How to Answer Interview Questions About Your Experience
Interviews are difficult and stressful for anyone, regardless of career status. The application process is extremely time-consuming, so when an interview opportunity is finally obtained, it is normal to stress about rising to the occasion of adequately answering certain questions.
Common Interview Questions About Your Experience
Regardless of the phrasing, the most common question asked in interviews is focused on sussing out the candidate’s experience:
- 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?
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.
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.
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. Try to think of anecdotes and examples of contributions you've made -- demonstrating that you were able to solve similar problems at a current or previous job assures you’ll stand out from the competition.
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.
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.
When asked how your experience relates to a marketing role, a strong answer would be:
- 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.
- 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.
Entry Level Candidate Best Answers
- I've had a job every summer since I was 16 years old. I worked primarily to secure extra spending money, not even realizing that I was actually sampling careers to see where I might fit.
- 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.
- I don't have a lot of 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 toward my MBA, which I just completed this past spring. Working with the best of the best has made me an asset to any company that will hire me.
Practice Your Responses
It's important to practice answering questions, but you also want to sound relaxed and natural, so don't try to memorize your responses. Instead of learning your answer line by line, just focus on key points to emphasize to get your point across to the interviewer.
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. Ideally, you’ll be able to demonstrate proficiency in all of the skills stressed in the job description, so practice answering questions related to the requirements.
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.
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