How to Answer Interview Questions About Your Experience
Interviews are difficult and stressful for everyone, regardless of where you are in your career. The application process is time-consuming and when you finally get that interview, it is normal to stress about certain questions.
What Employers Want to Know
Hiring managers and employers ask this question 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 at the company.
Interviewers want to hear more detail about what you did for past organizations, not just where you worked and the duration of employment, so try to think of anecdotes and examples of contributions you made.
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 directly transferable experience to bring to their workplace.
Common Interview Questions About Your Experience
One of the most common questions asked in interviews revolves around the candidate’s experience. Interviewers may phrase the question in several different ways, such as:
- How does your experience prepare you for this role?
- Do you think your experience matches the needs of the job?
- Do you think you're qualified for this position?
When the hiring manager asks you questions related to the experience that qualifies you for the job, it's important to be very specific about your skills and experience. Instead of answering it broadly, try to use specific examples of how your past work prepares you for the new role.
The best way to respond is to describe your responsibilities in detail and to connect them to the job you are interviewing for. Tie your responsibilities in with those listed in the job description for the new position. (Here's how to match your qualifications to a job description.) That way, the employer will see that you have the qualifications necessary to do the job. Focus most on your responsibilities that are directly related to the new job's requirements.
Quantify Your Response
Whenever possible, 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. If you can demonstrate that you were able to solve a similar problem at your current or previous job, you’ll stand out from the competition.
Statistics are particularly persuasive. If you can show that you increased sales by X percent or saved the company Y amount of money, you’ll give the hiring manager a good argument for offering you the job.
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.
Examples of the Best Answers
For example, if asked about how experience relates to the job in a marketing role, a strong answer would be:
- My years of experience have prepared me well for this marketing role. 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.
- I developed extensive skills in 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.
Examples of Answers for Entry Level Candidates
- I've had a job every summer since I was 16 years old. My primary reason to work was to have some extra spending money, but what I didn't realize was that I was actually sampling careers to see where I fit in. I worked as a kennel assistant at a local animal hospital during the summer before my freshman year of college. It was then that 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, and that's what I did. I have been working at the same animal hospital ever since.
- I have not had much paid work experience as a teacher. I have spent most of my time outside of college and graduate school doing volunteer work at a private elementary school in my town. Because the summers are so short, and I was working to complete my certification, I wanted to gain hands-on experience without worrying about finding a school that would hire me. Now that I am certified, finished with my master's degree program, and have all those volunteer hours under my belt, I feel well prepared to take on a full-time teaching position.
- My work experience has been nothing but top notch. When I completed my accounting degree, I went right to the best firm in the city and was hired as an intern. I was able to use the internship time towards my MBA, which I just complete this past spring. Working with the best of the best has made me an asset to any company that will hire me.
Practice Your Response
It's important that you practice answering questions, but do not try to memorize your responses. You want to sound relaxed and natural. Instead of learning your answer line by line, just focus on key points to emphasize to get your point across to the interviewer.
You should also come prepared with several responses, in case your interviewer changes tracks and asks about another aspect of your experience. Ideally, you’ll want to be able to demonstrate proficiency in all of the skills stressed in the job description, so practice answering questions related to the requirements.
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