Whether you’ve had a long or short career, you’re proud of at least one project, one deliverable, or one great collaboration with others on the job, right? Hiring managers want to know about that peak moment. They want to know about it because it represents everything that is best about your work — your job skills, your motivation and your ability to work with the team.
You can’t answer with just “Oh, it was the XYZ project.” No, you have to not only explain that moment, but also why it was the one moment you are most proud of in all of your illustrious career. It’s not a right answer to just trot out some project with some business results. It’s not enough to show your ability to answer with a CAR framework. No, this is the time when you show the best of the best.
The right answer: the one that you are proudest of and is told as the hero’s journey.
This is when you are told your life will change, whether you know it or not. You are called by your manager and asked to work on something important, whether it be a task, project or collaboration with others.
Here, you give the context to the work that will happen, just like the regular telling of the context of a story — the size of the project, importance to the business and what happened before you entered the picture.
If the proudest thing you’ve accomplished in your career was all easy, without difficulties, you’re missing the point of this interview question. No, what you are most proud of speaks to the trials you faced, the problems you had to overcome and the difficulties you experienced in doing the work. This is your time to talk through the big obstacles that you had to overcome to deliver results to the business — because these trials and how you overcame them is what the hiring manager wants to hear about.
Talk about the trials. Talk about how you overcame them. Show the hiring manager what it took to overcome difficulties.
Here, our hero has learned from experiences from the quest and shares what has been learned with others.
To sum up this story of your proudest moment, you must summarize what you learned from the project or event, how it influenced you through today, and how you have shared that experience with others.
Sure, you need to tell the business results that you achieved here, but in the proudest moment question, you have to give the personal learnings you took away from the experience.
When you tell your hero’s tale (your story), you are really summarizing your unique reasons for hiring you. You are telling the hiring manager that you have the job skills, you have motivation to overcome obstacles, and can work with a team to make business results. After all, those are the only three answers to interview questions. And your hero’s journey provides the powerful answer to all three.
Scot Herrick is the author of “I’ve Landed My Dream Job–Now What???” and owner of Cube Rules, LLC. Scot has a long history of management and individual contribution in multiple Fortune 100 corporations. In 2005, Scot started sharing these hard lessons at CubeRules.com, a site devoted to Career Advice for knowledge workers, whom he calls Cubicle Warriors.