Answering the Most Important Interview Question of All Time

In a recent blog post for LinkedIn, Lou Adler, headhunter and author of Hire With Your Head and The Essential Guide for Hiring and Getting Hired shared what he calls, “the most important interview question of all time”, saying:

“Over the past 30+ years as a recruiter, I can confirm that at least two-thirds of my hiring manager clients weren’t very good at interviewing. Yet, over 90% thought they were. To overcome this situation, it was critical that I became a better interviewer than them, to prove with evidence that the candidate was competent and motivated to do the work required. This led me on a quest for the single best interview question that would allow me to overcome any incorrect assessment with actual evidence. It took about 10 years of trial and error. Then I finally hit upon one question that did it all…”

And here is Lou’s perfect interview question:

“What single project or task would you consider the most significant accomplishment in your career so far?”

Lou goes on to ask readers how they would respond to this question, saying:

“What accomplishment would you select? Then imagine over the course of the next 15-20 minutes I dug deeper and asked you about the following. How would you respond?”

    • Can you give me a detailed overview of the accomplishment?
    • Tell me about the company, your title, your position, your role, and the team involved.
    • What were the actual results achieved?
    • When did it take place and how long did the project take?
    • Why you were chosen?
    • What were the 3-4 biggest challenges you faced and how did you deal with them?
    • Where did you go the extra mile or take the initiative?
    • Walk me through the plan, how you managed to it, and if it was successful.
    • Describe the environment and resources.
    • Describe your manager’s style and whether you liked it or not.
    • Describe the technical skills needed to accomplish the objective and how they were used.
    • Some of the biggest mistakes you made.
    • Aspects of the project you truly enjoyed.
    • Aspects you didn’t especially care about and how you handled them.
    • How you managed and influenced others, with lots of examples.
    • How you were managed, coached, and influenced by others, with lots of examples.
    • How you changed and grew as a person.
    • What you would do differently if you could do it again?
    • What type of formal recognition did you receive?

As you can see, this one interview questions captures a ton of information because it leads to many other exposing and insightful questions.

At Mom Corps, we try to help prep candidates for interviews with prospective employers, and think that this is a FABULOUS interview question to prepare for because it enables the candidate to really show the employer why they can handle the job. Additionally, it shows the interviewer what the candidate has accomplished, and how they’ve overcome challenges. The answers also provide conversation material between the interviewer and the candidates’ references.

If you are currently interviewing for a job, we encourage you to take a moment to journal out your response to this multifaceted interview question.

If you are not currently interviewing for a job, consider taking some notes on how you’d respond to this question anyways. Why? Because one day you might need to interview for a job and the details of your current projects may not be as fresh in your mind down the road as they are today.

One idea you might want to consider is to keep a Word document in a folder on your computer along with your resume, and every time you have a “win” at work, quickly type a note to yourself on the Word document. That way, you’ll be able to revisit your past accomplishments to refresh your memory before an interview.

Capture your accomplishments and become comfortable talking about your abilities as a professional. The more you practice, the easier it will become!

What was the best interview question you’ve ever given or received?


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