How to Answer “Tell Me About a Time You Created a Goal and Achieved It” [+ Examples]

Nilda Melissa Diaz by Nilda Melissa Diaz, Career Advice Contributor Last Updated: November 02, 2022Rated 4.5/5 Stars

You’ve made it to the interview — good work! After reviewing your work history and skills, the interviewer hits you with a common behavioral question: “Tell me about a time you created a goal and achieved it.” How do you answer?

Not sure? Don’t worry! We’re here to help you come up with an impressive answer.

In this guide, we’ll explain why employers ask this question and provide:

  • Expert guidance for answering it
  • Tips for an effective answer
  • Example answers for top jobs

Why do potential employers request a story about a time you created a goal and achieved it

When it comes to this behavioral question, it’s about the journey, not the destination. The interviewer wants to know about your process: how you came up with the goal and the actions you took to achieve it.

“Recruiters want to know both about the goal and the process to gauge your level of ambition and initiative. An ideal example would be a work-related goal which would highlight the skills and abilities needed for the job you’re interviewing for,” says U.K.-based interview coach Margaret Buj.

“However, if you’re a new graduate and don’t have much work experience, you can definitely pick a personal goal. Even as an experienced professional, you can also pick a personal goal if it is something very impressive (e.g., preparing for an ultra-marathon and raising a huge amount of money for charity), but I’d definitely prepare an answer about a work-related goal as well,” she says.

How to answer, “Tell me a story about a time you created a goal and achieved it” (with examples)

Once you choose a story about the time you created a goal and achieved it, it’s time to prepare the answer. When it comes to interview answers that require storytelling, Buj recommends using the STAR method. STAR stands for Situation, Task, Action and Response.

“Use a STAR format — describe what your goal was and why it was a major challenge. Paint the picture for the interviewer so that they can understand the complexity of the goal,” she says.

“Then talk about what happened — any issues you were experiencing? Describe milestones you went through — a few sentences should be sufficient. What schedule did you keep to make this goal a reality? Did you have any challenges, and if so, how did you overcome them?” she adds.

“Finally, describe the result — ideally, you want something specific, e.g., time or money saved, improved profitability, etc. At the end, you might also want to mention what you’ve learned from this situation,” she concludes.

Keep these steps in mind when answering your interview questions, like “Tell me about the time you created a goal and achieved it.

1. Use the job description.
Always keep the job description in mind when answering interview questions. It is a key step. Even if your example has nothing to do with the industry, you should always frame it as one of the skills they’re asking for.

“I was taking dance classes at a nonprofit in town. I learned they had enrollment issues and decided to help by using my social marketing expertise to improve their numbers. We met up and created a social media campaign to attract new students. We were able to bring enrollment up 20% over the summer.”

2. Use specific examples.
Avoid being too broad when storytelling, and use examples that include your best skills.

“I noticed our holiday sales were lower than the previous years, so I set up a goal of auditing those campaigns. I reached out to our marketing department. Together, we reevaluated the campaigns from previous years. We found out how we failed and used that information to refresh our current holiday campaign, which has been successful.”

3. Focus on the goal-reaching process.
While the interviewer likes to hear about your goal, their attention lies in the process you came up with to reach it. It should be the bulk of your answer.

“I started in this company as a customer service representative while still trying to figure out what I wanted to do. Once I decided it was IT, I focused on studying, certifying and gaining experience. My first step was reaching out to H.R. for their education fund, then I also applied for scholarships through a specialized organization. Once that was taken care of, I decided to attend a night program to continue working. Toward the end of my program, I applied for an internship at our local office, where I gained IT experience. That internship has concluded, and now I’m here interviewing for this position, which is the next goal.”

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Answers to “Tell me a story about a time you created a goal and achieved it” for top jobs

Personal trainer
Among personal trainers’ skills are weight management, coaching, human anatomy knowledge, personal exercise program development, combined with their customer service skills.

I wanted to grab potential clients’ attention quickly and effectively, so I set a goal to gain a digital marketing certification. I researched online programs, in-person programs and reached out to previous clients who are professionals in the field. With their recommendation, I found a program that worked for me and I have used that knowledge to create campaigns for my business. 

Library assistant
Librarian assistants help keep libraries up and running through their assistance, clerical duties and tech knowledge, all while incorporating customer service skills.

My previous library faced a staff shortage, and things were not flowing. I created a goal to streamline processes. First, I play with a few possibilities, including a shared cloud system, Excel spreadsheet and a color coordinate system. I learned that a combination of the three and clear documentation helped run the library better while we faced our staff shortage challenge.

Operating room nurse
An integral part of keeping an operating room going, O.R. nurses’ skills include: inventory management, organizational skills, HIPAA compliance, post-operative care and more.

As you know, it is physically demanding to be an OR nurse. I set a goal to improve my physical health through weight lifting and cardio. To reach it, I found a personal trainer with a large roster of health care professionals, and we created a schedule that would work around my job. I am more energetic, sleep better, but most importantly, my alertness in the OR is better than ever. All thanks to my research for the best trainers.

Teacher
Teachers specialize in their subject and level of education. Among their skills are time management, cultural competency, resilience and organization skills.

“My students were falling behind in math during the pandemic. I created a goal to improve their level by assessing where they were, then reassessing at the end of the year after implementing changes. I went to work with lesson plans that incorporated math in our other classes, creating engaging activities, math Olympics and a fun hour that included math in regular life scenarios. My goal was achieved. By the end of the year, they were testing better than any other group in the school.”

Do’s and don’ts when answering “Tell me a story about a time you created a goal and achieved it”

As you get ready to connect with the hiring manager, review these pointers  to help you create answers for this and other behavioral questions.

  • Write down two or three examples before the interview.
  • Ask for story feedback from mentors and colleagues.
  • Use a personal goal where you demonstrate skills for this job.
  • Be clear and specific.
  • Use the negative aspects to jump into a lesson learned.
  • Arrive unprepared for your interview.
  • Focus the answer only on your goal.
  • Use a personal goal that has no connection to the job through skills or other aspects.
  • Use unnecessary details and vagueness.
  • Focus on the negative aspects of your story.

Tips for answering, “Tell me a story about a time you created a goal and achieved it” effectively

The best way to tackle an interview is to prepare. Keep these tips in mind as you practice for this and future interviews.

  • Practice possible answers before the interview.
    This is a commonly asked interview question, and whatever version you get, prepare a few examples before the day.
  • Include what you learned during the process.
    Keeping in mind the job description, include a lesson that could be applied to this job and use your skills.
  • Don’t avoid failure, but move on quickly.
    If there was a failure during your process, include it as a lesson and give it a positive spin. Avoid making it the center point of your answer. Use it as your aha moment to achieve your goal.
  • Take your time.
    While practice makes perfect, you also want to ensure you choose the right answer for the question. Take a breath and think before selecting an anecdote for your answer.
  • Prep before the interview.
    The best way to successfully tackle an interview is to prepare. Keep these tips in mind as you practice for this and future interviews.

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“Tell me about a time you created a goal and achieved it” important takeaways

  1. Before the interview, choose a few professional stories to assist your storytelling, and ask for feedback from mentors and colleagues.
  2. Try your best to connect your stories to the company’s values and goals.
  3. Make sure to include the strategic process between goal creation and achieving it.
  4. If you’re using a personal goal, ensure it demonstrates the skills needed for the position.
  5. Use the STAR method to guide your answer.

FAQ

1. What goal can I use if I have no experience?

As our expert, Margaret Buj said, if you’re starting out, you can use a personal example about how you created a goal and achieved it. You can talk about completing an online class, learning a new skill, or even starting a new hobby. Make sure it includes skills you would use in this job, like time management, organization, technical skills, etc.

2. Can I use an achievement from my resume as an answer?

Yes, you can use the accomplishment from your resume as an answer. Make sure to remind your interviewer that it is part of your resume to reiterate the importance of the goal.  Remember to quantify your accomplishments and frame your answer to include skills needed for this position. We can help you write a perfect work history.

3. How can I create a new resume if I’m not done with my job search?

We recommend tailoring your resume to each job application if you’re still in the job hunting process. Our Resume Builder is fast and easy. You can create a new resume or upload your current one for a refresh. You can start now and continue later. Start by choosing one of our resume templates.

4. Can I include a goal in my cover letter?

Your cover letter should elaborate on one or two accomplishments. Set a goal of creating a cover letter in minutes with our Cover Letter Builder. You will receive step-by-step guidance and industry-specific suggestions. Start by choosing one of our ATS-friendly, professionally designed templates.

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