What Accomplishment Are You Most Proud Of?

By referral from a friend, I got a call from the HR manager at a large Seattle based company that’s not Microsoft or Boeing. Or Starbucks. Although, working for Starbucks could be fun, I don’t think I could attain the required level of jauntiness each morning.

She asked if I’d be interested in a number of open positions with her company. After she explained the positions I told her I was interested.

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The hiring manager emailed me two job descriptions. I prepared for the interview as best I could which wasn’t difficult because I’ve been a customer of this company for many years and am familiar with many of their products and services.

The first few interviews would take place over the phone, and I had my first one last week. I kept my answers short since I couldn’t count on nonverbal cues to assist me there. Most questions were the open ended scenario type. For example, “You recognize a business opportunity that would drive significant revenue. How do you pitch it to your boss?”

And then the interviewer tosses in a few hurdles as I explain my plan. But nothing too intense.

I felt the interview was going well, as best I could tell. But I’ve been hired after what I thought to be a poor interview and been passed over after feeling confident I rocked it.

And then she asked me a question that caught me off guard a bit: “What is the accomplishment you’re most proud of?”

I know the game. This is where I’m supposed to spout of a well rehearsed tale of how I took the reigns of the over-budget software project and gently guided it to completion. Or how I flew across the country to placate an important and upset client thereby saving the account and our quarterly bonuses.

I had a list of inflated stories to tell recruiters right out of college so surely I’d have a collection of real-world Superman stories to tell fifteen years later. Certainly they’d be right there on the tip of my tongue.

But they weren’t.

So I gave what felt was the honest answer: “The accomplishment I’m most proud of being the father of four children and, with my spouse, raising them to be cheerful, confident and productive adults one day.”

As those words escaped my lips, I immediately thought, “Oh crap,what did I just do?”

I don’t know what answer the interviewer expected, but if the silence on the line is any indication, I don’t believe it was the answer I gave. And that’s OK, because it’s the truth. Because I’m done answering interview questions with hyperbolized answers even if that means I don’t make it past the phone interview stage.

When I interviewed for my first job at Microsoft, I’d been prepped by a squad of handlers who wanted to see me join their team. I’d memorized all the requisite buzzwords and knew what questions to expect. Of course, I nailed the eight interviews only to land in a position I dreaded.

So I may not get this job at this large Seattle company with great benefits and well prepared interviewers.

But I’ll still be Superman at home.

At least until the next time my son conks me on the head with a Nintendo controller.

Comments

  1. Great answer! I hope you get the job you want.

  2. I’ve made an informal study of why I’ve gotten hired over the years, and why some family members have been hired. I’d bet my bottom dollar that if the rest of the interview went as well as that one question and answer, you landed the job.

    I always ask employers (after I’ve been at a job a while) why they hired me. The very first attorney I worked for when I was just out of business college hired me because he saw 11 X’s on my business college transcript with a note from my Dad. He asked me what those X’s were for, and I explained that when I was growing up, Dad would give me an X for a good report card. The note from Dad said that 10 X’s was the most he’d ever given, but this one was worth 11. The attorney said that he’d been paying his kids a fortune to get them to study, and that my Dad must be a special guy to be able to get me to work for an X — and that I must really want to work, if I’d work for an X.

    See — you never know what’s going through the mind of an interviewer!

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