How to Discuss Your Past Work Experience

In every job interview, you will be asked about your previous work experience. This question seems straightforward, but managers ask about past experiences for several reasons. They want to know what it is you have done, what types of contributions you can make, and whether you are likely to thrive in their corporate culture. Here are some strategies you can use to discuss your past work experience effectively and position yourself as a top candidate.

Be as Honest as Possible

The reasons you decide to look for greener pastures say a lot about the things you value in an employer. It is important from both your perspective and the hiring manager’s to talk about those values in an interview.

For example, you might be leaving your current job because there is no more room for growth. Be honest, then circle back to the reasons you think this new opportunity aligns better. For example, “I have learned so much at ABC Company over the last five years and I love that management invested so much in helping me build my skills as a database developer. However, there are no present or future opportunities for me to move up. I am looking for a company where managers are equally supportive, but there are real opportunities to grow. I have heard that XYZ Company has a strong culture of promoting from within.”

Honesty extends to situations where you may have been let go by a previous employer. Remember people get fired from jobs every day. Getting fired does not automatically disqualify you from future employment. When discussing a firing, talk about what you learned from the situation and the ways you worked to correct the issues that led to the termination.

What Not to Do

Even though you should be honest, never speak negatively about previous employers. Even if you worked for a manager who made Attila the Hun look like a kitten, resist the urge to say so. No matter what type of abuse you experienced or how dysfunctional the organization, negative talk always reflects poorly on you and makes hiring managers wonder if you’d speak ill of their organization in the future.

It is also important to remember you never know whether the hiring manager might know your previous boss. You don’t want to bad-mouth the president of the hiring manager’s local professional group or worse, their friend.

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