In any job interview, they’ll want you to tell them about your previous job (or your current job). Part of the reason is to determine your experience level, but as you give the answer, you also reveal a lot about your personality, attitude, and work ethic.
If you answer questions about your last job well, you can show positive qualities while you keep selling yourself for the job. Here are some ways you could answer three interview questions about your last job:
What were your responsibilities in your last job?
Your list of responsibilities could be a mile long; but when you answer this question, it’s important that you focus on talking about the ones that relate to this new job as directly as possible. You need to be strategic about what you know will be important to this hiring manager, and talk about what matters to them. For instance, you could choose 3-4 responsibilities to outline and then say, “I believe that this is one of the reasons I’d be a great fit for this job. What I did there is similar to what I’d be doing here, and I was successful there, so I can be successful for you, too.”
If there isn’t such a nice, neat correlation, you can point to your transferable skills (as opposed to direct experience). Show how a skill you used in the old job would help you be successful here. Don’t assume they will be able to see it—make sure you connect the dots.
What were the major challenges of your last job and how did you handle them?
The balancing act in answering this question is making sure you talk about past challenges that used key skills you will need in this new role. For instance, if you were a customer service rep moving to a sales role, you may want to talk about the challenges of relating to customers quickly, and not only saving the relationship from a complaint, but selling a new service to them. You’d want to talk about how you approach those kinds of problems and what resources you use to solve them. Always mention the results of your actions in quantified terms (numbers, dollars, or percentages). For instance, you could mention that you “retained an average of five customers per month,” or you “sold new services worth $17,000.” Including these quantified examples strengthens your authority and credibility with the interviewer.
What was your least favorite part of your last job?
With any question that asks you to speak about something negative, it’s important to be very diplomatic and speak about it in a positive way (or at least a neutral way). To them, a negative answer will say more about your attitude than the situation you were in. For instance, talking about an unreasonable workload (even if it really was) will make it seem like you don’t want to work hard.
In addition to keeping it positive, be strategic. Try to tell them something that won’t matter at all for this new job. For instance, if your old job required a lot of travel but this one doesn’t, that’s an easy, innocuous thing to point out: “I wasn’t fond of the travel schedule that kept me away for a week at a time. I’m looking forward to being in my own bed more often.”
Always be strategic in your interview answers and sell yourself for the job. Find more than 200 job-winning answers in How to Answer Interview Questions and How to Answer Interview Questions II, available on Amazon.
About the author
Career Coach – Peggy McKee is an expert resource and a dedicated advocate for job seekers. Known as the Sales Recruiter from Career Confidential, her years of experience as a nationally-known recruiter for sales and marketing jobs give her a unique perspective and advantage in developing the tools and strategies that help job seekers stand head and shoulders above the competition. Peggy has been named #1 on the list of the Top 25 Most Influential Online Recruiters by HR Examiner, and has been quoted in articles from CNN, CAP TODAY, Yahoo! HotJobs, and the Denver Examiner.
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