What's your biggest achievement?

With Aimee Bateman

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What's your biggest achievement?


Ah, one of those questions everyone gets asked in the interview. Luckily Aimee gives you the reason why you're asked it and how to prepare your own awesome answer.

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Hi, my name is Aimee Bateman. I'm a careers coach and I'm the founder and CEO of Careercake.com. In this video I'm going to talk to you how to best answer my favourite interview question, which is what is your biggest achievement?

Now the reason I love this question is because it gives you the opportunity to show the employer who you are. I love asking this question.

But firstly, let's think about why they're asking you that question. Because real listening is not hearing what's been asked, but understanding why it's been asked. So this is often a way for employers to find out what you value, what you would be proud of, what do you deem an achievement, and is it similar to what they would value? And is it similar to what they would deem is an achievement?

So you'll hear people say things like, “Well, you absolutely have to use a work example”. I disagree, very much so. In fact, I think that you need to pick an achievement that you are genuinely proud of. Because when we talk about stuff that made us feel fabulous, we are reliving these feelings and when we're communicating, when we're having the interview, it's all about building rapport with that employer and real, real communication. The majority of communication doesn't come out of our mouth - what we say - our body language is how we engage with people. It's how we make people feel, by just our presence, rather than the words that we say. So, if you're reliving and telling a story about something that made you feel fabulous, then you're likely to give that off in energy. You know, your shoulders will go up, your head might tilt up a bit, your eyes will become a bit brighter, you'll smile and that will have a massive impact on the interviewer.

So make sure it's something that genuinely happened and you’re really proud of and if it is a work example, then that might be really obvious to, you know, reconcile against the job description. So, if you won an award in work or maybe you got a leadership qualification, well that's quite obviously going to be impactful in your role. But if it was something in your day to day that wasn't work related, that's okay. You just need to bring it home. You just need to add the value of that, to me. Because as much as I really want to hear this story right now, we're not friends, we will be hopefully if you come to work with me, but right now we're not friends so I really care about one thing - are you going to add value to my business and my team? Yep? So right now, you need to make sure that whatever it is – whether you ran a marathon, you raised loads of money for charity, I don't know, just bring it home. So if you say you ran a marathon last year, you can say, “Because everything I put my mind to, I achieve. I power through the tough days. I like to put myself out of my comfort zone and I bring that to work too. The attitude that I have there, I bring to the workplace”. So again, I can see how that is relevant to me when I'm hiring you.

Another thing I just want to really say is that when I ask people this question, sometimes they focus on the negatives of what they overcame rather than the positives of overcoming it. Does that make sense? So, if they, if they overcame something quite massive, they'll just hang around in the negatives and setting the scene of the problem too long and then all of a sudden, the conversation has been negative. So touch on the problem and then go straight to the positives of what you overcame and how you overcame it and how you felt when you overcame it.

And then the next thing I just want to say is keep it relevant and recent. So, what I mean by that is if you're in your mid-twenties or later, you don't want to be sitting there saying “Four, five years ago I moved away from university”. I remember asking this question, somebody once said that. She was probably in her thirties and she said her biggest achievement was moving away from home and going to university. Now that is scary for a lot of people. I totally get it. But I was thinking that was 10 years ago. Surely you've got something more recent. So try and keep it in the last two years. Nobody wants to think that you haven't done anything that you're really proud of since, you know, 10 years ago. So the last two or three years would be best.

So that's my thoughts and I just want to share with you one thing that somebody said to me in an interview once that I absolutely loved. I loved it. He gave me his achievement, kept it relevant and kept it recent, brought it home relevant to me or that kind of stuff. But then he said, “But I'm always looking to learn and develop and I hope that my biggest achievement is yet to come.” I loved it! I was thinking every employer wants to think that your biggest achievement’s going to be while you're on their payroll, of course! But I just thought this is somebody that's gonna show up every day wanting to be better than he was yesterday. And I love that attitude.

So if you are going to be answering your biggest achievement:

  • totally feel free to pick something that's personal.
  • make sure you bring it home
  • focus on the positives, not the negatives,
  • make sure it's recent
  • have some fun with it.

And when you are telling this story, make sure you live it and you breathe it and you make that person feel as fabulous as you do.



  1. 5 out of 5 stars Rating

    Lucy Heskins – 26 October 2018