This interview question is a tough one because there are several ways in which you can respond to it.
However, the worst thing you can do is to answer the interviewer with a vacant stare.
To help you respond to this challenging question, here’s how to answer “what you are most proud of,” as discussed by experts.
TEDx Speaker | Author | Career Coach, Plotline Leadership
This is an impact question designed to gain insight into your values and character. To answer it effectively, you need to offer more than a standard success story detailing what you did and when. The most important aspect of your answer is the why behind your actions.
Ultimately, the interviewer wants to understand why you chose to spend your energy on that endeavor and what impact the result had on both you and others.
Provide a timely answer
When selecting a topic, recency matters. You may be extremely proud of putting yourself through college. That’s fantastic, but the achievement loses its luster after a while.
If you’re 40 and that’s still your “go-to” win, the interviewer will wonder what you’ve achieved since. Topics should be no more than 24 months old.
Your answer should be relevant to your job application
Your topic should tie, at least indirectly, to the job you seek. For example, I’m proud to have recently finished my fifth novel, but that accomplishment may not resonate with someone interviewing me for a CHRO role.
On the other hand, if I published a well-received research paper on a hot HR topic such as remote working, that might be worth sharing.
The answer should be impactful
You’ll get bonus points if your example had a positive, ideally measurable, effect on others. To use our HR example, perhaps you developed and launched a remote working policy at your company based on the research paper you published the year before.
Perhaps that policy not only helped your company respond quickly to the COVID-19 situation but provided best practices for other organizations in your industry.
Having a relevant, timely success story that delivers a positive impact on others is a great start. However, what can truly set your answer apart from others is sharing the why behind your actions.
Perhaps you wrote that HR paper on remote working because you believe there is an untapped talent market that could be accessed if more flexible options were offered.
Or maybe your research indicates that remote work can reduce employee stress and increase productivity by eliminating commute time. Or perhaps you believe the change would enhance the company’s corporate sustainability program if they do their part to lower emissions and energy usage.
The rationale can differ from person to person. The important aspects are that you have clear values, consistently take action, and have a history of creating a positive impact for others. That’s a story worth telling and something to be proud of…in any profession.
Karin Lykke Nielsen
Career Specialist, Jofibo
The question “What are you most proud of?” automatically triggers something in us. We all have moments in our (work) life that we are proud of but we rarely like to brag. However, when you’re in a job interview situation this is exactly what is expected of you. Well, perhaps not bragging.
But at least that you know your own worth and that you realize your value to your future employer. And you need to be able to show them why you’re the best candidate.
First of all, ask yourself: Why would they ask this question?
They would ask this because they want to know what you value. What do you deem so important that you would be proud of it? This reveals a great deal about you. So you better answer it well – and that means having thought about it beforehand.
It has to be something you’ve achieved but it doesn’t necessarily have to be work-related. As long as you can put it in context as to why it makes you fit into the role you’re interviewing for.
So what are you proud of?
Maybe you volunteered and made a difference to another person? Maybe you raised money for a charity in an unusual way? Maybe you overcame a great obstacle and came out the other side much stronger?
What’s important is the way you present it. Your potential future employer won’t care much that you are extremely proud of your finishing grade from college. But if you overcame severe dyslexia and managed against all odds to graduate, that shows them that you’re a fighter and that you don’t give up.
How to answer what you are most proud of?
Create a list of your proud moments
Write down all of your proud moments on a piece of paper – work-related as well as not work-related. Now, analyze the job description to look for clues as to what they’re looking for in a person. How do these align?
Come up with an answer that will complement the job description
Focus on an example where you’ve solved a problem or made a significant contribution. When you formulate your answer, you have to think about the role you’re applying for.
If you are going to be a salesperson, you’ll want your proud moment to reflect that you gain satisfaction and pride from achievements with public recognition.
An example could be that you organized a charity that skyrocketed. The point is you’ll need to put your proud moment in perspective to the company’s values and the role you’re interviewing for.
Practice your answer out loud
On a finishing note, I have a final tip for you. Make sure you practice your answer out loud, maybe even film it with your phone. Your story needs to come out naturally and in order for that to happen, you need to practice. So find a quiet place, make sure you’re alone, and start talking.
The more familiar you are with the words, the better they will sound when you speak them during your interview.
President, Executive Search
Shape your answer with potential benefits for the job you’re applying for
This is a great question and one that candidates need to practice responding to in advance of an interview. You can go a number of ways in response, but I’d generally recommend shaping your answer with potential benefits for the job you’re interviewing for.
It’s important to remember your answer has to be natural, and it can’t sound scripted so practice-practice-practice. I’d audibly answer this question in front of a mirror or with friends and family. Here’s a generic response to this question which a lot of people could use with minor tweaks:
“I’d have to say I’m most proud of the Xyz Project at my current company. The reason being it was exceptionally challenging, and I had the opportunity to use many years of my experience to ensure a successful outcome which was gratifying.
As a matter of personal pride, I like to feel like my work product is something I can stand behind. I knew or I or anyone casually approached this, success wouldn’t have been guaranteed. I’ve always been more than happy to invest time to achieve desired results. And for this particular project, I had to successfully interact with a wide variety of internal employees and external customers while making key decisions. I’m really proud of how I dealt with the pressure. It feels good when you know you added value and made a positive difference.
This project resulted in 20% more sales than what the company was used to and ultimately led to a 78% client retention rate over the following quarters when 55% had been the norm in the past. Success on the project also trickled out to everyone it touched. Doing something that positively impacted my coworkers made me feel great. Coworkers even approached me after the fact to thank me for my work which honestly gives me goosebumps. My work is something I’m passionate about so being able to go home knowing I made a big impact makes this project stand out to me.”
Elene Cafasso, MCC
Executive Mentor and Coach, Enerpace, Inc.
All interview questions should be answered honestly, but strategically.
Highlight a skill that would benefit to the position you’re seeking
Perhaps you’re interviewing for a Project Management position. If you’re most proud of a fundraiser you organized for your favorite cause that exceeded all expectations, then your answer should stress how you “herded all the cats”, kept on top of each committee’s deliverables, communicated appropriately with every category of stakeholder, and persevered as one obstacle after another was placed in your path.
At the end of your answer, be sure to tie it back to your fit for this position. In my example above, you could conclude by saying “So as you can see, I love what I do so much, I even do it in my spare time!” Or “As you can see, I’m a glutton for punishment. I do project management in my personal life too!”
The best examples illustrate personality characteristics that are important for the role – leading teams, working with various types/functions of people, solving challenges, finding the right resources, developing creative solutions, etc.
Michael Trust, MPA, SPHR, PHRca, SHRM-SCP
Human Resources Director, Michael Trust Consulting
This is a great interview question, and it’s one where a candidate can really shine with their answer. Why? Because the candidate now controls the conversation about what they wish to express and highlight to the interviewer.
Here’s a good formula to use, and it mirrors the storytelling formula for interviews generally: the challenge, the action, and the result.
Showcase a success story of what motivates you
During the interview, you may have already shared some of your great stories and successes. This question takes this further: what are you most proud of. So, in this case, you’d want to showcase (even if a story you’ve already shared) why you’re so proud.
For example, what did you learn? What did you personally have to overcome? What makes you particularly proud of this achievement? Here, you can also showcase what motivates you, because, presumably that’s also what is making you proud of this achievement or project.
Those personal motivators get to come out here, whereas they may not have been as apparent in your answers to the more general questions.
Here is where you get to showcase who you are as it relates to what makes you proud.
This gives the interviewers insight into what makes you tick; what type of work environment you thrive in (and the reactions or follow-up questions may also give you feedback about the type of environment where you’re interviewing, which is key information for you, too; remember, you’re interviewing them as much as they are interviewing you), and can lead to fantastic follow-up discussions about fit and culture.
Have a few projects or achievements ready to go if you’re asked this question so that you can use the one that fits the environment or industry or organization best.
Your pride will shine through. People will notice. And that makes a genuine human connection in quality organizations.
Katherine Metres Akbar
Interview Coach |
President, YES Career Coaching & Resume Writing Services
Give a quantified accomplishment from which the employer would want to benefit
For example, if you are going for a job as an IT project manager, you could talk about a project you took over that was behind schedule and in trouble.
You’d paint a dramatic picture of the problem, very briefly mention the chief actions you took, and paint a dramatic picture of the happy ending: how you got it done in only X months, on budget and met the client’s needs.
Another way to answer the question could be personal, showing perseverance and personal character. For example,
“I’m proud that I came back from Stage 3 cancer, and in the following year, I still managed to hit 90% of my sales targets. I even exceeded one target of $400,000.”
I would only bring up this type of thing, though, if you are clearly out of the woods—for example if you’ve been cancer-free for five years.
Founder and Owner, Fertile Ground Communications
Tailor the response based on the type of job and that position’s success factors
Ideally, by the time you are asked this type of question, you have a clear understanding of what the hiring manager’s pain points are, what success looks like in the organization or role, and why you are the perfect candidate for the job.
Prepare a handful of career stories
Before your interview, I’d suggest you prepare a handful of stories to choose from in answering all of your interview questions, not just this one.
Think back over your career and pay close attention to praise you’ve received in your performance reviews, times where you really felt a true sense of accomplishment or pride in your work, or occasions when your coworkers expressed gratitude.
Brainstorm all of the things you can think of in a journal, and then choose the best ones to develop into stories that demonstrate your talents and capabilities.
Think about large or complex projects you’ve completed, awards, or recognition you have received, new skills or certifications you have developed, times when you have given back to your community, and ways you have helped other people succeed.
Think about your superpower and how you’ve thrived in your previous positions. Depending on what success looks like at the hiring organization, choose the story that best fits.
Set the stage for the interview team and give as much detail as you can about your experiences. If you can, tell the story in a way that doesn’t sound like you are bragging, but rather sharing how good it made you and others feel.
When I’ve told my pride stories in interviews, I can always tell if they meet the interview team’s needs by the looks on their faces (or their verbal responses if on a phone interview). With some thoughtful preparation, you’ll find the best story to pull out of your toolbox and get that job!
Terry B. McDougall, PCC, MBA
Executive & Career Coach | CEO, Terry B. McDougall Coaching
As an interview candidate, answering this question gives you the opportunity to demonstrate the three questions that must be answered in the interviewer’s mind in order to get the job:
- Do you have the skills to do the job?
- Do you have the drive and experience to do the job?
- Will you fit into our company culture?
Select something you are proud of that relates to a challenge you’ll face in the role you’re interviewing for
Provide an overview of the problem that you faced, the action that you took, and what the measurable results were and why you were proud of that example.
Let your energy and enthusiasm show and keep your answer concise. Remember that the interviewer can always ask you follow up questions. Making the interview a conversation can take some of the pressure off you and helps build rapport with the interviewer.
CEO, WebSpero Solutions
As an interviewer, I think this is how one should answer:
Provide a realistic example related to the job you’re applying for
Tell the interviewer how you accomplished realistic goals. For example, a few weeks ago, I asked an applicant, “What are you most proud of?” The individual described how he helped create an online directory to manage documents while making them available for other employees.
Talk about the task
Instead of saying ‘I am honest’ or ‘I am hardworking’, use an example to describe a proud moment and make it impactful. Tell the interviewer how you helped overcome a problem in your last organization.
I remember a candidate, who applied for the job of SEO executive, answered, “A Google algorithm update had decreased organic traffic on a website. My job was to find issues and fix them to make the website compliant with the new Google update. I spent hours making a plan. It worked and the organic traffic picked up”. This is the answer interviewers look for.
Sara Jane McDonald
Director of Talent Acquisition, Lionbridge
The question “what are you most proud of” gives candidates the opportunity to highlight a major accomplishment. It also gives them the chance to create confidence with the hiring team.
Show that you have the larger skillset while tying it to an outcome
For example, if you are most proud of the fact that you closed your company’s highest revenue-generating account, look for a way to link this to values the hiring manager may be looking for:
“I’m really proud of an account I closed using best practices from team training.”
A well-rounded response should tie the skillsets you have and the ones the company needs together.
Michael Tomaszewski, CPRW
Resume Expert and Career Advice Writer, Zety
Focus on a career-related answer
The crucial thing to remember here is that this question relates to your professional performance. No matter how impressive your winning a national pie-eating contest or a Spelling Bee back in high school was- that’s not what recruiters are eager to hear.
Make sure you prepare the answer to this question in advance and remember specific examples.
Think of your biggest, work-related achievement like significant money you earned for the company, acquired customers, a groundbreaking improvement, successful campaign, or a big promotion or anything that’s related to the position you apply for and can put you in a positive light.
Resume Expert and Career Advice Writer, ResumeLab
From what we’ve been seeing, prospective job candidates are either arrogant or they are too humble when speaking about their past career accomplishments. In reality, neither option is good because the interviewer is looking for both self-aware and confident.
The good news is, there’s a bulletproof formula that will help you successfully answer the question and propel your chances of acing an interview.
- Mention your strongest career accomplishment and link it to the critical skills or duties requested in the job offer.
- Back your response with a real-life success story from your previous job(s).
Below is an example:
“I take pride in my writing skills and the ability to work to tight deadlines under pressure. For example, in my previous role at XYZ, I was once asked to complete a project that fell through the cracks. The editor-in-chief found the mistake two hours before the deadline.
It was an important blog post that would give our outlet a scoop on the topic in question. What I did was hunker down and finish the piece. As a result, the article was published on time and acclaimed.”
Director of Operations, MyCorporation
The answer to this question should be appropriate and reflective of the role you’re applying for.
Do not say something like winning a keg stand competition or anything equally as off-putting. Do mention an accomplishment that you worked hard to do on your own, like starting a popular podcast. Detail the steps that you took to get there and what inspired you to get started for the full story.
CMO, Hill & Ponton Law
There are companies that let their applicants feel at ease and comfortable so that they may not be so nervous while waiting for their name to be called out and be hot-seated in the interview room.
While helping the applicant be confident there is still one question that applicants don’t know how to answer – “What you are most proud of?” which sometimes becomes a tricky question to let out applicant’s character.
If you can’t think of any answers for this, below are some of the tips for you:
- The first thing you have to do if you still don’t have an answer at the time is to smile, it is to let the interviewer feel that you really welcome her question and can be open about it.
- Be confident but not too proud. Being confident doesn’t always mean you’re too proud, held your head high, and say openly what things you are most proud of.
- State facts without sugar-coating, even if it is small things such as you just graduated, you let your parents smile, you’re doing something to look for a job.
You will give your interviewer the impression that little things matter to you most and it is in small things that you do you’re being proud of because you believe that it could be your milestone for the next big thing.
Related: What Not to Say in a Job Interview
Carole Stizza, SRM-SCP, ACC, SSCS
Executive Coach, Relevant Insight
Mention a success story related to the job opportunity
When asked this question in a job interview, the job candidate has the opportunity to offer a success story that pertains to the job role and highlights how their experience connects directly with the job opportunity.
The goal of being prepared for this question is to have several success stories to share and then offer the most relevant success to the job.
In addition, the candidate can control what the interviewer hears by offering how that proud moment provides particular experiences that they now can bring to the new organization.
Remembering to connect the proud event to the new role is key to make this opportunity effective.
Be memorable. Interviewers have very little time to judge the character of someone who they are going to invest in for years to come.
Be memorable by crafting an interesting story that the interviewer would like
What are you actually most proud of? I’d start with that. Is this accomplishment something that you can spin into a positive career attribute? Use it.
Maybe your actual proudest accomplishment doesn’t tie into the job in any way. Does it show a positive personality trait? Use it. If not, move on to the next thing.
Most importantly, practice the most commonly asked questions, so that you have a good response ready!
CEO, Authority Dental
Find something you can briefly tell
Give the cause, course, and effect. The recruiter wants to know how you treat your successes – whether these make you want to continue working or make you believe that you have achieved everything in the field.
Think about how to tell about this success by including answers to 5W
Answer: who, what, when, where, why. This will help to understand what the project was, what your role was, whether you worked alone or in a team, when it happened, where it happened, and why it was you who carried out the project. You can also add a brief H – how.
If you cannot find an answer related to your professional life, use your study time or private life
Many people respond spontaneously – being a mother, driving license, becoming a father, graduating. If it is your pride – say so. But tell us briefly about the pain points you had in your way. This will show your competence and your personality regardless of the answer.
Founder and CEO, Mavens & Moguls
Use an example that authentically shows your best traits
It can be personal (family/hobby), professional, or athletic as there is no right answer here. The key is what it reveals about you, your priorities, personality, and character.
Especially for companies that hire more on cultural fit vs specific skills, they want to see if you will thrive in their environment. For example, are you proud of personal achievements or ones that were part of a team or group? Both are great but think about what stories to tell.
President, WikiLawn Lawn Care
When we ask this question, we’re looking to see what sorts of things excite the applicant, or what really stands out in their mind.
This can tell us a lot about their personality, as someone who’s most proud of helping more customers than anyone else in their department could have a completely different personality than someone who’s proud of achieving a particular sales goal.
Look at the job description and pick out the experiences you’ve had that complement it
For example, we posted a job last year that asked for customer support professionals who were dedicated to working through problems “off script” and arriving at the best solution with the customer.
One person we interviewed answered this question by relaying an anecdote where they’d stayed on the line with an elderly woman whose first language wasn’t English. They worked with her for almost two hours to help solve her issue, remaining patient, and reassuring her that they would find a solution together.
This was exactly the type of person we were looking for, and we hired them in large part because of this answer.
Personal Finance Expert, Logical Dollar
Use an example that shows your ability to work hard and to stay committed to the task at hand
These are attributes that your potential employer is almost certainly looking for. It doesn’t really matter if your example is a personal or professional achievement.
What’s more important is that you discuss something which demonstrates your soft skills that are also applicable to the job for which you’re applying.
This means that it will be important for you to go through the process you followed in order to reach this achievement. For example, if you’re proud of the fact that you completed a marathon, don’t just say this and leave it at that. Instead, discuss things like your hours of training, even when you just wanted to stay on the couch.
This will show your employer how you can focus on a goal and stay committed to achieving it, even when times are tough – which is just what they’re looking for in their next employee.
CEO and Co-founder, Community Tax
Make sure to provide an ethical answer
The question of “What are you most proud of?” is typically asked to gauge an interviewee’s ability to communicate in an effective, concise manner. It also provides insight into the interviewee’s idea of pride and the types of things that bring out their sense of pride.
For instance, if an interviewee launched into a story about being proud of going over somebody’s head or doing something frowned upon/unethical to climb the ladder, and then framed it in a way that made it sound like their actions stemmed from tenacity, then that might send some red flags to an interviewer.
Ultimately, we want to see that the interviewee possesses strong communication skills and their sense of pride comes from an ethical place.
When hiring, employers look at both soft and hard skills in a candidate. Hard skills are the ones we get through formal education, while soft skills represent our personal traits such as excellent communication skills, leadership skills, or conflict-resolution skills.
Candidates should craft their answers to highlight their soft and hard skills evenly
Candidates’ should think about the situations they feel most proud of and craft their response accordingly. For instance, for PPC managers this would be:
“I managed to improve the client’s revenue by five percent while working on an extremely tight schedule while maintaining constant communication with the client to secure the results match their current needs.”
Liam Hunt, M.A.
Financial Writer, CPIInflationCalculator.com
Avoid conventional answers, such as mentioning how well you’ve raised your children or how you graduated college with honors.
Reach out to former colleagues and ask them what they think your greatest accomplishment is
The answers they give you may vary from your preconceived ideas of what meaningful accomplishments are.
Their responses will provide a broader perspective for you and may tell you something about what other people value in you. It’s important that you bring these perspectives to your job interview so you don’t recite an answer that’s uninspiring or generic.
Chances are that your colleagues notice small, accumulated accomplishments that you yourself have overlooked.
These achievements, over time, tell a story about your character, skills, and work ethic – all of which your future employer will appreciate and value.
An ancillary benefit of reaching out to your former colleagues is that it will build rapport and reciprocity with your ex-coworkers, who will serve as important social and professional connections throughout your career.
Maintaining these connections as you switch jobs will help you nurture a strong professional network and chain of references that can vouch for your skills and intangible strengths.
Strategy & Planning, Iakoe
It wouldn’t hurt to provide a personality-related answer
Job interview questions are often barbed, yet there is too much of a focus on coming across as industrious and career-focused. Some of the most genuine answers I’ve received from candidates have humanized that individual to me and made me more inclined to hire them.
If a person is most proud of raising his or her family and being able to support them through maintaining a good career, that speaks volumes about their character to me.
Finding out a candidate’s technical and job-related credentials is vital, but the personality fit and values of the person is equally crucial to our hiring process.
Editor & Content Ambassador, Romantific
Most of the time, job interviews make or break our chances of getting hired. Not everyone has the chance to even proceed to the interview stage, as only 1 out of 6 candidates alone get that opportunity.
Since this is your one and only chance to make a good impression and sell our skills and knowledge to our future employers, screwing it up is not an option. I’ve learned this the hard way.
Some applicants do still slip especially during the more personal questions, so here are two job interview tips when someone asks you what you’re most proud of:
Oftentimes, our arrogance and overbearing pride shine when being asked this question. Remember you’re in a job interview, and you’re not just casually speaking with your pals about your achievements.
Interviewers also take into account your character as you answer the question. So brag, but brag in a humble and confident manner and tone.
Think of something that will make an impact
We all have a lot of brag-worthy achievements that we’re proud of but choose the one that is most relevant to the position you’re applying for. Emphasize the process and not the achievement itself.
Your employers are more interested in how you tackled the situation and the skills you employed as this shows how perfect of a fit you are for the job or not.
Founder and CEO, The Word Counter
As an employer, there’s really no wrong answer. It’s a personal question that gives a candidate the chance to self-reflect and tell me something about themselves.
One thing I do look for is a candidate who displays entrepreneurial behavior.
If someone started a side business or side hustle that they’re proud of, that means a lot to me. Or if they started some type of organization that means something to them, that is what I really look for and care about.
This demonstrates scrappiness, initiative, and the types of traits that are incredibly valued by employers. This separates a candidate from the rest of the bunch because they can speak to real-life examples of their work and how they have applied their passions in real life. The employer can then deduce how the candidate will take that same vigor and apply it to their business.