Here's one for the community. I was recently interviewed by 5 different people (45 minutes each) for a position. I was asked the "What is your most significant acomplishment?" question by all but one of the interviewers. Would you use the same accomplishment for every interviewer or change it up each time?

I actually answered the same way, did not get offered the position, and the feedback that the recruiter gave me was "the interviewers were hoping to hear about more accomplishements." When I asked the recruiter to elaborate, he said that he would "recommend in future interviews to use different 'most significant' accomplishments for each interviewer because when the team met to discuss their interviews with me, they all were hoping to have a laundry list of accomplishments to compare, and instead they all heard the same story. The recruiter also said that he thought my example was very good but they wanted more examples.

This was an interview for a Marketing Manager role at a company with over $3 billion in sales annually.


thaGUma's picture

Chalk one to experience. Five people at different times will come together to discuss the candidates. Each person will have a view on each candidate. Even a great accomplishment will get weakened when four of them say ‘yep, I got that too’. There is nothing more to add breadth – so they consider perhaps that was it … looking for a reason to say no. Chris.


Mattias's picture

I just wanna thank Calouden for sharing. Definitly something to look out for in the future.'s picture

Thanks for sharing.   We can all learn from your experience.


manxomfoe's picture

That smacks of some sort of trap.  Why would your "most significant accomplishment" change from one meeting to the next?  Not that each person in your series meant it that way, but I do hope they learned from their end of the experience.  It certainly doesn't seem like they got the evaluation they wanted.  

I've had interviews where the interviewer clearly wanted multiple examples, and asked for them directly. I'd finish one and they'd ask, "do you have another example?"   After you list  2-3 it's probably good to try redirect and ask what they're getting at, especially if they're being mechanical about it (as opposed to conversational).

So yes, I'd feel confident using the same "most relevant and significant accomplishment" story if that's authentically what the best pitch is for the position.  Maybe I'd end up in the same trap :)  The learning is that even if you talk about the same accomplishment, you'd do worse than to expand on the details in different directions when talking with each of the different interviewers.  You could even take up the MT advice of tuning your answers to the DISC type of your audience.  How cool would that be?!


Mark's picture

You did the right thing.  If you were interviewing for just one position, by definition when they ask you for your MOST significant position, you can't change that answer.

So, it's not a trap.  It's just more people being lousy interview evaluators.  Sorry their lack of effectiveness affected you.

Somebody ought to do something about this.



afmoffa's picture

Next time that happens, ask interviewers #3, #4, and #5 for permission to step outside of their question. I know, I know, the interviewers control the interviewee. But it's not 100% dictatorial control. If the interviewer offers you coffee, you're allowed to request cream or sugar. And if five interviewers ask you the same question, you're allowed to ask for a little leeway.

I agree with Mark (duh) in terms of the literal truth of the question. Five people ask you for your most significant accomplishment, and yeah, that doesn't change. On the other hand--and I say this as a big fan of precise language--forget about what they're literally asking. What you want to do, when you interview, is provide a positive, truthful, effective portrait of your work habits, communication style, and qualifications. You can ask for some leeway without appearing to dodge the question or commandeer the interview.

It sounds like this: "Two years ago, when I increased our widget yield and drove down costs. That was a professional milestone, for sure, but I already told the story to Gary and Susan from this morning. I worry I'm not giving Acme Corp the complete picture, especially since you're more a marketing guy and that's kind of an operations story. It's up to you, of course, but perhaps you'd rather hear about how I increased catalog sales?"

I'm sure there are some interviewers who would see my question as rank insubordination, but I think (hope?) most would see it as my erstwhile attempt to answer their question without being redundant.

(I'm 51% sure I'm onto something here, and I'm 49% sure Mark's going to upbraid me for suggesting you attempt to steer the interview. Here goes. :) )