A job interview is not the time to be modest or to sell yourself short. When hiring managers ask interview questions such as "What is the most significant contribution you made to the company during a past job or internship?" they want something meaningful. This is your time to shine. Other questions similar to this include "What is the greatest contribution you made to a past employer?" and "How did you contribute to the overall success of a company?"
The reason employers typically ask this is that they want to get a sense of what you bring to their organization. If you truly did something outstanding at a past job, then chances are very good you will be able to do something similar with them.
Many people make the mistake of answering these types of interview questions coyly because they do not want to brag about themselves. This is your chance to give evidence of what you have to offer, so do not take it lightly.
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How to Answer the Question
Discuss What You Have Accomplished Independently
You have likely worked on teams in the past that made a great accomplishment or two. There is definitely a time to talk about achievements earned by a group of people, but this particular question is your opportunity to say what you have done on your own.
This should be something that would not have been accomplished at the company had you not been there. While the ability to work successfully as part of a group is definitely desirable in countless jobs, you need to show that you personally are worthy of working at this company.
Relate Your Past Accomplishment to What You Can Do at This Company
Whatever contribution you choose to discuss as part of your answer, you need to ensure it is relatable to the company you want to work for. Hiring managers want to see what you can do for them when asking "What is the most significant contribution you made to the company during a past job or internship?"
This means you need to tailor your response to what you can do at this organization. For example, if at a previous job you designed a poster for a big promotion the store was having, that is not going to do you a lot of good if the job you are interviewing for does not require any creativity or artistic prowess. On the flip side of that coin, if the job you want can involve some creative outlets, then designing a poster would definitely be something to bring up.
Prepare for This Question by Determining Two or Three Key Accomplishments:
This question only wants you to discuss a single achievement, but as you are preparing your response before the actual interview, it can be good training to come up with several possible contributions. This gives you an opportunity to reflect on your career and really see what you have done. It also gives you some options to play with.
If you do not think one accomplishment would be a good fit for this particular business, then you have another one to pick from. This practice is also going to set your mind at ease if the interviewer wants to hear more about what you have done. You will have more to talk about than merely a single great thing you did.
- [Name of company] was located in a mall, and for several months, we were suffering financially. I asked my boss if I could try some promotional work because we really did not have anything in place for marketing. Once I got approval, I designed fliers and started passing them out at other local businesses. I offered to take any fliers they had to put them up in our store for some cross-promotion. The store also did not have any social media presence, so I set up a Facebook page and Twitter account for the store and posted regularly. I started doing all this about a year ago, and in the time since, our profits have increased by 150 percent.
- Six months ago, I was reviewing the company's bills and discovered that we were greatly overpaying for electricity and water. I recommended to my boss that we install energy-efficient light bulbs throughout the office and install low-flow toilets in all the bathrooms. She approved the idea and was very impressed with my initiative. In the time since, the company's electric bills have decreased an average of $200 a month- and our water bills have decreased an average of $250 a month.
There is bound to be something great you achieved in your career- so make sure to talk about it in detail when you are asked interview questions such as "What is the most significant contribution you made to the company during a past job or internship?"