When I help prepare people for interviews, they inevitably ask how to respond to the "What is your greatest weakness?" question. It's important to be able to identify and discuss something you are actively improving regarding your qualifications (as long as it is not a major requirement of the job and the weakness would disqualify you).
But what about the times job seekers are asked about identifying their greatest strength or best accomplishment?
All too often, people on job interviews are ill-prepared to talk about their greatest accomplishments. So how would you answer? Remember, in an interview or professional setting, your reply must relate to your work. For example, you may very well believe raising a successful, accomplished child is a great accomplishment. But unless you are applying to be an au pair or a nanny, that information is not relevant to the position. Additionally, if the accomplishment that immediately comes to mind was a long time ago, try to identify a more recent (and possibly more relevant) achievement to describe. If you wax eloquent about something you did six or seven years ago, the interviewer is left to wonder why you haven’t done anything worth describing more recently.
If your answer is not immediately obvious, consider the following to help you identify your top accomplishments:
• Review written evaluations or endorsements (for example, from LinkedIn) by supervisors. Has someone highlighted or outlined a particularly significant achievement?
• Look at your resume. If you had to point to something you’re most proud or excited to discuss, what would it be? Have you inspired or incited a big change at your organization? Did you save or bring in a significant amount of money? Did you create a system or analyze and solve a problem plaguing your organization?
• Ask people you know and who are familiar with your professional history. This includes your colleagues, past and present (although, more recent is best), as well as close friends and family members. Maybe they remember something you were really proud to share, but has somehow slipped your mind.
If you do have trouble identifying your most proud professional accomplishment, make a point to start a "brag" file to keep track of compliments, specific results you create at work and details about how you positively affect your workplace. When you track these details, it will be so much easier to update your resume and professional profiles, and you won’t let any important information fall through the cracks.