When you’re interviewing for a new position, chances are, the hiring manager will ask about your previous job. So, how should you approach this potentially tricky topic? Here are three tips for successfully discussing past work experience in an interview.
How to Discuss Past Work Experience in an Interview
If you enjoyed your last role and liked your manager, this task should be easy. However, if your old job was a nightmare, you’ll need to be diplomatic. Remember, badmouthing your previous employer is NOT a smart idea. In the best-case scenario, the hiring manager will think you have a bad attitude. (Unfortunately, this holds true regardless of how awful your past job was.) And in the worst-case scenario, the hiring manager is friends with your ex-boss. Not only is this awkward but also, it’s a sure-fire way to bomb the interview. Of course, there’s no need to lie. Simply fall back on vague but truthful statements. For instance, if your ex-supervisor was a micro-managing maniac, you could comment, “I gained valuable insights about how to stay calm and productive under pressure.”
Focus on Transferable Skills
If your past position required similar talents as your new possible role, you’d be able to reach full productivity faster. And this is exactly what the hiring manager wants to hear. Therefore, before the interview, take the time to re-read the job description. Make a list of any technical qualifications and soft skills you used at your previous spot. Then weave these into your response. For instance, you could say, “I spent five years as a maintenance technician at XYZ company. I see you have similar equipment here. I love troubleshooting, so I’m looking forward to keeping things running smoothly for you too.”
Be Prepared to Explain WHY You Left Your Past Job
You followed the first step and gave a positive review. That’s great. But now, the hiring manager is going to ask the next obvious question, “Why?” Specifically, “WHY are you thinking about or WHY did you leave your last job?” Be ready for this. The interviewer is on the lookout for red flags. Did you fight with your co-workers and/or manager? Are you job hunting behind your boss’s back? Were you let go? Rehearse your answer ahead of time. Be honest and to the point. The more you talk, the more likely you’ll dig yourself into a hole. For more advice on specific scenarios, check out How to Answer the Interview Question “Why Did You Leave Your Job?” This article covers everything from expressing a desire to advance your career to explaining why you were fired.
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