The one question you should nail at every job interview

The one question you should nail at every job interview

In nearly 20 years recruiting in the information technology and telecommunication sectors, I’ve often been asked the best question or questions to ask at an job interview, or how best to prepare for what feels like for most people an ‘interrogation’.

Statistically, most people know interviews by themselves are not the best predictor of success to recruit exceptional candidates, nor are they if you want to land that dream job that fulfils your career goal expectations.

However, as a candidate there is one particular question you need to thoroughly prepare for, and be able to answer well to help secure your next dream job. Get this one question right and you’re well on your way to continued career success.

As a hiring manager, a candidate’s response to this interview question can tell you a great deal about your possible future employee….

All parties need to execute it well for maximum effectiveness and value.


We’ll assume you properly pre-screen your candidates and conduct initial, structured telephone interviews. (We encourage our clients to have at least one candidate interview in their office, before making a hiring decision. For both candidates and clients, it still amazes me how such an important decision is sometimes made from just one 30-60 minute ‘interview’ in a local coffee shop!)

THE Question

Interviewer – “When thinking about your most significant achievements, please describe in detail one achievement you think is most relevant to us and this role. Why?”

You’re the candidate

Take the time to prepare and think about which of your achievements to date is most relevant to each company and role you apply for. It needs to be significant and of value, relevant (showing how you and it relates to the position and company), ideally be able to help differentiate you from other applicants, and be one referees can validate. It may not be that easy for many people.

As a tip, provide your relevant, significant achievement response in the S.T.A.R.format or similar. Describe the Situation and context of the achievement, specificTasks and Actions you executed, and most importantly the Results and benefits achieved. Ensure the interviewer is absolutely clear why this achievement was important, and how it relates to their company and the role you’re applying for. A good balance of quantitative (facts, figures, data, budgets etc) and qualitativeinformation is key. (people relationships, initiative required, learning gained, changes needed, conflict management, teamwork etc).

Your quality response to the interviewers question should require at least 15-20 minutes to do it justice. Don’t waffle to fill in time – remember to keep structure to your response. Further, don’t respond with a ‘mother hoody’ or general answer that adds no real value and provides the interviewer with little or no new additional information about you. Don’t confuse this question with the “what are your strengths” question.

You’re a Hiring Manager / Interviewer

As a hiring manager this is a simple and great question to get the ball rolling after you’ve completed your pre-interview ‘putting that candidate at ease chat’ and outlining the format of your semi structured interview process to follow.

As a good interviewer, remember you need to probe properly with relevant questions in the same vein as your main question. Resist the urge to talk too much, go on a tangent, or ask another non related question. Actively listen towhat and how your next potential employee is responding to your question (one of the other reasons we recommend having at least two people in an interview, and conducting it in a controlled environment like an office).

Depending on the candidate’s response and your probing, you should be able to cover off several interview areas – delivery track record, ability to learn and adapt, leadership and coaching, communication and influencing, motivation, teamwork, financial management etc etc. You should also get a sense of the person’s interest and motivation in your employment opportunity and ability to perform as a possible future A-Player in your business. The key objective of a quality recruitment interview!

From this question, you’ll have a nice segue into your more specific position and business questions.

Good luck! Hope you nail this question at your next interview.

If you would like more specific information on how to Recruit, Retain and Retrain A-Player employees, please feel free to get in touch.

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