“What are you most proud of” is one of the most dreaded, yet most common interview questions. In my experience, professionals often struggle with this question because they feel it necessary to come up with something extraordinary. I’ll let you in on a secret: it doesn’t have to be unique or something they’ve never heard before. What matters is sharing what you’re proud of and why. This will show them how you think, which is what they’re most interested in.

The best thing you can do is to prepare ahead of time so you won’t be caught off guard. Write down all the things you’re proud of. You’re probably going to come up with vague statements unless you’re in sales or a metric-driven field. Once you have your list, ask yourself the following questions about each accomplishment. This will help you refine each and determine the one to use in an interview.

Q: Is this a specific example?

You may have written down that you’re proud of the people you’ve developed or the process improvements you’ve made. These are general statements, and you need details. What staff member/s did you develop and how did you go about it? What improvement did you make and what impact did it have on your team or the organization?

Q: Why am I proud of it?

Once you have a list of specific examples, define why you chose each. Did the people you mentored end up getting promoted or do you know the approximate retention rate? Alternatively, did you hear comments from senior leadership about individual or team success? In other words, define why you feel proud of each thing you’ve achieved.

If you’re thinking, “I don’t have any results or numbers to associate with what I’ve done.” News flash: there is an end goal or purpose to what you do every day. If you’re filing paperwork so payroll can be processed, you’re doing a job so people can get paid on time. If you’re programming meetings for an executive and handling conflicts, you’re maintaining a schedule to ensure that your boss can do their job effectively and efficiently. There is an end goal or impact to everything that you do, and it does not have to be glamorous. The fact is what most of us do isn’t, but our functions are essential or else we wouldn’t be paid to do it!

Q: What am I most proud of?

Now choose one example. Make sure it’s one you’re passionate about. Interviewers often gauge your answers to questions based on how well you listen and how well you express yourself. That means that how you say something is almost as important as what you say.

Q: How can I explain this clearly and succinctly?

Yes, you should come across as passionate about your accomplishment but you don’t want to ramble. Try this approach: STAR, or Situation-Task-Action-Result. First, very briefly, in 15 seconds or less, describe the situation and the task that you faced. Then leave more time, say 30-40 seconds, to describe the action you took and the result.

If you follow these steps, you’ll be prepared to answer this common interview question. Most importantly, make your answer specific and impact-oriented. Don’t lose sleep over the example you choose because how you answer it is more important than the answer itself.

Related News

Marcelle Yeager helps people land jobs that get them to the next level of their career. Through her company Career Valet, she works with mid- to senior-level professionals on their branding strategy and job search materials to secure new roles. She co-founded a second business in 2015 called ServingTalent, where she finds jobs for talented military and Foreign Service spouses. Marcelle has spent over six years living and working abroad. She can be reached at myeager@careervalet.com.