How to Answer Interview Questions About Your Experience

Businesswoman at job interview
•••

Klaus Vedfelt / Riser / Getty Images

Interviews can be difficult and stressful, regardless of where you are in your career. The application process is extremely time-consuming, so when you finally land an interview, it’s normal to stress about providing the best possible answers to common interview questions.

Most likely, that will mean being able to talk about your prior experience and how it’s prepared you for the role. Some variations on this question include: 

  • Tell me about your work experience.
  • How does your experience prepare you for this job?
  • Do you think your experience matches the needs of the role?
  • Do you think you're qualified for this position?

What the Interviewer Really Wants to Know

Hiring managers and employers ask these questions to get a better understanding of how your background and work experience relate to the position they are looking to fill.

Your previous experience serves as an indicator of whether or not you will be a valuable asset and a good fit for their company. Avoid answering broadly. Try using specific examples of how past work prepares you for the new role.

0:45

Watch Now: 3 Ways to Answer "Tell Me About Your Work Experience"

How to Answer Interview Questions About Your Experience

The most effective response is to describe your responsibilities and accomplishments in detail and connect them to the job for which you are interviewing.

Tie your responsibilities in with those listed in the job description for the new position so the employer will see that you have the qualifications necessary to do the job. Focus most on previous responsibilities directly related to the new job's requirements.

Examples of the Best Answers

My years of experience have prepared me well for this position. You mentioned that customer service is a big part of this job; I spent three years working in a high-volume call center, answering customer calls and identifying solutions.

Why It Works: This answer references specific experience and skills that are valuable to the job (and probably appear in the job description).

I developed extensive skills working with customers even when they were distressed. I'm excellent at deescalating situations and finding a way to make the customer happy. Our customer satisfaction rating rose 10 percent during my tenure at my previous employer. Since the role of your marketing department is to improve customers' impressions of the company, my experience will be an asset to your team.

Why It Works: In this response, the candidate quantifies their success in a prior role. By being specific, they give the interviewer proof of their ability to do the job.

I worked as a kennel assistant at a local animal hospital during the summer before my freshman year of college. It was there I discovered what I wanted to do for my career. I decided I would to go to college and focus on becoming a small animal veterinarian, so that's what I've done I have been working at the same animal hospital ever since.

Why It Works: This reply demonstrates experience in the field, career growth, and loyalty. It shows that the candidate is thoughtful and intentional about their career.

Tips for Giving the Best Answer

Quantify your response. The interviewer is looking to hire the candidate who can best solve a problem for the company, whether that’s boosting sales or acquiring customers or hitting some other metric.

Statistics are particularly persuasive. Showing that you increased sales by X percent or saved the company Y amount of money provides a hiring manager compelling argument for offering you the job.

Demonstrate proficiency in the skills stressed in the job description. Your ability to describe your former work experience effectively will help you stand out from the rest of the applicant pool. Providing specific, quantifiable proof of your accomplishments, work ethic, and knowledge will show employers that you have transferable experience which will benefit their workplace.

Have alternative answers. It's always a good idea to come prepared with several responses in case your interviewer changes track and asks about another aspect of your experience.

What Not to Say

Don’t memorize your responses. It’s important to practice answering questions, but you also want to sound relaxed and natural, so don't try to learn your answers by rote. Instead of practicing your responses line by line, just focus on key points to emphasize to get your point across to the interviewer.

Don’t lie. It's also important to be honest and accurate. Don't embellish your job, because you don't know who the hiring manager will be speaking with when they check your references. Even if they don’t follow up in depth, you don’t want to spend the rest of your career waiting to be found out – or talk your way into a role for which you’re currently unprepared.

Possible Follow-Up Questions

  •    Why do you want this job? - Best Answers
  •    What can you do for this company? - Best Answers
  •    What can you do better for us than the other candidates for the job? - Best Answers
  •    Why should we hire you? - Best Answers
  •    Why should we hire you instead of the other applicants for the job? - Best Answers
  •    Why are you the best person for the job? - Best Answers
  •    How do you handle failure? - Best Answers
  •    How do you handle success? - Best Answers
  •    What do you find are the most difficult decisions to make? - Best Answers
  •    What will you miss about your last job? - Best Answers
  •    What won’t you miss about your last job? - Best Answers
  •    What problems have you encountered at work? - Best Answers

Key Takeaways

MATCH YOUR EXPERIENCE TO THE JOB DESCRIPTION. Emphasize experience and qualifications that will help you achieve success in the role.

BE SPECIFIC AND QUANTIFY YOUR RESULTS. Statistics are particularly persuasive. Offer percentages, dollars, etc.

DON’T MEMORIZE YOUR RESPONSES. Practice, but don’t learn your answers by rote. Be prepared to improvise if your interviewer changes track.

BE HONEST. Authenticity is always more persuasive.