How to Ask About a Candidate’s Greatest Accomplishments (With Sample Questions)

Behavioral-based interview questions are a great way to understand a candidate’s past work performance, values and character. By asking interviewees to describe their accomplishments, you’ll learn more about their personality and skills to determine if they’re a great fit for both the role and your team. Learn more about common reasons to ask interviewees about their accomplishments, discover ways to ask them this question and understand what to look for in their answers. 


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Reasons to ask interviewees about their accomplishments

Asking candidates to describe their greatest accomplishments is a type of behavioral interview question. These questions ask interviewees to provide a specific example to help you learn how they performed in their previous role. This helps you more easily picture how they’ll handle similar situations at your company. Questions regarding candidates’ greatest accomplishments tell you which achievements they’re most proud of. 

Common reasons to ask interview questions about candidates’ greatest accomplishments include: 

  • To understand the interviewee’s previous work achievements: The candidate’s answer should mention a time when they performed well on a project and the results it brought in. This helps you gain an understanding of their successes in their past role and their process for achieving them. 
  • To get a sense of the candidate’s character: The candidate’s answer to this question often displays their true character. Listen closely to the story to determine if the candidate is being truthful and honest with their answer. This answer also helps you better understand how the candidate treats their team members. If they don’t mention their coworkers at all or share negative thoughts about them, this gives you a clearer sense of what it’s like to work with this candidate.   
  • To learn what the candidate values most in their role: This question is a great chance for you to see how well your company’s values align with your candidate’s. If they share a story involving their collaboration with others and your company greatly values teamwork, the candidate could be a great fit for your company culture.  

Related: What are Interview Screening Phone Calls? Best Practices


Ways to ask candidates about their accomplishments

There are many variations to use when asking an interviewee to tell you about their accomplishments. Here are some sample questions you can use in an interview 


“What is your greatest accomplishment and why do you consider it so?”

A common way to learn about candidates’ greatest accomplishments is to ask them in a straightforward and upfront manner. This prompts them to think about past achievements and provide a brief but relevant answer to your question. If you’d like more details about the results it brought or their process for reaching the accomplishment, ask followup questions, like “What results did this achievement bring in to your company?” or “Can you describe your strategy for achieving this accomplishment step-by-step?”


“Which project have you been most proud of, and why?” 

This question gives you a stronger sense of your candidate’s character and values by learning which part of their role gives them a sense of pride. It also tells you what their passions are in their role and what motivates them to succeed. 

They may be proud that they overcame a challenging obstacle and learned a new skill. Candidates could also express pride for implementing projects that helped or benefited their customers. Think about how this answer aligns with your company’s values and if their answer is one you’d want your own employees to be proud of as well. 


“Tell me about a time when you accomplished a big win in your role.” 

This is a great option if you’re looking for a detailed and relevant answer. Many candidates prepare stories beforehand that best answer questions related to this one. A strong interviewee will be ready with a story about a past situation, their role responsibilities, how they overcame an obstacle and the final results. Their answer should be well-structured and relevant to demonstrate their communication and public speaking abilities. 


What to look for in candidates’ responses

Once you have a clear idea of the questions to ask candidates regarding their accomplishments, consider listing out elements you’d like to hear when listening to their answers. Here’s what to look for in your interviewees’ responses:


Honesty and sincerity

This question is a great way to understand a candidate’s character and ethical standards. Try to notice if their answer is truthful and humble. Some interviewees are uncomfortable answering these questions because they don’t want to come off as bragging. Candidates who are confident, honest and sincere will find a way to describe an accomplishment in a humble way by expressing appreciation for their team members or mentioning the guidance their leadership team provided. 


Interest in your company 

Since this type of question is common in interviews, most candidates prepare for it beforehand and use it as a way to show how their own values and goals align with your company’s. For instance, they may research your website and notice your vision and mission statement emphasizes how your company is committed to customer satisfaction. The employee may also value a dedication to their customers, causing them to share a story about how they helped a client achieve their goals. 


How they use the STAR approach

The way candidates answer this question tells you how well they structure questions and use their public speaking skills to tell a compelling and relevant story. Strong candidates will use the STAR method, which stands for Situation, Task, Approach and Results. They’ll provide context for the story, describe their responsibility in the situation, the action they took to handle it and the result it brought in. This keeps the answer clear and relevant and provides you with the specific details needed to better picture the situation. 

Using the STAR approach displays their storytelling and communication abilities, which is especially important if they’re interviewing for a customer-facing or highly collaborative role. 


Their work ethic

Listening to this answer allows you to grasp a candidate’s dedication to completing tasks on time and learn if they’re a hard worker. Candidates may explain how they accomplished goals by learning new skills or developing current ones. Some will also describe their strategy or process for reaching this accomplishment. This helps you picture how driven, motivated and committed they are to their role and the company’s success.

Related: Competency Based Interviewing: Key Concepts for Managers


Related questions to ask for more clarification

Ask additional questions to help you gain a better understanding of a candidate’s accomplishments, work ethic and values. Here are some related questions to pose to learn more about their character and previous work performance:

  • “How have you approached any workplace dilemmas in the past?” 
  • “Tell me about a group project you’re most proud of and why.” 
  • “Describe a time when you made a mistake at work. What was your method for correcting the problem?”

As you listen to candidates’ responses in the interview, try to notice how passionate they are about the responsibilities in their previous role. This helps you learn how driven and motivated they’ll be to reach similar accomplishments for your company as well.

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