Questions about Your Work History
We can learn a lot about the future from the past. So can your potential employers. An employer wants to know about your work history so she can make projections about your future success — or failure.
Your answers about your work history provide, in a way, a narrative to your resume. While your resume gave little tidbits of information to whet the employer's appetite, your discussion of your work history on a job interview will flesh out this information. Hopefully it will give him a reason to want you in his employ.
The interviewer will not merely want to know what you did in your past jobs. He will want to know your thoughts about those activities, the outcomes of your efforts, how you got along with your boss and your coworkers, and what you learned from your experience.
Tips for Answering Questions about Your Work History
Every answer you provide about your work history gives the interviewer insight into your potential as an employee. Your answers should impart information about your positive characteristics — ambitious, logical, smart, detail-oriented, team player. Every answer is important. If the interviewer weren't interested in what you had to say, she wouldn't have asked the question in the first place. Take time to figure out what the interviewer wants to know before you begin answering her question.
When the interviewer asks you a question about a previous job, she doesn't want “yes or no” answers. She wants details about your work history that will help her learn something about you and therefore form an opinion. One note of caution, though — give only enough details to illustrate your answer. You don't want to say more than the interviewer needs to, or wants to, know.
The interviewer will use your resume to come up with questions to ask you about your work history. Carefully review your resume as you prepare your answers to possible questions. Be familiar with all the details on your resume since you don't want anything you say to differ from what you have written on it.
The interviewer doesn't just want a laundry list of your daily activities when she asks you to discuss a previous job. She wants to know about those activities: what you liked about them, what you didn't like (keep that to a minimum), how your boss and coworkers regarded you, and what motivated you.
Avoid talking about negatives if possible. If you have to talk about negative things, talk about the actions you took to correct bad situations. Whatever you do, don't badmouth prior employers. Employers tend to stick together, or at least empathize with one another. If you say you didn't get along with your boss, a prospective employer will wonder what you did to cause that to happen. You may know the situation was entirely beyond your control, but she won't know that.
Sample Questions about Your Work History
Can you tell me about your least favorite boss?
Here is someplace the job candidate can really mess up. He can talk about how much his boss hated him and how unfair that was. The job candidate may be entirely correct in his assessment, but that doesn't matter. He will look bad if he says any of that. Even though it is best to avoid negatives, the interviewer asked the question and expects an answer. Don't get personal when you answer this question. It has nothing to do with your relationship with your boss, but instead has to do with how he did his job. You can say that he had bad time management skills, for example. You shouldn't say that he made you work long hours.
How has your last job prepared you for the job opening we have here?
This is the time to highlight all your skills and abilities. Get specific. Talk about each skill and how you used it in your work. Talk about what you accomplished by using it and how it benefited your employer.