No one wants to be a mediocre individual, nobody wants to be a failure. Doesn’t matter whether we speak about individuals or organizations, each of us wants to be successful. But what does it mean to be successful? And how do you define success? And how should you define it in a job interview?

Each person has its own idea of success. It depends on our present situation, on our role models, upbringing, and how we see the world around us. And also on the limitations we set for ourselves. And while most people measure success in terms of money and possession, there are certainly individuals (or even organizations, and many of them) who have completely different criteria. Spiritual, religious, personal and other aims and their attainment is a synonym of success for these people.

But how to answer the question in an interview? Let’s have a loot at 15 sample answers first, including quotes from some famous figures. Below the answers you will find additional explanation and hints on how to make the best possible impression on the interviewers, while you try to define success in your interview. The answers will work also for the popular alternative of this question: “What is your interpretation of success?”


15 sample answers to “How do you define success (in your personal & business life)?” interview question

  1. Success is being part of something bigger, helping an organization to meet worthy goals, to bring some value to the world. I would love to be a part of your success story.
  2. Success is being able to do your best every day in all roles you have in life, whether it is a role of a son, father, or an employee. That’s something I aspire to every day, and a reason why I get out of bed every morning. At least that’s my personal interpretation of success.
  3. A successful man is one who enjoys their life, who knows why they wake up and go to work, and who sees a purpose in everything they do. I definitely consider myself successful, but a job with you would make it even slightly better.
  4. Success is a progressive realization of a worthy ideal. (Earl Nightingale)
  5. Try not to become a man of success. Rather become a man of value. (Einstein)
  6. Success is walking from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm. (W. Churchill)
  7. Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best you are capable of becoming. (J. Wooden)
  8. The foundation stones for a balanced success are honesty, character, integrity, faith, love and loyalty. (Z. Ziglar)
  9. Put your heart, mind, and soul into even your smallest acts. This is the secret of success. (S. Sivananda)
  10. Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful. (A. Schweitzer)
  11. Success isn’t always about greatness. It’s about consistency. Consistent hard work leads to success. (D. Johnson)
  12. Success isn’t just about what you accomplish in your life; it’s about what you inspire others to do. (not attributed)
  13. You know you are on the road to success if you would do your job, and not be paid for it. (O. Winfrey)
  14. Always be yourself, express yourself, have faith in yourself, do not go out and look for a successful personality and duplicate it. (B. Lee)
  15. The only place where success comes before work is in the dictionary. (V. Sassoon)


Focus on the organization, connect your goals with theirs

Only a few individuals (typically people with equanimity and inner happiness) measure their success in terms of what they did for someone else, or what they are trying to achieve for other people or living organisms.

Surprisingly this is the best answer you can give in an interview–focusing on the others, demonstrating selfless attitude to life and to people around you. It doesn’t really matter if you get an employee of a month award, or achieve a promotion in the shortest possible time… What matters is how the company, and their clients, benefits from your work, and from the value you create in the job.

* May also interest you: How do you deal with failure?

Two managers talk about success in an interview


Process matters more than the final result

Nobody has a total control of what they achieve in life. Many variables play their role, and we can certainly not say that for sure we will achieve this or that in our life, or for an organization. In fact we do not even know what tomorrow will bring. Just look at the pandemic as a prime example of unpredictability.

What is more, setting such goals can easily make us upset (especially when we can’t achieve them), and it makes us focused more on the future, instead of enjoying the present moment, and giving our very best to the activity which we do right now.

Mark my words: It is an effort that counts. In terms of employment, and being successful as an employee, it means trying your best every day in work. And you can certainly refer to this process in an interview. Law of action and reaction cannot be broken. If you try your best, and are consistent in your efforts, it will eventually pay off–for both you and your employer. Because it cannot be any otherwise.


Want an unconventional answer? You can use a quote of someone famous.

Many famous people have been asked how they define success. Artists, scientists, politicians, athletes, philosophers–you name it.

And while some of their answers won’t really work in a job interview, others are perfect for the purpose. Check my little collection of such quotes in the list of sample answers above. What is more, referring to words of someone famous (famous in good means), you show the interviewers that you like to read, and are inspired by successful role models. Feel free to use one of the quotes in your interview, but do not forget to mention the author of it.

Bartender tries her very best in work, she is successful

Final thoughts, answers to other questions

Each company wants to be successful, or at least to survive. In order to do so, they need employees who dream of success, and who can connect their personal goals with the goals of the corporation.

Try to find this connection and present it in your interview. Do not forget to talk with enthusiasm, and to show motivation to do a good job, to be successful in your new role.

Remember that even the best words won’t make any impact if they do not correspond with your non-verbal communication, with the impression you make in an interview. Your verbal and non-verbal communication are equally important on a big day…

What’s more, this isn’t the only difficult question you will face while interviewing for any decent job. You will face questions about prioritization, dealing with pressure, dealing with ambiguity, and other tricky scenarios that happen in the workplace.

If you want to make sure that you stand out with your answers and outclass your competitors, have a look at our Interview Success Package. Up to 10 premium answers to 31 tricky scenario based questions (+ more) will help you streamline your interview preparation, and get ready for every challenge you may possibly face in your interviews. Thank you for checking it out, and I wish you best of luck!


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Matthew Chulaw
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