Questions that require you to recall memories from your career serve several purposes. It's a way for an interviewer to separate individuals who are more or less career-driven.
It's also a means of validating the types of claims made on your resume, matching up your stated accomplishments with a real-world account of a specific time or event in your career.
This question also probes to determine priorities in the workplace. Are you driven by interactions and people-related accomplishments, or are you more focused on sales and financial goals. Your answer tells a lot about you as an employee.
Points to Emphasize
It's helpful if you can think of something relevant to the position you're applying for, but coming across as genuine is the most important factor.
- Try to detail a recent experience that's fresher in your mind and relevant to you as a professional in present day.
- Explain why the experience was rewarding—mention work that went into the result, impact on the company, etc.
- Use an example that highlights specific talents, such as closing a crucial sale or preserving an important account through effective service.
- Focus on experiences which resulted in benefits for others, such as customers or co-workers.
Take time to reflect so as to provide a good example, but maintain focus with your answer and keep it concise.
Mistakes You Should Avoid
There are several pitfalls one should seek to avoid when answering a broad question like this:
- Avoid referencing older or irrelevant events. This can create the appearance that your career is devoid of regular accomplishments.
- Don't just reference a commendation or award received—talk specifically about why it was so gratifying.
- Try not to generalize. While you may consider every day to be rewarding, responding as such is tantamount to disregarding the question.
- Avoid monetary achievements; don't talk about bonuses or raises. Think along the lines of goals and promotions instead.
A rewarding experience doesn't need to be earth-shattering—it's about what matters to you. Answer honestly to convey your genuine priorities as a worker.
There are many approaches to this type of question, and while rehearing responses isn't recommended, it helps to have general ideas in mind before an interview. Here's a sample to get you started:
My most rewarding experience was hiring and training five new workers for holiday seasonal staff, all of whom developed into quality employees who were either retained part-time or called back regularly for future busy seasons.
Your own story may relate more to individual achievement, meeting company goals, or any number of accomplishments. What's important is to relate it to the job you're applying for.