Answering "How Do You Define Success" in an Interview

How do you define success? How do you define success or how do you measure success may be a question asked during a job interview. This is an open-ended question with no right or wrong response, and it gives a great chance for you to exhibit the traits that most employers are searching for—determination, passion, drive, excitement, and a shared collaborative vision—through your replies and body language.

how do you define success

What the interviewer wants to know

A question like this is meant to offer a feel of your work ethic, ambitions, and general personality to your future employer.

Your interviewer is also attempting to figure out if you'd be a good fit for their business culture. Is your concept of success in line with the company's goals? Will your goals be compatible with the company's mission?

The best answers to this question show that you are a candidate who is concerned about establishing and maintaining personal and professional standards.

If you can show how you've been a quality-conscious, improvement-oriented employee in the past, this will impress the hiring manager.

How to answer "How do you define success?"

The easiest way to respond to this question is to give concrete instances of your accomplishments and explain the reasons that led to them. Then describe how you used what you learnt from each event to further your career and achieve great results.

how do you define success

You might be able to recall a moment when you led a team that delivered a product ahead of schedule. Describe the measures done to guarantee that good quality was maintained despite the tight deadline.

You might then describe how you recognized each team member's contributions and how you and your team were able to apply the same method to future deliveries.

For instance, you might say:

"I like to keep a steady level of output and accept both my achievements and mistakes with grace. I try to take something away from both and apply it to future circumstances.

For instance, in August of last year, my sales team won P&Z as a customer. We were all ecstatic, so I treated my team to a celebratory meal. I devised a set of awards to honor specific members of the team and recognize their contributions to the process."

Or you could say

"I then scheduled a meeting for the following Tuesday to break down the process and identify the techniques that had helped us succeed. We discussed new objectives, and six months later, employing some of the same strategies, we acquired another big consumer products customer."

Steps to answer this question

Self-reflection and practice communicating your views may be required while preparing to define success.

Here are some strategies for properly answering this question in an interview:

Consider your achievements

Consider your best accomplishments to see how you define success. Make a list of at least five. Perhaps you are pleased of a promotion you earned at your previous work, or perhaps you consider changing careers to be one of your greatest achievements.

Look for common threads in those achievements. These patterns may indicate your definition of success.

For example, if many of your accomplishments center around overcoming anxieties and obstacles to reach your objectives, you may define success in this way.

Express your success

The simplest to focus on are your most prominent successes, such as becoming an executive or ultimately generating a significant return on a new firm. Short-term gains, such as achieving daily, weekly, and monthly goals, can also be defined as success.

When you look at success as a process, you may concentrate on the tiny victories that lead to a big triumph.

Consider the company values

Consider how they may define success while conducting research prior to an interview. Synthesize your definition of success with the company's values, which will allow you to respond to the interviewer's question while also demonstrating that you understand and share the company's goal.

If you're interviewing with a non-profit, for example, its success may depend less on money and more on having a beneficial impact in the community.

Give examples

Because success can be vague at times, giving interviewers specific, tangible examples can help to establish your definition and offer you another opportunity to discuss your accomplishments.

Give concrete examples of a moment when you felt successful and explain how it happened.

Tell the interviewer about a time when you exceeded a target and completed a project ahead of schedule if you define success as leading a team to accomplish collective and individual goals.

Then you may talk about how you assisted your team by increasing collaboration, recognizing individual efforts to motivate them, and creating goals.

Example answers to "How do you define success?"

Here are example of how you can explain your definition of success through your interview question response.

how do you define success

Example one (entry-level jobs)

“I consider success to be a journey rather than a destination. At this point in my profession, every accomplishment, large or small, propels me ahead, helping me to hone my talents and improve my performance. In my previous work, I often volunteered for new tasks and took advantage of every learning opportunity. Along the way, I honed my abilities to the point where I was able to surpass my sales targets by 32%. I didn't only assist the firm achieve new heights when I advanced professionally; I also felt accomplished, and it's a feeling I like re-earning anytime the opportunity arises.”

Example two (management roles)

“As a manager, I measure success not just by my own accomplishments, but also by those of my team. In my previous role, I was able to teach people, providing them with valuable advice that increased productivity and profitability. We were able to cut project expenses by 28% thanks to efficiency gains, all while never missing a deadline and surpassing all quality requirements. It was one of my proudest achievements, and it's something I hope to repeat with my new employer.”

how do you define success

Example three (upper management)

“I define success in two ways as a leader. To begin, I consider success to be assisting the firm in achieving its broader goals, enabling for the establishment of bolder ones. Second, increasing employee engagement and encouraging them to strive for greater success qualifies. In my previous position, I was able to execute cultural changes that had a significant influence on the workplace, resulting in a 10% increase in productivity. As a result, we were able to move ahead toward a brighter future, one in which I was happy to participate.”

Example four (general)

"Success is defined in a variety of ways for me. At work, it's achieving the objectives set by my bosses and coworkers. From spoken with a few of your other workers, I gather that the GGR firm is known for not just recognizing achievement but also for providing opportunity for people to advance. After work, I like playing softball, so catching a pop fly to win the game equals victory on the field."

Example five (general)

"I have a tendency to think of success as a series of small victories. I never want to be in a situation where I feel like there is nothing more to learn or achieve as someone who is energized by new, challenging tasks. To me, success is defined as the ability to leave work each evening feeling content that I've learned something new or valuable."

how do you define success

Example six (general)

"Making a difference in other people's lives will always be the definition of success for me. If I know that my work has helped someone get a job, feed their family, or turn their life around at the end of the day, I sleep well at night and wake up excited to get back to work the next day."

Answer tips

Tips for answering "How do you define success?"

Research the company

You should be aware of the sort of job you're applying for in your response. While a major business may put all of its focus on the bottom line, a volunteer organization would assess success in terms of social effect rather than money. A software may place a high focus on product management or innovation. While a publisher could place a big emphasis on page views.

Browse the company's website, investigate its presence in the press and other media, and see if you can uncover any information on its mission statement as you prepare for your interview.

Keep an eye out for business web pages with headings like "Our Mission" or "About Us." This is the simplest and quickest approach to figure out how the firm defines success; your objective should be to replicate this definition in your own statement.

Include your personality

If there's a point in the interview where your values align with the company's, be sure to bring it up. However, you should offer a balanced response that demonstrates a dynamic emphasis on improving your own performance, promoting your company's purpose, and making a good effect in general.

You should be able to demonstrate to the hiring committee that you share their vision and will be a valuable contribution to the company's growth and development.

how do you define success

Quantify your information

Defining success can feel personal. Though, this is one of those interview questions where the interviewer wants to learn about the positive impact you had in your last company. When you hear them ask this question, be prepared to share numbers or data.

"I was able to lift our sales by 4X last year," for example.

Team goals are also successful metrics to share in your answer.

Remind the interview of what you can contribute

In a perfect world, your response would also highlight the particular abilities and values you can bring to the company (and which other job candidates may lack). Make sure your definition of success includes a desirable quality you possess, such as collaboration, empathy, self-motivation, or other valuable soft skills.

Mistakes to avoid

Here are common mistakes to avoid when answering this question.

Including your personal views

While this question is meant to elicit information about your personal values, an interview is not the place to discuss your political or religious convictions (unless you're interviewing for a position with a political party or as a pastor).

This is not a time to share your definitions of what life looks like. Or to reference how your lifestyle is impacted by your work. Avoid speaking about yourself.

Using a personal story

Because you're trying to show your professionalism as a job candidate at an interview, your answer should define success in the context of the office, not at home.

Mentioning your family may create concerns about whether you will be a diligent employee or whether your family commitments will lead to excessive absence.

how do you define success

author: patrick algrim
About the author

Patrick Algrim is a Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW), NCDA Certified Career Counselor (CCC), and general career expert. Patrick has completed the NACE Coaching Certification Program (CCP). And has been published as a career expert on Forbes, Glassdoor, American Express, Reader's Digest, LiveCareer, Zety, Yahoo,, SparkHire,,, FairyGodBoss,, St. Edwards University, NC State University,, Thrive Global,, Work It Daily, Workology, Career Guide, MyPerfectResume, College Career Life, The HR Digest, WorkWise, Career Cast, Elite Staffing, Women in HR, All About Careers, Upstart HR, The Street, Monster, The Ladders, Introvert Whisperer, and many more. Find him on LinkedIn.

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