as a shared experience, suggesting that you prioritize the group over yourself.

Related: Interview Question: "How Do You Define Success?"

How to discuss your achievements in life

While the choice of what accomplishments to discuss is entirely yours, there are some tips you should follow to ensure you give the most effective response possible:

Be confident

Delivering your response with confidence reflects well on your personality and also shows you're genuinely proud of your accomplishment. This is important because the interviewer may see that you're not just reciting an answer to a question but expressing yourself in an honest, passionate way. Aside from intonation and posture, one way to convey confidence is with specific details. For example, if you want to discuss an academic achievement, try to include as much information as is relevant, such as your GPA, the size of your graduating class and your position relative to them.

Emphasize personal qualities

Your personality is one of the strongest tools you have to help you stand out as an applicant, so try to highlight your greatest personal qualities when discussing your achievements. To do this, prepare for your interview by thinking of the qualities you want to express and then recalling achievements that reflect those qualities. During the interview, focus on your reasoning for your response.

For instance, someone who's proud of quitting smoking could note that the birth of their first child made them more health-conscious and desirous of long life, inspiring them to end a 10-year habit. This can reveal they have a loving, dedicated and hardworking personality.

Be positive

Your achievements may involve overcoming obstacles, including other people, to meet an important goal, but try to describe those obstacles positively. For example, if your achievement involved a colleague whose work you had to cover, you can either omit negative details of the story or spin it to address the situation more encouragingly. An attentive interviewer may notice your upbeat attitude and interpret it as reflective of an optimistic, team-oriented person, which can improve your candidacy.

Use the STAR method

STAR stands for situation, task, approach and result. This method can help you give an easy-to-follow, concise response that defines your accomplishment, suggests qualities about your personality and professionalism and shows how you can affect an organization. To use the STAR method, follow these steps:

  1. Situation: After stating your achievement, give it context by describing the situation it involved, such as the problem you had to address or the obstacles in the way. For example, someone talking about earning a doctorate degree could describe their financial situation, life challenges, job and other obligations while they were writing their thesis.

  2. Task: Here, describe the tasks you performed in achieving your goal. In the above example, they could outline all the steps involved in choosing a research topic and finding resources, their writing and editing process and preparing for the defense.

  3. Approach: Approach refers to your contributions or method for achieving your goal or how you balanced the situation and the tasks. The person in our example might explain how they set up a rigid daily schedule in which they researched and wrote at a library before and after work, with 30-minute breaks for meals.

  4. Result: The result is the outcome of your approach to the tasks. In our example, the interviewee might briefly address their feelings on the day of the thesis defense before stating they earned a terminal degree in their chosen field, the result of X number of years of hard work.

Related: How To Use the STAR Interview Response Technique

Examples of achievements in life to discuss in an interview

Consider the following examples of life achievements to help you form your own response in an interview:

Example one

"I think my greatest achievement has been managing an e-book database project when I was working for an academic publisher overseas. The idea was to create a platform on which EFL students could read leveled e-books, take comprehension quizzes, complete activities and track their progress online. The two teams involved were the tech team and whatever team I assembled. On our end, the process involved curating from a library of over 2,000 fiction and nonfiction titles, assessing their reading level, writing 20 quiz questions and 10 activities for each and editing the questions and activities.

To manage the process, I divided the project into three sub-teams—the writing team, the editing team and the managerial team—and I handled tracking all the tasks and reporting to my supervisor. With this system in place, it was just a matter of fulfilling my end and checking in with my sub-teams every week. Thanks to their diligence and cooperation, we completed the project in 12 months and had the platform live by the end of 2020."

Example two

"My greatest accomplishment to date has been creating an after-school art program for disadvantaged youth. The last school I taught at was a Title I middle school. The families were all hardworking moms and dads who couldn't be at home much because of their jobs. I wanted to give the students a place they could be safe and express themselves, and my principal liked the idea. I knew we would need to get funding for art supplies and use of the school after hours, which would also require a comprehensive plan and budget.

I knew that another school in the district had a similar program for music, so I emailed the program director to ask for tips about planning and grant writing. With her help, I wrote to the school board and several art foundations in the city with my proposal. Within a few months, we had enough funding to purchase supplies and start a rudimentary version of the program. The students loved it, and the news stations interviewed us. This publicity helped us get more funding, and now the program is in its fifth year."

Example three

"Having recently earned a master's degree in English debt-free, I think I'd count that as my greatest achievement to date. Because of financial issues, I'd thought it would be best to enter the workforce right after my undergraduate studies. However, with encouragement from my friends and family, I applied and found enough scholarships that I could cover the cost with a part-time job.

This required strict regimenting to ensure I performed well in both my graduate studies and my job. I would go to bed at 9 p.m. to be up by 5 a.m. to go for a walk and then prepare for seminars. My mornings and early afternoons were for my studies and late afternoon to the evening was for my job. I rigidly adhered to this schedule for two years, and it was worth it. Now I'm proud to say I have a valuable advanced degree and no student loan debt."

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