Raise your hand if you’ve ever discovered yourself in the following situation. You applied for your dream job, you sent your resume and a great cover letter, and after a few days, you got invited to the interview.
This is the moment you’ve been waiting for: your skills and qualifications are top-notch, and you feel positive. Plus, you are already picturing yourself signing that contract. The first few questions are a breeze, and your confidence is through the roof. But then something happens… they ask you what you are most proud of, and… you freeze!
Nothing you can think of makes sense, and you end up mumbling something completely irrelevant.
Thanks, we’ll let you know…
That’s why I decided to go through precisely How To Answer “What Are You Most Proud Of?”
What They Are Really Asking You?
How did you answer that question? Did you mention that time when you spent the whole summer training hard to become a volunteer firefighter instead of going on holiday with your friends?
That’s remarkable, and you have every right to be incredibly proud of it. It shows your determination and resolution to reach your goals. But unfortunately, it has nothing to do with the Senior Equity Options Trader position you were interviewing for.
What’s the big deal?
Even if the recruiter catches the positive aspect of what you said, this is not exactly what they were asking for. Therefore they will probably give the job to somebody else whose answer was more relevant.
So, what were they expecting you to say?
Let’s look at it from a different perspective. What if they asked you, “what’s your biggest achievement in your professional career?”. Your answer would have been different. The reality is that the two questions mean the same thing, and this is exactly what the recruiters are asking you.
If you’re wondering why they don’t simply use the second formula, which is way more specific, the reason is that they’re checking your ability to think out of the box.
When a recruiter has to interview a large number of candidates, the questions will be designed to become more tricky. By doing so, it’s easier for them to select the right person and to immediately recognize who came to the interview prepared and who didn’t make any effort.
And what they’re not interested in?
As you probably already guessed, your answer shouldn’t focus on your personal life.
But why is that?
At the end of the day, the volunteer firefighter story is still showing them how driven and goal-oriented you are when you want to achieve something. And that should be a positive skill to have, right?
While this is undoubtedly true, the problem is that when a person is so determined in his personal life, that doesn’t necessarily mean that he has that same approach in a professional context. Having a strong motivation is easier when we follow our passions, but that quality doesn’t automatically transfer to a job.
Moreover, they already have that information since you probably, and hopefully, included it in your CV.
As a rule of thumb, you shouldn’t talk about anything that the recruiters already know during an interview.
However, there are situations where that answer could work great. If you’re a fresh graduate and you’re applying for an entry-level job, you obviously don’t have any work experience to prove your skills. In this case, any volunteer and extracurricular experience can tell a lot about you to the recruiter team.
So what should you do to avoid remaining speechless after an interview question you didn’t expect?
Let’s find out…
How to Prepare Your Answer?
The biggest mistake you can ever make is showing up at an interview without expecting a question like that. It’s almost inevitable that something similar will be asked. And if you’re not ready to give a convincing answer, the recruiters will perceive it as a lack of preparation.
What’s prep got to do with knowing How To Answer “What Are You Most Proud Of?”
Stick around; I have loads to share with you. Here are my top tips…
Read the job posting
The job listing has to be your bible for the whole duration of your application. If you’ve made it to an interview, you already used it efficiently while you were writing your cover letter.
It’s now time to read it again…
What are the job requirements? And what about the desired skills and qualities?
Choose the ones that better represent you best, and think about a situation in your professional career when you had to use those skills to reach an important goal.
Keep in mind…
Since we’re talking about something that made you proud, it should be a special example that goes beyond your everyday duties.
If you can’t think of anything extraordinary, here is what you can do.
Ask your former colleagues and employers
We all know somebody that never misses an opportunity to brag about himself and his achievements. But unless you’re that type of person, the reality is different. Many of us have a hard time acknowledging our accomplishments, and we tend to minimize them even when they’re really remarkable.
But this doesn’t mean that our results went completely unnoticed. Why not give a call to your former colleagues and past employers?
What to say?
Instead of asking them what you should be proud of, which might sound a bit weird, I would explain to them that I’m preparing for an interview. Then I would reformulate the question like this: “Can you remember a moment when I did something special at work that made you proud of having me as a colleague/employee?”.
The shorter, the better
Hopefully, you got some good replies, and it’s now time to prepare and practice your answer.
Keep in mind that you should get straight to the point so that you keep the recruiters’ attention on what you want them to know.
How to start…
Tell your story, making sure you underline the connection to the job you’re interviewing for. To make it more relevant, mention the requirements on the job posting that were your starting point.
Make sure you don’t go off the rails. A few simple sentences with all the necessary details will be enough to impress the interviewers.
If you want to understand more about how to structure your answer, keep reading, and you’ll tell you exactly what to do. But before that, let’s take a look at the most common mistakes that would instantly lower your chances of being hired.
When somebody asks me for general advice on how to answer a question at a job interview, I always tell them that what you don’t say is more important than what you say.
Let’s see what you should avoid when you’re asked what you’re more proud of.
Talking about your personal life
We’ve already seen why talking about your personal life is a mistake. Even when you have a really compelling story, it will most likely undermine your potential to get that job.
However, some recruiters like to ask something more personal at the beginning of the interview. They do this because it’s an excellent way to put the candidate at ease. Therefore, it’s recommendable to be prepared with some interesting facts about your life in case such a question should come.
Giving a generic answer
Details are essential, and even if I suggested you keep your answer short, that doesn’t mean that it has to be generic. You want to elaborate on what you say. Otherwise, it will not sound credible.
Here’s an example of what you shouldn’t say…
“After working at (name of the company) for only two years, I’ve been offered a new position, and I became the youngest senior accountant the company ever had. This is something I’m really proud of”.
What’s could be bad about that?
While this answer is a valid choice, it totally lacks any explanation. Where are the skills that made it possible to get such a quick career advancement? And what did that person do exactly to deserve it?
Talking badly about previous jobs
Did you accomplish something for an employer who never noticed your hard work and abilities?
You can use that story if it’s highly relevant to the job. But focus only on yourself and forget about the negative aspects. The recruiters don’t need to know your feelings about that employer.
Sounding like a robot
After spending some time doing your research and practicing your answers, it might be difficult to sound natural. However, that’s exactly what you should try to do.
And it’s easier to sound robotic than you may realize…
When we repeat something that we memorized, it instantly becomes less effective. It can sound like we’re telling somebody else’s story.
Ask a friend to practice with you a couple of times so that you’ll have some feedback to work with.
How To Structure Your Answer?
Now that we know what you should talk about and what you should avoid, it’s time to wrap everything up and see how you can construct your response.
The opening statement
This will be your introduction. The primary goal is to catch the recruiter’s attention with an interesting statement that clearly defines the moment that made you proud of yourself.
“The moment I felt most proud of myself in my professional career has to be last year when I was working at (name of the company). My team and I were able to exceed our sales target by 28%”.
The main body
With a few words, you just told them that your answer was job-related and that you can potentially increase the company sales if they give you the job.
You definitely got the recruiters’ attention, and it’s now time to give them more details.
Let me illustrate…
“The result is even more gratifying if we consider that house sales declined nationwide by 3% in the same timeframe.
At the beginning of the year, I knew that the market was going down. I realized that we had to take a different approach if we wanted to be able to reach our target.
I decided to take a risk and invest 50% of our training budget in a marketing strategies training course that I was sure would be highly beneficial to my team. The results exceeded everyone’s expectations. Not only did we significantly increase our sales, but we also did it without reducing the profit margin.”
You described the situation; you Said what your Target was, how you took Action, and what the Result was. This is known as the STAR method, something that can be highly effective in any situation where you have to come up with an answer to a question you weren’t expecting.
Now there’s only one more thing to add.
How is this relevant to the job you’re applying for?
“It is my understanding that you’re looking for somebody who can lead your sales team and can rapidly increase the sales performance of the company. This is exactly what I can bring to the table.”
What About All The Other Interview Questions?
Or you may be interested in a complete guide to all common interview questions per career path? If so, we have everything from Firefighter Interview Questions, Dentist Interview Questions, Executive Assistant Interview Questions, to Electrical Engineer Interview Questions. Simply search your vocation on our site!
However, suppose this is your first time interviewing? In that case, find out everything you need to know about What to Wear to an Interview, What to do After an Interview, and How to Ace the Second Interview!
Also, check out these Skype Interview Tips if you’re interviewing remotely.
Back to today’s topic…
Every question is important during a job interview, and the key to effectively answering any of them is being prepared. Some questions are so common that not being ready with a relevant response will appear as a lack of confidence at best. Or even worse, the recruiters will get the impression that you didn’t make any effort to prepare for the interview.
In both cases, the result will likely be that somebody else will get the job.
Today we’ve seen How To Answer “What Are You Most Proud Of?” and set yourself apart from the rest. If you follow the tips you find in this article, you’ll dramatically increase your chances of finally landing that dream job.