Why haven't you achieved more in your career?

  | James Innes

Why haven't you achieved more in your career?

Alternative and related questions:

Why haven’t you achieved more in your current/last job?

The meaning behind the question:

This question is clearly a veiled criticism. It’s a very clever question and can quickly separate out the weaker candidates from the stronger ones. This is a tough question because the main aim of the question is to put you under pressure – under attack – so as to see how you handle it. As with a number of other tough questions, the way you answer is more of interest to the interviewer than an actual explanation as to why you haven’t achieved more.

Your answer:

Don’t let this question rattle you. Don’t let the interviewer put you on the defensive. Don’t take it personally.

In most cases, you shouldn’t fall into the trap of admitting that you feel you should have achieved more. Even Bill Gates will feel he should have achieved more in his career; it’s human nature to feel you could have done better. You should instead spin this question round and throw it back at the interviewer as a statement of precisely what it is you have achieved in your career – and why you are proud of that. You should also express optimism for the future.

If, on the other hand, you clearly could have achieved more in your career then you should attempt to cite some extenuating circumstances. This is inevitably going to be a weaker answer but it’s preferable to stubbornly insisting that there aren’t any weaknesses in your career path when there blatantly are. It’s even more important in this case to express your optimism for the future – to emphasise that you are now ‘back on track’ and ready to make up for lost time.


I’m actually very pleased with my career to date. As I’ve progressed from organisation to organisation I’ve gained a great deal of practical experience and developed my abilities considerably. I have been responsible for a number of significant achievements; in my current role I successfully drove down stock from £1.5 million to £800K in just nine months – while maintaining lead times – consequently boosting working capital by £700K. I always strive to achieve my best and that is definitely a factor in my now looking for a new job. I feel that this vacancy would be a perfect next step for me because I know I can rise to the challenge and make a major contribution

The Interview Question & Answer Book

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