Pride is deeply rooter in Western civilization. We want to achieve something, so others will recognize and remember us. We want to be proud of our achievements and children. Few people realize that the entire concept of pride is one big fallacy. Life is not fair. Opportunities are not equal. We do not choose our place of birth, parents, upbringing. Many things happen in our life and in the world every day, 99.9% of which we cannot control, or impact in any way.
If you are lucky enough to achieve something great in your life (graduating from a good university, overcoming challenging situations, beating cancer, publishing a successful book, becoming a pro athlete), you shouldn’t be proud of yourself. You should be grateful.
Destiny, coincidence, luck, God–or whatever you want to call it–played in your favor this time. You’ve been dealt a good hand. You succeeded, and someone else failed. Surely, you played your part (studying hard, trying hard, training hard), but at the end it is all just a fraction of any success story. The bigger part of it we cannot control…
But what should you say when the hiring managers ask you about your achievements (or what you are proud of) in an interview? I will try to find out the answer on the following lines.
Choose the most relevant achievement
Try to pick the most relevant achievement. If you apply for an entry level job in a corporate sphere, this will typically be graduating from school or university (with good grades).
If you apply for a position in social sector or in healthcare, you can be most proud of helping someone to overcome a difficult situation, or even of saving their life.
And when you have some experience under your belt already, then you should choose some relevant achievement from your last job–you helped your employer to increase sales, or designed a successful campaign, or managed to improve the level of customer satisfaction, etc.
Use numbers, tell a story whenever you can
To tell a story is an excellent way of answering many interview questions, not only this one. Just compare the following two answers and you’ll immediately see a difference:
I am most proud of helping my good friend Jason overcome severe problems and depression and return back to work.
My friend Jason lost everything in a matter of few months. His wife left him, he started drinking, he was fired from work two months later. Suddenly he didn’t have money to pay bills and he faced a serious possibility of ending up on the street. That’s when I intervened, because I understood that more than anything else he needed a friend.
I started to visit him daily. We talked a lot, I took him to nature regularly, and also convinced him to visit anonymous alcoholics, to give a shot to a group therapy. I tried to show him that life could be great again, and I also paid his rent two times. Little by little he started to see the bright side of life again, and found a new job. Now he has a girlfriend, and he is not drinking anymore. I am proud of helping him to overcome his problems and to return back to work.
Stories are easy to remember. If you add some dates or numbers, it will sound even more realistic and interviewers will be able to envision your story in details.
Humility can do wonders in many interviews
A very different approach consists in dashing the concept of pride and talking about gratitude. This can do wonders especially when you talk to mature interviewers, people who’ve been through something in life and can see beyond their egos.
In such an answer, instead of praising yourself, you will express gratitude to people around you, folks who helped you achieve your goals–your parents, great teachers you had at the uni, friends who stood by you in difficult times, colleagues in your last job who helped you grow as a person, and so on.
In some cases you can even say that you are grateful to God, but I would suggest such an answer only when you are sure that your interviewer is a religious person (they are wearing a necklace with a big Christian cross, for example).
Sample answers to “what are you most proud of” question
Obviously each of us has a different life, and a word-to-word answer you can learn and repeat in your interview doesn’t exist for this particular question.
But you should find some inspiration in the answers below. At least they should help you find the right words, and formulate your own perfect answer.
I’m most proud of earning my Master’s in Economics. You know, I wasn’t the most talented kid and didn’t have the best grades at high school. But I studied hard, I was lucky to have good teachers who pushed me forward, and I sacrificed almost all free time activities for my studies. Eventually I did it. Here I am now, looking for a good job and a next challenge.
I’m proud of being able to help my last employer increase the yearly sales volume by 30%. Certainly it was a team effort, but I suggested new sales and marketing strategies, and worked really hard to acquire new clients. I believe that I brought a lot of positive energy to the office each day, and that it actually had an impact on my colleagues.
I recall last year, February. My friend Anita was diagnosed with cancer and she coped very badly with her diagnosis. What’s more, she didn’t have a family or a partner to support her in this difficult situation. I stepped it, called her each day, and visited her twice a week while she was hospitalized. I also helped out financially, within my possibilities. But the most important thing, in my opinion, was emotional support. The treatment was successful, they removed her tumor, and at the moment doctors consider her cancer free. It can return, for sure, it always can, but I am proud of being able to stand next to her in such a difficult situation.
I prefer to be grateful, not proud. I was lucky to have a good upbringing, teachers who supported me, and friends I could learn a lot from. All these people helped me to become who I am today–a successful graduate from a medical school. I am well aware that without their support and without money from my parents, I would never have achieved my goal. Overall I consider myself very lucky in this life, and I hope to pay back the favor with my good service in a hospital…
* Special Tip: 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 make your life much easier in the interviews. Thank you for checking it out!
Your answer to “What are you most proud of?” question tells a lot not only about your achievements, but also about your attitude to life, and your maturity as a person. Can you recognize the positive impact other people had in your life? Can you give credit where it is due? Are you grateful for the opportunities you got in life, something that shouldn’t be taken for granted?
Do you recall achievements that actually made a difference in a life of your employer, friend, or colleague, or do you think only about yourself?
Think about these questions for a while, check the sample answers, and try to write down your own answer to this tricky question. Once done, you can check our analysis and sample answers to other tricky interview questions: