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“How Do You Define Success?” – Best Answers

How Do You Define Success

Some questions that often come up at a job interview can be really tricky. It doesn’t matter how well prepared we think we are and how well we are qualified for the position. Chances are that we can freeze in front of the recruiter, and our chance of landing that job drastically decreases.

One of those moments is when they ask us how we define success. Our mind starts wondering about what we should say, what we shouldn’t say, and why they are asking that.

Well, have no fear…

Because you’re about to find out “How Do You Define Success?” – Best Answers.

The tips I’m going to share with you mean that you’ll start to see this question as a great opportunity rather than a stressful inquisition.

Why is it Such a Common Question?

“How Do You Define Success” is one of those questions that you should always be ready to answer at a job interview. The key is being honest and credible in your answer. And the only way to reach that level of confidence is through a bit of preparation before the interview.

And if it doesn’t get asked?

In the case that the question doesn’t come, everything you’ve learned during your research will be useful anyway. Imagine if they ask you, “What’s your goal in your professional career?” or “What do you expect from this job?”. Do they sound much different from “How do you define success?”

Not so much, and the reality is that you will be able to use the information you gathered to address all these topics.

But why do recruiters like to ask these sorts of questions?

There is definitely more than one reason. So, let’s look at a few of the most common ones…

how do you define success answer

They Want To Put You in an Uncomfortable Situation

This doesn’t mean that they take any pleasure in watching people struggling and panicking, but this is their job.

Often, the ability to stay calm under pressure is a crucial requirement for many positions, and they will learn a lot about you by watching how you react to that question. Watching more than listening because what you say is not nearly as important as how you say it.

They Want To Check You’ve Done Your Homework

If the candidate doesn’t know what to say, or if they reply with a short, cliché answer without giving any explanation, they’ll immediately understand that they didn’t come prepared. And indeed they will not give the job to somebody who didn’t put any effort in to deserve that job.

So You Reveal Something of Yourself as a Person

And most importantly, as a potential employee, they know that whatever you say doesn’t necessarily correspond with reality. I’m not saying by any means that we should lie. But the truth is that we often try to adapt our answers to what we think they want to hear.

Guess what…

Interviewers know that, and that’s why what you say is not really that important. Unless you make the mistake of going too deeply into personal details that reveal something about you that you wouldn’t want them to know. If that happens, trust me, they will hear it!

What You Should Answer?

As I just mentioned, what you tell them is not what’s important.

Why is that?

Because there’s no wrong or a right answer, truly. Defining success for a potential employer is so personal that as long as you don’t say anything really embarrassing, you’re not going to mess up the interview with your response. However, there are still some points to keep in mind when you prepare your answer.

First of all, stick to something that is relevant to the job you’re interviewing for. This is standard advice that applies to any questions that you will be asked, but it’s even more critical in this situation.

Be aware…

Many people tend to go completely off the rails when they’re asked something so personal, forgetting the real reason why they’re there in the first place. Regardless of the definition of success you give, try to provide some tangible example from your professional experience relevant to what you have said.

how do you define the success

Lastly, keep a low profile. It’s good to be a dreamer, and nothing should stop you from pursuing your ambitions, but at this stage, small goals will sound more achievable. Plus, this will show the recruiters that you have a clear, realistic roadmap to success.

What You Shouldn’t Say?

As you probably already guessed, what you don’t say is more important than what you do say.

Please, people…

First of all, avoid any quotes. Can you imagine how many times recruiters have heard that “Success is the combination of positive action and positive thinking”? An answer like that will most likely be followed by a question, “what does this exactly mean to you?”, which means that you’re in trouble if you were just quoting off the cuff.

Top tips…

Keep your personal experiences out of the equation unless they directly relate to a successful story from your professional life. In any case, avoid talking about sensitive topics such as religion, politics, and cultural differences.

This is quite obvious, but don’t mention money as your definition of success. The majority of people legitimately see wealth as a key component of their success. However, this is not what recruiters want to hear. Or at least not many of them. You might be lucky to find one of those that will appreciate your sincerity, but I wouldn’t take the chance.

Don’t simply memorize to repeat verbatim…

Even if they know that you prepared your answer in advance, and they will actually appreciate that, don’t make it too obvious. You’re not playing a part, and you should try to sound as natural and relaxed as possible.

Lastly, don’t say anything that can give them the impression that you consider yourself at the peak of your success. Even if you’re applying for a job that is a step back in your career,

So what should you do in practice to be ready to answer the question? Let’s find out…

Prepare Your Answer

The goal of having an answer ready is not to mechanically repeat something that you’ve already learned. That would sound like a robot while the recruiters are looking for a person.

What you should do instead…

Gather all the information you need and have a clear idea of how you can structure your answer. By doing so, you will not find yourself in the position of having to come up with something brilliant on the spot. When that happens, even the most confident person will have a hard time finding the right words and avoiding the wrong ones.

Therefore, a little bit of preparation is necessary.

Where do we start?

The first place to look at is the official website of the company you’re applying for. If they have a mission statement, that’s perfect. A mission statement is basically the definition of success for that company. If you’re able to adapt your answer based on that information, you will sound exactly like what the company is looking for.

how do you define success answer guide

And if you can’t find it?

Sometimes there’s not a specific page dedicated to their mission. However, similar information can be found in other sections, such as their history, achievements, values, or simply on the “About Us” page.

Read all of them carefully and take note of the relevant details that you find.

And if you still can’t find anything?

Look at their social media pages. Even if they are usually more about advertising, promotion, and customer relations, they still provide tons of valuable information. For example, if you scroll down the Facebook profile page, you might find some helpful communication in a post of a few years back.

OK, that’s the first step…

The second part of your homework is a bit of introspection. Think about your professional or educational career, and write down those times when you’ve been proud of yourself for achieving important goals.

Those are the moments where you would have probably defined yourself as a successful person. If you manage to make them relevant to the job you’re applying for and link them to the company values and mission, you have: “How Do You Define Success?” – Best Answers of All!


Because it’s personal, honest, and relevant to the position, plus, it contains practical examples, and it shows that you did your research. Moreover, when we talk about something extremely significant for us, like an important goal that we’ve reached, we naturally show a positive and enthusiastic attitude.

So, remember. It’s not really about what you say, but how you say it!

How To Structure The Perfect Answer?

Since there is no right or wrong, does it make any sense to talk about a perfect answer?

Maybe not generally speaking, but we can agree that some answers are better than others.

Top recommendations for structuring the perfect answer…

There are three points that you should always include. The best way is to organize your answer into three paragraphs of a couple of sentences each.

There is no need to talk for hours! On the contrary, aim for a short reply that gets straight to the point. Make sure you don’t digress and include unnecessary information.

Start With Your Statement

Make it clear that you’re talking about your professional career. This will immediately show the recruiters that you’re not going to ramble on about something that is not relevant to the job. At this point, they will be genuinely interested in your answer.

how do you define success the answer

Prove That You Did Your Research

Know what the company goals are. Find a link between your idea of success and their mission. This will tell them that you share the same values and, therefore, you are a good fit for the position.

Give a Practical Example

This can be an example from your past jobs or education experience that proves that you’re already working to become that successful person. This is particularly important. It shows that what you’re saying is not just nice words. Instead, it is something you generally believe in, and that will positively impact the company if they decide to hire you.

An Effective Answer Sample

This is an example of how an effective answer would look.


Keep in mind that you should never learn by heart something that you found on the internet. Use it for cues, personalize it with your own story, and always be as natural and authentic as possible.

OK, here we go…

“To me, success can be defined in many ways depending on if you mean my career or my private life. In terms of my professional career, I would consider myself successful every time I am given the chance to work in a company that shares my values and goals.

Through my research, I’ve found out that your mission is to positively impact the world by accelerating our transition to sustainable energy. This is a significant undertaking for me, and I would be proud to help you succeed in that goal.

While I was working at [company name], I created a cost-benefit analysis that convinced my employer to switch from a standard energy source to a more sustainable option. This reduced our CO2 emissions by 60% in the first year while cutting electricity costs in half. I want to be part of similar successes with your company.”

Want More Support?

It’s an excellent approach to familiarize yourself with all common interview questions in 2023.

Start by considering the type of position you’re applying for and know what to expect based on that. Interviewing for a hostess job? Read about Hostess Interview Questions. Interviewing for a Cook position? Read all common Cook Interview Questions here. Also, check out our in-depth guidance in Answering Tell Me About Yourself in Interview, responding to Why Do You Want to Work Here? and the dreaded, Why We Should Hire You!

Are you interviewing with a US company chain?

Guess what? We’ve also got a database full of common interview questions per US company chain! So, check out Dairy Queen Interview Questions, PetSmart Interview Questions, Dominos Pizza Interview Questions, Levi Strauss Interview Questions, Disney Store Interview Questions, and many, many more! Or type your dream company in our search box and check!

You also cannot go far wrong investing in a dedicated resource like Ray Dalio’s Principles: Life and Work, Answering Tough Interview Questions For Dummies, or How to Define Success in Life.

OK, back to today’s topic…

Final Thoughts

Being able to answer job interview questions with confidence is the key to getting hired. To do that, all you need is to know is what the recruiters are looking for. Then spend some time preparing your answers in advance.

If you follow the tips that I shared with you, you don’t have to be anxious about the moment when they will ask you. “How Do You Define Success?” – Best Answers? The one you already carefully prepared. Moreover, what you say will more than likely exactly match the interviewer’s expectations.

Just keep in mind the golden rule: what you don’t say is more important than what you tell them.

All the best for your job interview!

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