How to Answer the Question, How Do You Define Success? In an Interview
How to Answer the Question, ‘How Do You Define Success?’ In an Interview
In a job interview, you can expect some common questions from the hiring manager, regardless of the position for which you’re applying and the industry in which you work. One such question relates to how you define success. Often, hiring managers want to know what you see as personal, team, and organizational success to evaluate your suitability as a candidate for the company. Learn more about why employers ask this question, review steps for crafting an answer, consider example responses, and read about what not to say.
Asking about your definition of success is a popular tactic for employers and hiring managers because your answer to this open-ended question gives your potential employer important information about your priorities, personal work philosophy, and expectations.
Your answer could reflect what you think are the most important aspects of the position. For example, if you say success is seeing everyone on the team succeed, you’re telling the hiring manager that you value teamwork and communication.
You can also communicate your personal philosophy on your work to the hiring manager with your answer. For example, if you mention how important it is to complete every task by the set deadline, the hiring manager will see you hold yourself to high expectations when it comes to timeliness.
Finally, the hiring manager might be able to see what your expectations for the position are based on your response. If you say your definition of success in this role would be closing at least five new sales a month, the hiring manager gets a sense of what you expect the position to look like.
Sample Answers to “How Do You Define Success?”
Example Answer 1:
I define success as challenging myself, growing, and learning.
I also look at success in terms of how much I’m helping my team and company.
I don’t think you can have a good definition of success without looking at the results you achieve with your team.
Yet, I think it’s also a mistake to look only at results. I wouldn’t consider myself successful in my work if I weren’t improving, advancing to higher levels of work, analyzing mistakes to turn them into learning opportunities, etc.
Example Answer 2:
My definition of success is putting forth a consistent effort and working to get the best possible outcome in any situation. For me, success starts with my work ethic. When I look back and analyze my past work, I evaluate success based on whether I made the best of the situation.
Of course, I also recognize that there are more objective ways to define success in most roles, and I do track my work metrics and progress carefully. For example, in my last role, I tracked my performance among other sales staff, and relative to our team goals, to ensure I was contributing more than what was expected of me. This approach worked well to keep me motivated and accountable, and in the past year, I achieved more than 145% of my individual sales quota.
Example Answer 3:
I define success by looking at my effort and the overall outcome of a situation. I try to maintain a strong work ethic and approach each project and task with great effort and a positive attitude.
And I like to review the results of my work to look for ways to improve or make an even larger positive impact in the future.
I think that’s one way that any project can be successful — if you’re able to look back and learn a lot from it.
This definition of success has helped me be a consistent worker and steadily improve throughout my career.
I noticed in your job description that your company values professional development and learning on the job, so I was excited that the company’s vision seems to match up well with how I approach professional goals and how I define success.
Example Answer 4:
To me, success means giving my best effort to each task I’m working on, and also striving to learn and improve steadily.
I’ve taken this approach in my personal life, such as in sports, as well as in previous jobs.
I also think that success means being patient and planning for the long-term. Professional success takes time, and so it’s important to bring a high level of effort every day, not just the days when you feel like it.
To me, being a successful person means being someone my team can count on for that consistent effort.
And success means that I can look back after each month and year and see that I’ve improved, too.
Example Answer 5:
In a leadership position like the role I’ve applied for here, I think that success relates to the growth and performance of the team. Success should always be looked at as a team effort to some extent.
If my team isn’t producing great work, growing, bonding, and feeling positive, then I’m not succeeding as a manager.
When I reviewed your job posting, it seemed like teamwork and collaboration are some of your company’s top values, so I was excited to learn more about what you look for in the leaders you hire.
An Effective Answer Sample
Keep in mind that you should never learn by heart something that you found on the internet. Use it for cues, personalize it with your own story, and always be as natural and authentic as possible.
“To me, success can be defined in many ways depending on if you mean my career or my private life. In terms of my professional career, I would consider myself successful every time I am given the chance to work in a company that shares my values and goals.
Through my research, I’ve found out that your mission is to positively impact the world by accelerating our transition to sustainable energy. This is a significant undertaking for me, and I would be proud to help you succeed in that goal.
While I was working at [company name], I created a cost-benefit analysis that convinced my employer to switch from a standard energy source to a more sustainable option. This reduced our CO2 emissions by 60% in the first year while cutting electricity costs in half. I want to be part of similar successes with your company.”
Want More Support?
Start by considering the type of position you’re applying for and know what to expect based on that. Interviewing for a hostess job? Read about Hostess Interview Questions. Interviewing for a Cook position? Read all common Cook Interview Questions here. Also, check out our in-depth guidance in Answering Tell Me About Yourself in Interview, responding to Why Do You Want to Work Here? and the dreaded, Why We Should Hire You!
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