How does your previous experience relate to this position?
What will you say?
This is a GREAT question if you can get it. It’s another version of, “Why should we hire you?” You have the power here to highlight your best qualities. They want to know why you’re a good fit for the job, and are looking for information that will make their decision an easy one.
If you DO have related experience, this is easy. Just summarize it, pointing out a few pertinent details along the way. If you’ve already asked, “What does your ideal candidate look like?” then you know what’s most important to them, and you can mention relevant things from your own background. If you haven’t asked about their ideal candidate, then you can base your answer from what you read in their job description.
But remember: every candidate can explain a direct relationship.
To stand out, add examples with quantification to your answer where you can.
For example, if your experience is in retail and this job is in retail, you have plenty of experience. Where you stand out is when you also tell them that you boosted sales by 30% or you won the company customer service award 3 years in a row or you reduced turnover by 50% by implementing X program.
If you are a new graduate or if you are switching careers, your experience may not clearly show why you’d be a good fit for the job, so your job is to connect those dots for them and explain how your skills are transferable to this position. Things you’ll typically want to point out are:
• communication skills
• project management
• time management
• professional contacts
Think about what it is that you have that would make you successful in this job.
In this case, you also want to show that you can learn new things quickly by giving them an example of a time that you did: “My job was X, but Y situation came up and they asked me to handle it. Here’s how I did it.” Walk them through your thought process to show them your strategic thinking and ability to adapt, both of which are tremendously beneficial in a new role.
** If they ask about your experience, they are trying to see you in the role. The best way to help them see you successfully doing this job is to show them your 30-60-90-day plan.
Say, “My experience relates through X, Y, and Z. But to really show you how I could step into THIS role and be successful, I’ve created a 90-day plan for how I would approach this job with my skills and even fill in the gap that I have in X. Can we take a few minutes to walk through it?”
The interviewer will be curious to see your plan, and happy to see such a substantial answer to this question. They’ll be able to see you in the role much more clearly, which puts them further along the road to offering you the job.
This question and answer is just one of the 101 job interview questions and answers in my ebook How to Answer Interview Questions II, available on Amazon. (Along with the Keys to a Great Interview!)
If you know there’s a job interview in your future, I encourage you to get this book (How to Answer Interview Questions II) as well as the first book, How to Answer Interview Questions. Both books have 101 job interview questions and answers that will have you ready to stand out in any job interview and get the offer.