How Do You Define Success? Interview Answers

You might be wondering why hiring managers find it interesting to ask you, “How Do You Define Success?” during an interview.

There are a few reasons why it is so. They are trying to test your work ethics, attitudes and many more and also how you respond to this question can tell the hiring manager what is of utmost importance to you.

I will share with you:

  • Why Do Hiring Managers Ask, “How Do You Define Success?”
  • How To Answer, ” How Do You Define Success” in a job interview with answer examples.
  • Extra tips on how to answer this question and fit into what the hiring manager wants to hear.
  • Mistakes To Avoid when answering the question, “How Do You Define Success?”

Article Road Map

Why Hiring Managers Ask “How Do You Define Success?”

The major reason why hiring managers ask how you define success is because your answer can help them determine what kind of employee you will be if they hire you.

They want to evaluate your work ethics and attitude.

That’s why how you define success will show volume about how hard you are willing to work in order to meet goals.

So therefore, if success means you are challenging yourself to be a better version of what you were yesterday. It shows the hiring manager that you will work hard to be productive.

Also, hiring managers ask this question to determine what you prioritize. Maybe you defined success by meeting team goals, collaborating with your colleagues or increasing the company’s revenue.

How To Answer “How Do You Define Success?” In A Job Interview

The best way to answer “How do you define success?” is to show that you value and keep your company’s goals in mind, that you give a strong effort toward those goals, and that you aim to steadily grow and improve in your work.

Also, showing that you measure success and work performance as a strategy to improve will not only set you apart from other candidates but also it will impress the potential employer.

Having said this, it is important that you know that there isn’t a single right or wrong answer to answering this question. 

Rather, what matters is your manner of approaching this question since it will be what will impress and motivate the hiring manager to hire you. So you will need to show the hiring manager that you are capable of helping the organization objectives and goals.

During the interview, in order for your answer to be outstanding apart from the other potential prospects, you should consider giving specific examples of two or three successes of yours in your past workplace.

You can discuss a successful project, or an achievement you were able to obtain through your personal definition of success.

In the next paragraph, I will show you some few examples on how to answer this question when being asked and if you can define success like that in the job interview, I bet you, the hiring manager will likely hire you since he/she can see that you will make a positive impact on their team and company 

Answer Examples To “How Do You Define Success?”

Below are some answer examples of how your answer should be structured.

Answer Example 1

I define success as challenging myself, growing, and learning.

I also look at success in terms of how much I’m helping my team and company.

I don’t think you can have a good definition of success without looking at the results you achieve with your team.

Yet, I think it’s also a mistake to look only at results. I wouldn’t consider myself successful in my work if I weren’t improving, advancing to higher levels of work, analyzing mistakes to turn them into learning opportunities, etc.

Example Answer 2

My definition of success is putting forth a consistent effort and working to get the best possible outcome in any situation. 

So for me, success starts with my work ethic. When I look back and analyze my past work, I evaluate success based on whether I made the best of the situation.

Of course, I also recognize that there are more objective ways to define success in most roles, and I do track my work metrics and progress carefully. 

For example, in my last role, I tracked my performance among other sales staff, and relative to our team goals, to ensure I was contributing more than what was expected of me. 

This approach worked well to keep me motivated and accountable, and in the past year, I achieved more than 180% of my individual sales quota.

Example Answer 3

I define success by looking at my effort and the overall outcome of a situation. 

I try to maintain a strong work ethic and approach each project and task with great effort and a positive attitude.

And I like to review the results of my work to look for ways to improve or make an even larger positive impact in the future.

I think that’s one way that any project can be successful is if you’re able to look back and learn a lot from it.

This definition of success has helped me be a consistent worker and steadily improve throughout my career.

I noticed in your job description that your company values professional development and learning on the job, so I was excited that the company’s vision seems to match up well with how I approach professional goals and how I define success.

Example Answer 4

To me, success means giving my best effort to each task I’m working on, and also striving to learn and improve steadily.

I’ve taken this approach in my personal life, such as in sports, as well as in previous jobs.

I also think that success means being patient and planning for the long-term. 

Professional success takes time, and so it’s important to bring a high level of effort every day, not just the days when you feel like it.

To me, being a successful person means being someone my team can count on for that consistent effort.

And success means that I can look back after each month and year and see that I’ve improved, too.

Example Answer 5

In a leadership position like the role I’ve applied for here, I think that success relates to the growth and performance of the team. Success should always be looked at as a team effort to some extent.

If my team isn’t producing great work, growing, bonding, and feeling positive, then I’m not succeeding as a manager.

When I reviewed your job posting, it seemed like teamwork and collaboration are some of your company’s top values, so I was excited to learn more about what you look for in the leaders you hire.

From the answer above, you will notice that each of them offers something a bit different but still, they all hit the general points such as:

  • They show the hiring manager that you’re motivated and optimistic.
  • They show that you’re reliable and hard-working and that you’ll help advance the company’s goals.
  • They show that you not only aim to achieve great results, but that you’re also open to improving and learning.

With these necessary traits, it will thrill most hiring managers since they can’t lecture these qualities but as expected, every job seeking candidate must either have these traits or not.

By showing that you possess these positive characteristics, it will help you stand out in your job search and get hired for better positions.

Read Also: “What Type Of Work Environment Do You Prefer?” Interview Answers

Extra Tips: Share Past Success Story To Conclude Your Answer

In a situation whereby you feel your answer is relatively short and you want to add more, then you consider sharing examples of your past achievement or project that was a success.

Pick a project that’s similar to the work you’ll be doing in this next role, or a project that illustrates that you’re a fit for the company’s values or work culture.

For instance, if you sense that a company’s goals are to expand and grow, and you helped grow your last company, you could describe how you helped the organization meet those goals in your last role.

You might say the following:

“As an example of a past success story, in my last position, we were an early-stage startup looking to grow as quickly as possible. 

I developed new processes and templates to help our sales team perform 40% more outbound calls and emails per week, which increased our team’s sales revenue by 29% last year. 

This is a case where I succeeded personally, but also where that success aligns with what my team and company needed to achieve. That’s how I view success overall”.

By preparing examples of past projects where you achieved the desired outcome, you’ll help the hiring manager see that they can expect positive results from you in your future work, too.

Mistakes To Avoid When Answering, “How Do You Define Success?”

Having known how best to tackle this question, I’m going to share a couple of mistakes to avoid when you define how you view success.

First, don’t give a definition of success that’s longer than 60-90 seconds. 

That’s an absolute maximum to aim for, and it’s okay if your answer is shorter.

Overall, one of the worst mistakes you can make in a job interview is to give long-winded answers, which will frustrate and exhaust the interviewer.

So aim for around an answer within the range of 60 seconds when answering this question in the job interview.

Secondly, make sure that you don’t only speak about individual and personal goals. 

Your answer should always mention team and company goals as well.

It can be a turn-off in the interview if you seem too focused on your personal goals and career goals with no regard for the company’s objectives. 

So there is a need for you to show that you care about both.

However, one easy way to show that you care about a company’s goals is to simply mention something you saw on the job description that you feel you could perform well.

You can do this in response to a variety of interview questions such as:


I noticed in your job description that the role seems heavily involved in ___. 

In my last job, I succeeded in ___ and ___, so I’m confident that I could step into this role and be successful.

This example can also be used when you want to define success, or when you answer other common related interview questions such as:

  • Why did you apply for this position?
  • What can you bring to the company?
  • Why should we hire you?
  • What is your greatest strength?

With all these tips, you are good to go…


While answering this interview question, focus on showing confidence through your tone of voice, body language, facial expressions etc.

Never forget that this is a tricky question with no clear definition of success for all roles and career types.

But if you can follow the guidelines above, it will help you to stand out among others in any interview. 

For further recommendations or questions, do well to drop your comments in the comment section below.

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