One question you’re guaranteed to get asked during a job interview is, “Tell me about your work experience.” Here’s how to answer in a way that makes you look good and gives the recruiter what they need.
Focus on what they *really* want to know.
The interviewer is trying to learn if you’ll be able to do the job well and how compatible you are with the company culture. These clues will guide your response.
You don’t want to repeat back the same descriptions they already read on your resume. This is especially true if your previous experience doesn’t exactly match the stated job requirements. Your goal is to re-frame your experience to make it relevant to this job.
For example, if your experience is mostly in the hospitality industry and you’re now applying for a position in a customer call center, you would highlight the similarities and how they will help you (and the company). Something like:
“Since customer service is very important to this job, I would use my background in serving restaurant guests to identify solutions and give each customer I speak with a great experience.”
Interviewers love statistics and concrete examples of your previous successes. This could be numbers such as increasing your unit’s sales by XX%, or your idea which saved your employer XX dollars.
It could also be a story that shows how you learned and grew in a previous job. Something like:
“Data entry was only part of my previous job, but I discovered that’s what I like to do best. I took advantage of additional training to learn computer programming, and I plan to continue growing my career in this direction.”
Always keep in mind that your goal is to show the interviewer that you will bring the same knowledge, talents and energy to them that you did to your last job.
Prepare something to say about every item on the resume.
For sure the interviewer will want to talk about that job where you only lasted 6 months! This is where you spin the negative into something positive — a lesson learned, an experience gained. Something like:
“I learned a lot from the people I worked with there. Most importantly, I realized that I am more productive in a team or group setting than as a solo report. That’s why I’m looking to join an organization such as yours with a horizontal team structure.”
This shows that you have done your research on the company and its need for your your soft skills strengths. And it’s a very nice alternative to, “I quit because the guy I reported to was a total jerk” — which obviously you should never, ever say.
A couple of wrong ways to answer.
Don’t lie. Every employer these days checks employment history, references, educational credentials, criminal records and so on. They might have hired you anyway if you were honest, but you’ve got zero chance if they catch you in a lie.
Rehearse, but not too much. Know basically what you will say in answer to various interview questions, but don’t memorize a script word for word. Under pressure of the interview, you’ll probably forget the script and then your mind will go completely blank.
So there you have it, our best tips for answering one of the most important interview questions. When you’re mentally prepared, you’ll have the upper hand in the interview. This will make you feel more comfortable, and you’ll make a more confident impression.
In other words, knowing what you’re going to say is as important as actually saying it!
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