“How do you define success?”

Interviewers often ask this question to get a sense of your goals, work ethics and overall personality. You may be caught off guard but remember that it’s an open-ended question with no right or wrong answers. It provides you with an opportunity to talk about your motivation, your drive and your shared collaborative vision.

So how would you define success for your career and communicate to potential employers that you’re the most suitable candidate for the position? Let’s find out.

  1. Defining Success: The First Step

  2. Answering ‘How Would You Determine Success?’

  3. Putting It All Together

Defining Success: The First Step

Before we dig into the how do you define success interview question, let’s look at what success actually means. We often look at success in limiting terms such as wealth, fame and happiness. But the definition of success is unique for everybody and you can create your own definition that works out for you. Consider these factors when defining success in your own words.

  • Success is doing your best and feeling proud of your efforts, no matter how big or small your impact is

  • Success is setting realistic and measurable goals, where you have a planned destination and milestones to track your progress

  • It isn’t always easy to develop positive self-belief but success can mean that you believe in yourself and are confident about achieving your goals

  • Success can also mean saying ‘no’ i.e., establishing healthy boundaries and prioritizing yourself and your needs

  • Success is not giving up, learning from your past mistakes and constantly working towards improving yourself—personally or professionally

Answering ‘How Would You Determine Success?’

Self-awareness and self-reflection are instrumental in answering the question ‘how do you define success?’ Here’s how you can effectively prepare for this frequently asked question.

  1. Think About Your Proudest Achievement(s)

Make a list of the top five achievements that you’re proud of. It doesn’t have to be necessarily job-related; it can be anything that helped you make a positive impact. Identify the themes or common patterns among those achievements. If you feel that overcoming challenges is your greatest achievement, then that’s how you define success.

  1. Look At Success As A Process

Success isn’t always a one-time shot at something. Some of your most noteworthy accomplishments could’ve taken years to materialize. For example, following a fitness routine and creating the lifestyle that you always wanted is a process that led you to success. Both short-term and long-term wins can be termed as success.

  1. Back It Up With Examples

Your definition of success is likely to appear ambiguous unless you provide specific examples. A great way to define success and link it with the job description is by citing instances in your previous roles. For example, if potential employers are looking for creative problem-solvers, highlight how you successfully delivered a unique business strategy.

While these tips and tricks are useful in evaluating success and describing it in your own terms, you need to consider how the organization views success as well. Do your research and look at the website for information about their mission, vision and purpose. Look at what they prioritize and what they’re most proud of. Use the information and tailor your response accordingly.

Here’s an example of a sample answer that’ll teach you how to evaluate success and define it in ways that’ll impress the interviewer.

“I view success as a continuous process of learning and development as I progress towards my goal. I love to look at challenges from various angles and push myself to think outside the box for efficient decision-making. I can leave work feeling successful when I’ve overcome challenges and made decisions that benefit the organization.”

Putting It All Together

Ultimately, how you define success is how you highlight your strengths and communicate them to the interviewer. Harappa’s Ace The Interview course will not only help you gauge your plus points but also teach you how to deliver them confidently. The PAM—Purpose, Audience and Message—framework will teach you how to talk about your strengths that can be leveraged in the organization. The STAR—Situation, Task, Action and Result—framework will help you build a cohesive narrative that wins your interviewers over. Ace your interviews with Harappa’s courses today!


Explore topics such as General HR Interview Questions, How To Improve Interviewing Skills, How to Answer “What are Your Hobbies?” & How to Prepare for Mock Interview from Harappa Diaries and crack your next interview.

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