Although your resume spells out the highlights or your career and education, human resources staffers often want to hear what you perceive as your achievements during an interview. Your confident answers to these questions reveal a number of things about your past, future goals and what's important to you outside of the office.
Think About Your Audience
A number of things may pop into your head when you consider your "achievements," but not all of them are relevant to the position you're applying for. Think about what is most relevant to the job in anticipation of hearing this question, because there's a decent chance you will. Provide notable achievements that speak to the position's needs while giving credence to the idea that you're the person for the job. If you are applying for a sales job, for example, talk about sales awards you won in prior jobs.
Don't Be Vague
If have notable achievements in your work or academic history, you should remember them with enough clarity to express that during your interview. When you provide detail about your achievements, you show the interviewer that you are enthusiastic about your work. Be as specific as you can in your response. For example, if you're applying as a software engineer, you can offer a response such as "I saved my previous employer more than $1 million a year by developing a new inventory system that more accurately tracks products from manufacturing facilities to retailers."
Impress with Volume
If you are a seasoned professional, you likely have numerous successes to rattle off. Don't feel constricted to using just one, since that sells your career short and makes your achievements seem relatively limited. Instead, preface your answer to this question in a manner that lets you display two or three successes, preferably recent ones. A response such as "I have a few notable wins that come to the front. I'll briefly go over these three since they're all related to this position." This confident answer displays forethought and understanding of the role you're applying for.
If you're fresh out of school, employers will understand that your professional achievements will be limited. However, you might have achieved success as an intern, volunteer or student. High performance and dedication in any environment is essentially what the employer seeks. This might include being an integral part of a successful project as an intern, winning academic or athletic awards, or helping to increase donations at a non-profit. Even if the experience is not directly relevant to the position, always think hard about how the employer can use your successes to gauge whether you're a good fit for the company. For example, if you're applying to a management position, you could say, "Being co-captain of my college football team -- combined with my 3.7 GPA -- exemplifies my leadership abilities, drive and will to win. I'll bring that same level of energy to this sales team."