What’s the most important message to communicate during a job interview? If the hiring manager walks away with one impression, it should be that you can solve the company’s problems.
To get this message across, you need to show that your most recent role prepared you for this job. Fortunately, the interviewer is likely to ask you about your job responsibilities, which will provide you with an opportunity to show that your experience has given you the skills and abilities to excel.
When you are asked questions related to your current or previous positions, it's important for your response to include a few detailed specifics about what you did in your previous role(s).
Keep your answer positive—it's a good idea to bring up improvements or accomplishments, but best to stay away from mentioning frustrations or disagreements with co-workers.
Since this is a very common interview question, make sure to prepare for it ahead of time, and have a good sense of how you would summarize your responsibilities for each of your positions.
Generally, the focus will be on your current or most recent role. Focus on answering the question, “Why do I think I have the experience and skills that make me a great candidate for this job?” Then you’ll be good to go!
How to Answer Questions About Your Responsibilities
The best way to respond to this interview question is to describe your responsibilities in detail and to connect them to the job you are interviewing for.
Prior to your interview, you should carefully review the job description for the new position. Almost every job description you will encounter will provide a list of the skillsets and work experience an employer is seeking in their next employee (typically found under the subtitle, “Responsibilities”).
For each requirement, ask yourself:
1. How do I know how that I can perform this function?
2. When have I actually had to use these skills?
3. How effective was I in performing this part of the job?
4. What examples can I use to prove my aptitude for this job task?
For example, if the job description requires that you have a solid knowledge of technology like Microsoft Office Suite or Adobe Creative Suite, be prepared to describe how you’ve used these programs in your previous job. If it requires that you have excellent customer service skills, be ready to cite a few occasions when you successfully handled sticky client relations issues.
Then match your qualifications to the job:
Tie your responsibilities at your current or previous positions with those listed in that job description. This will show the employer that you have the qualifications necessary to do the job you are interviewing for with his or her organization.
Focus most on your responsibilities that are directly related to the new job's requirements. For instance, if you are interviewing for a role that requires management skills, emphasize projects you've led, events you've planned, and people you've managed. If you are trying to land a job in a creative field like graphic design or marketing, bring along a portfolio of designs you’ve created for significant project assignments.
Be descriptive and engaging in your summary of responsibilities—most likely, the interviewer has a copy of your resume available and is looking for you to go beyond the information listed in that document. This is your opportunity to provide the personal “story” that will advance you from being a name on the page to being a strong and memorable image in your interviewer’s mind.
Avoid going too granular on the details. Company-specific jargon can overwhelm an interviewer.
It can be a difficult balance, but strive to give a thorough description of your responsibilities, and use different language from what's on your resume.
Mention any specific instances where you benefited the company, solved a problem, or had a major accomplishment. Results-oriented answers are beneficial. You can say things like:
I created a schedule that stopped late delivery, earning the company's award for best team player.
On a day-to-day basis, I was the primary point of contact with clients, working to ensure that their needs were met while escalating urgent matters to my supervisors.
While you want to frame your responsibilities in a positive light, it's also important to be honest. Don't embellish your job title or duties, because you don't know who the hiring manager will be checking with when they check your references.
Advance Prep Is Key to Interview Success
Reviewing your answers to common interview questions before the interview will also help you give better responses. Check out these frequently asked questions (and see the recommended best answers) in advance of your interview. Use them to role-play your response. You can practice with a friend, or by yourself in front of the mirror.
It’s wise to also remember that you are interviewing your potential employer at the same time that they are interviewing you – and that they will be interested in how you respond to the standard question, “Are there any questions you have for us about this job or our company?” Here are some ideas for what to ask.
Since this invitation to turn the tables often occurs at the end of the interview, having a strong response will help you leave a good impression on your interviewer.
Match Your Current Responsibilities to the Job Description: Emphasize the duties that show you can perform this role.
Provide Examples: Come prepared with anecdotes that demonstrate your experience.
Tell the Story: Use this conversation to show that you’re more than just bullet points on a resume.
Be Honest: Above all, don’t lie about your job responsibilities or qualifications.