Tough Interview Question - How do you personally define success?

How do you personally define success?

Similar interview questions:
What does success look like to you?
What do you want to accomplish in your first year on the job?
How will you know you are successful in your role?
What will your first performance review say about your results?

Why the interviewer is asking this question:
The interviewer is looking for both your motivation and your measurement system. In a way, this is a work ethic question, since it is asking about how you define success. But it is more than that. The interviewer is looking beyond the definition for success and actually looking for how you plan to achieve that success. Or if you have a plan at all.

The best approach to answering this question:
Use specific examples of successes you have achieved to date and then walk the interviewer through the steps (situation or task, action and results) you personally took to acheieve that success. Ideally, you should talk about a goal that was set for you where you exceeded expectations.

An example of how to best answer this question for experienced candidates:
"I define success as delivering more than is expected of me. Let me give you an example. My primary goal for this past year has been the delivery of the new accounting system. While the main driving force behind the delivery of this new system has been to update our systems to reflect current accounting practices, I also identified several process steps which could be automated as part of this system upgrade. After consultation with the team, I integrated these process steps into the system, which how saves our accounting team a total of 30 to 40 hours each month during month-end closing…"

An example of how to best answer this question for entry level candidates:
"I define success as delivering more than is expected of me. Let me give you an example. During my internship last summer, I was given a main goal to deliver research on selection of new collaboration tools for our business unit. I went beyond that initial research and actually implemented several test tools for the team to work with as a trial. Those tools are now being rolled out throughout the company based on my initial work…"

An example of how you should not answer this question:
"I'm pretty money motivated, so money is my measuring stick. I know if I'm successful based on how much money I have been earning. If I'm doing well, I would expect to be paid more money. At the end of the day, the only real measure that crosses all professions is money. So show me the money and I'll show you the motivation."


Remember to answer each interview question behaviorally, whether it is a behavioral question or not. The easiest way to do this is to use an example from your background and experience. Then use the S-T-A-R approach to make the answer a STAR: talk about a Situation or Task (S-T), the Action you took (A) and the Results achieved (R). This is what makes your interview answer uniquely yours and will make your answer a star!


Further review: know the answers to these Fifty Standard Interview Questions to be fully prepared for your interview!

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