When you apply for a job, you often submit a resume and cover letter to outline your previous experiences that make you qualified for the position. When you get to the interview, your prospective employer has likely already reviewed your application materials and is familiar with your background. Interviewers may ask you to describe your work experience, which gives you the chance to share what you feel is most valuable to this new role.
In this article, we will discuss how to craft an effective response and provide examples to help you answer the prompt, “Tell me about your work experience.”
Why do employers ask about work experience?
Any job has a set of duties you’ll be responsible for, so knowing your prior experience can help your interviewer gauge how prepared you are for a role. Even though they can see your experience on your resume or application, your ability to summarize your work history and relate it to the position can show that you’ve reflected on your potential employer’s expectations.
Planning your answer
This interview prompt gives you the chance to summarize the education and training that make you the most qualified candidate for the role. You can use this time to present the items on your resume more clearly in terms of how they prepare you for this position’s responsibilities and contributions to the company’s goals. Before your interview, consider writing out quick talking points to organize your thoughts, and use the following steps to help prepare your answer.
- Study the job description.
- Review your application materials.
- Make clear connections.
- Practice your answer.
1. Study the job description
Familiarize yourself with the position’s expectations to best present your ability to handle its responsibilities. Briefly outline what the role entails, including the daily tasks, necessary skills and ideal goals. You should also identify the tools listed in the job description, such as specific technology or equipment. Recalling the required and preferred qualifications can help you determine which of your skills and experiences to discuss.
2. Review your application materials
It’s wise to remind yourself of the professional experience you provided during the application process so you know what expectations you have set for the interviewer. Study the most relevant experiences on your resume, cover letter and formal application, and focus on the duties, skills and accomplishments of each. Use the terminology you gathered from the job listing to phrase your experiences in terms the interviewer is likely to recognize. This step can help you optimize your brief summary and focus your answer.
3. Make clear connections
You can also directly relate your experiences to the position’s responsibilities. Using information from your application materials, identify tasks in your previous experience similar to those listed in the job description. Be prepared to discuss your familiarity with common processes, potential obstacles and useful tools that will help you succeed in that role. This method allows you to confidently demonstrate your adaptability in the workplace.
4. Practice your answer
Interview preparation often includes crafting responses ahead of time in order to focus your thoughts. Consider writing a numbered list of all of the talking points you want to include in your answer. Use the job description and keywords, your rephrased resume items and past experiences that relate to required tasks in the new position.
Making a list will help you outline your thoughts, which you can then shape into a natural answer. With practice, you can ensure your answer only includes relevant information and remains concise and conversational.
Related: How to Prepare for an Interview
How to answer “What work experience do you have?”
Before your interview, review your list of talking points to improve your ability to recall them while responding. Use the following tips to provide a comprehensive yet succinct answer to the question.
1. Use simple, active statements
It’s best to use clear statements with strong verbs to effectively outline your skills and abilities. Shorter, simpler sentences can help you sound polished and conversational, and active statements demonstrate confidence and proactivity.
2. Provide only necessary details
You will likely answer many other questions after this one. Only discuss the details needed to adequately describe what you can do, what you have accomplished and how you plan to succeed in this new role. This will help ensure you have new information to share throughout the interview without having to repeat yourself.
3. Quantify your experience
If applicable, use data to add proven value to your accomplishments. For example, you can discuss your annual performance review numbers or the increasing percentage of quality work output. This strategy can serve as evidence of your professional achievements.
4. Illustrate the connections
This is when you can take material directly from your list tasks similar to those required in the new role. In your answer, you can clearly state your familiarity with specific responsibilities and even discuss the ways you have refined those processes in your previous experiences. Consider discussing your abilities in terms of situations you anticipate in this new role.
5. End with a goal statement
A goal statement is what you’ve determined you want to achieve in this position. You can effectively finish your answer by stating what contributions you aim to make to the company.
Use the following short example answers to help you craft your own effective response.
Example: “I have spent five years as an executive assistant with Wiler, Inc. in administrative support roles. As the current executive assistant to the CFO, I frequently collaborate with other administrative assistants to perform calendar management, coordinate international travel and assemble research reports for the financial specialists in our six offices around the world. At the beginning of last year, I optimized our email filtering system to improve office communication and reduce the amount of missed messages by 28%. I understand that your company depends a lot on email communication, so I want to use my organizational abilities to achieve faster communication processes in this office.”
Social media specialist
Example: “My experience includes a variety of marketing and advertising opportunities. In college, I was the ad intern at the local radio station, where I designed event posters for local concerts and music festivals. Then I worked as a market research assistant, analyzing consumer data and drafting reports for the marketing director. My other positions allowed me to practice applying research to writing ad copy, social media posts and a few radio commercial scripts. As your social media specialist, I would want to continue sharing my research insights and improving my ability to transform consumer data into actionable, engaging content.”
Senior financial consultant
Example: “I have 10 years of experience in personal finance management, and I have assisted 45 repeat clients in increasing their capital by an average of 15% every year. As a financial analyst, I utilized visual growth charts to show my clients how each saving plan option can impact their goals. When I became a senior financial analyst, I supervised other analysts and trained them in providing the most helpful experience to our customers. As your senior financial consultant, I aim to integrate my individualized approach to helping clients build the retirement fund they will depend on.”