Prepare for that Job Interview – Part 1 / Work History

Prepare for the nterview - Part 1Job interviews are always stressful – even for job seekers who have gone on countless interviews. The best way to reduce the stress is to be prepared. Take the time to review the “standard” interview questions you will most likely be asked. Also review sample answers to these typical interview questions.

In addition to reviewing general interview questions, also review job specific interview questions that are designed to assess whether you have the skills required to do the job.

Then take the time to research the company. That way you’ll be ready with knowledgeable answers for the job interview questions that specifically relate to the company you are interviewing with.

Name of company, position title and description, dates of employment.

Interviewers expect a candidate for employment to be able to review their work history in detail. Be prepared to tell the interviewer the names of the companies you worked for, your job title, your starting and ending dates of employment, how much you earned and what your job entailed.

You’d be surprised how many job applicants fumble when asked about prior employment. Don’t be one of them! Refresh your memory prior to the interview by reviewing your resume, so you can speak about your prior work history in detail and accurately.

If you don’t have a resume, make sure what you tell the interviewer matches what you filled out on your job application. The best way to prepare is to download a sample job application ahead of time. Complete the sample application and bring it with you when you are applying for employment. This way you will be able to copy the information rather than having to remember dates and other employment information.

What were your expectations for the job and to what extent were they met?

In many cases, interviewers will want to know what you expected from your last job when you were hired, so be prepared to answer the interview question “What were your expectations for the job and to what extent were they met?”

There isn’t a right or wrong answer to this question. The best way to respond is to discuss what you expected when you took the job and give examples of how the position worked out for you. If the job wasn’t exactly what you expected, it’s fine to mention that. However, you should focus on the job itself, not the company, your boss, or your co-workers (if they were a problem). Do be careful how you answer and don’t focus too much on the negative. Instead, address the highlights of the job.

When responding, be specific. Prepare some examples to share with the interviewer in advance. For example, if your job involved creating web applications using Cold Fusion, discuss the specific programs you developed and the responsibilities you were given. If you were provided training and opportunities for professional development to help you achieve your goals, mention that, as well.

What were your starting and final levels of compensation?

Interviewers expect a candidate for employment to be able to provide the details of their compensation history. Be prepared to tell the interviewer how much you earned at each of your prior positions.

Make sure that what you tell the interviewer matches what you listed on your job application. Refresh your memory prior to the interview by reviewing your compensation history, so, you can speak in detail and accurately. Don’t exaggerate or inflate your earnings. Many employers will check references and confirm your salary history prior to making a job offer. A discrepancy between what you reported and what the employer says could knock you out of contention for the job.

The best way to prepare is to download a sample job application ahead of time. Complete the sample application and review it prior to the interview.

What were your responsibilities?

When you are asked questions related to your current or previous positions, it’s important to be specific and to be positive about what you did in your previous position(s).

The best way to respond is to describe your responsibilities in detail and to connect them to the job you are interviewing for. Try to tie your responsibilities in with those listed in the job description for the new position. That way, the employer will see that you have the qualifications necessary to do the job. Focus most on your responsibilities that are directly related to the new job’s requirements.

It’s also important to be honest. Don’t embellish your job, because you don’t know who the hiring manager will be checking with when they check your references.

What major challenges and problems did you face? How did you handle them?

When asked the job interview question “How did you handle a challenge?” be sure to include specific examples of how you handled a particular difficult situation. Discuss how you researched the issue and contributed to finding a solution.

Examples of good responses include:

  • During a difficult financial period, I was able to satisfactorily negotiate repayment schedules with multiple vendors.
  • When the software development of our new product stalled, I coordinated the team which managed to get the schedule back on track. We were able to successfully troubleshoot the issues and solve the problems, within a very short period of time.
  • A long-term client was about to take their business to a competitor. I met with the customer and was able to change how we handled the account on a day-to-day basis, in order to keep the business.

What have you learned from your mistakes?

When asked the job interview question “What have you learned from your mistakes?” be sure to give examples that turn a negative (a mistake) into a positive.

Examples of good responses include:

  • I think one of the most important things I’ve learned is persistence. Not to give up too soon, because the solution is probably right in front of me.
  • I have learned to give every person a second chance, because first impressions can often be misleading.
  • I used to think that there was one best solution to a problem, but I’ve learned that that kind of thinking limits the possibility of great success.

What did you like or dislike about your previous job?

When you’re asked what don’t like about your previous job, don’t be too negative. The reason is that you don’t want the interviewer to think that you’ll speak negatively about the new job or the company when you’re ready to move on, if you get this job. Rather, it makes sense to talk about yourself and what you’re looking for in a new role.

Sample Answer

  • I enjoyed the people I worked with. It was a friendly and fun atmosphere and I actually enjoyed going into work each morning.  I felt the leadership team was great as well. They knew all of their employees on a first name basis and tried to make those personal connections. I also enjoyed that fact that the office tried to do community outreach with local organizations.
  • One of the reasons I am leaving is that I felt I was not challenged enough at the job. As a fresh face in the working world, the company offers a great opportunity for a good entry level position; however, after being there for so many years, I felt I was not able to reach my full potential because of the lack of challenge and there was no room for advancement in the company.
  • While I did enjoy working there and appreciate the skills I developed while with the company, I feel my skill set can be better utilized elsewhere, where my capabilities are more recognized and there is the opportunity for growth.

Which was most / least rewarding?

Interview questions about what was most rewarding and least rewarding can be tricky. You want to make sure that the things you say are least rewarding aren’t responsibilities that are going to be a major part of the job you are interviewing for.

For example, if the last job you had involved extensive customer service telephone work that you hated, and if being on the phone doing something similar is even a minor part of the new job, don’t mention it. Instead, focus on the the tasks that were most rewarding and highlight those.

When interviewing, always be cognizant of the job you are interviewing for and tailor your response accordingly. Try to accentuate the positive, regardless of what question you have been asked, because you don’t want to be construed as someone who is negative about work, in general.

Questions about your supervisors and co-workers.

For the most part, the following questions may be asked to determine if you are a team player. Take a few seconds, when asked a difficult question, before you answer. An interviewer is not expecting you to have a ready answer. However, the Boy Scout Motto – Be Prepared – – certainly applies here as well.

Tell me about a time when you had to deal with a co-worker who wasn’t doing his/her fair share of the work. What did you do and what was the outcome?

I worked closely with Ann who, for the most part, always carried her fair share of the work load. During a stressful time, working on a project with a deadline, I realized Ann’s contributions to the project were almost minimal. I made the decision to wait until after the project to speak with her. I’m glad I did, because I learned she’d been going through a very tough time in her personal life and she appreciated my willingness to go the extra mile so the project was completed on time. As a result, our ability to work well together significantly increased.

Give me an example of a time when you took the time to share a co-worker’s or supervisor’s achievements with other?

At my most recent position, one of my co-workers, Dan, did an outstanding job of calming an irate customer, solving the customer’s problem and completing a sale. When our boss asked me how things were going, I told him everything was going fine and that Dan had just completed calming an irate customer and closing a sale. It was a win-win-win- for our boss, Dan and the customer.

Tell me about a time that you didn’t work well with a supervisor. What was the outcome and how would you have changed the outcome?

Early in my career, I had a supervisor (Judy) who was in a fairly good mood on Monday, but it deteriorated each day until by Friday, the supervisor was finding fault with everything I did. I didn’t realize, until I left that position, that I had been a contributor to the decline in her mood. Judy would ask me how my weekend was (on Monday) and during the week she would ask how it was going. I would tell her how much fun I was having (I was single) and how I was looking forward to the weekend plans. After I left, I realized my life was in complete contrast to hers and I reminded her of it almost daily. When she asked the questions, I should have had a quick answer, and then asked her how she was doing!!!!

Have you worked with someone you didn’t like? If so, how did you handle it?

Yes, I’ve worked with someone whom I found difficult to like as a person. However, when I focused on the skills they brought to the job, their ability to solve problems and the two things I did appreciate, slowly my attitude towards them changed. We were never friends, but we did work well together.

Tell me about a time that you helped someone.

Most recently, we had a new hire (Paul) that was really struggling with getting to work on time, and I knew the boss (Harry) was getting irritated. Over lunch one day I explained to Paul how important it was to our boss for everyone to be there at least 10 minutes early. It was personal with the Harry, but you could really get on his bad side when you were frequently late. The new employee was grateful for the advice. At his previous employment, the boss was only concerned about the work getting done on time; he/she did not “watch the clock”.

Tell me about a time that you misjudged a person.

There was a long-time employee (George) at my second company who was very gruff when he spoke to me. At first, I went out of my way to win the George’s approval. Then I realized that was compounding the problem. So I observed how he interacted with other employees and discovered I wasn’t alone. He was gruff to most people. I quit trying to gain his approval and, in the process, discovered he’d learned his behavior from a former boss he’d had whom he admired.

How do you get along with older (younger) co-workers?

Suggested answer if your co-workers are older:

There are times when I just know that a new way of doing something makes more sense to me; but, first hand, I learned that my “better way” may not be the best way to get the job done. As a consequence, I respect my older co-workers knowledge and I’ve learned how to make a suggestion at the appropriate time.

Suggested answer if your co-workers are younger:

I quickly realized it was not my job to “parent” the younger people with whom I work; it was my job to get to know them and for us to find common ground where we could effectively work together. It took time, but the result was worth the effort.

What was it like working for your supervisor?

A typical interview question is “What Was it Like Working for Your Supervisor?” The reason it’s asked it to find out how you got along with your boss. Be careful how your answer. Interviewers don’t like to hear too much (or much at all) about bad bosses because it could be someone from their company that you’re talking about next time around.

I once had a job applicant who spent 10 minutes responding to this question. She told me how awful her boss was and how her company was a terrible place to work. It so happened that her boss was a good friend and golfing buddy of my boss – our company’s CEO – and the company was one of our biggest clients. Of course, she didn’t get the job.

Don’t make the same mistake she did. Instead, accentuate the positive and minimize any difficult situations. Discuss the strengths your past supervisors had and how they helped you succeed in your positions.

What do you expect from a supervisor?

Sample Answers

  • I appreciate a work environment where supervisors try to make personal connections with their employees.
  • In my last job, I liked the fact that management did not show favoritism and they were understanding of employees needs, as well as their strengths. Of course, these things take time to know, but I would want my supervisor to try to know me in that way.
  • I would like to be able to go my manager if I have an issue or idea and to be able to feel comfortable to expressing my thoughts. I would also expect my supervisor to be open and honest with me and to let me know if there is anything I could do to improve upon or do differently in my work.

What problems have you encountered at work?

Review sample answers to the interview question “What problems have you encountered at work and how did you deal with them?” When you respond, be sure to include a positive outcome to the problems you reference in your answer.

Sample Answers

  • I feel that the best way to deal with any challenges is to meet them head on. When I found that one of my colleagues was saying things that weren’t true behind my back, I went to him and talked it through. It turned out that he had misunderstood what I had said, and I was able to set the record straight with him, and my supervisor.
  • “Once I found a major flaw in the work of one of the most senior members of the department, which could have been very costly to the company if it had been overlooked. I went directly to him, and called it to his attention so he could fix it before it affected the final outcome.

Have you ever had difficulty working with a manager?

Review sample answers to the interview question “Have you ever had difficulty working with a manager?” Be careful answering questions about previous managers. You don’t want to come across as difficult, and you want to cast any past experiences in the most positive light possible.

Sample Answers

  • I had a rocky start with a manager once, because we had different expectations for the flow of the workday. Once we talked about it, we realized that our goals were very compatible, and we were able to work very successfully together for several years.
  • I have found that if I take the time to talk with my manager at the beginning of a project, we can all get off to a great start on the same page.
    I would say that I have never really had a problem working with anyone. I try to find our common ground, and get along with everyone’s different personality.

Who was your best boss and who was the worst?

With the question “Who was your best boss and who was the worst?” the interviewer is trying to discover if you assess blame or carry a grudge. The interviewer also wants to determine if you are match for the leadership style of the company.

Best Answers

  • I’ve learned from each boss I’ve had. From the good ones, what to do, from the challenging ones – what not to do.
  • Early in my career, I had a mentor who helped me a great deal, we still stay in touch. I’ve honestly learned something from each boss I’ve had.

Why are you leaving your job?

Did you resign from your job or are you thinking about resigning? Not sure how to answer the interview question “Why did you resign?” or Why are your resigning your job?” These suggested interview answers with help you prepare to questions about resigning from your previous job.

Interview Answers – Why Did You Resign From Your Job?

  • I resigned because there were limited opportunities for advancement and I wanted to further my career.
  • I graduated from college and resigned in order to find a position where I could use my education and related experience.
  • To be honest, the position wasn’t a fit and I decided it made sense to resign and to refocus my career path.
  • I resigned because the position required me to be on-call evenings and weekends and it was difficult to arrange child care on short notice.
  • I resigned because the position was part-time and my personal situation has changed so I need full-time employment.
  • My skills weren’t a good match for my previous employer’s needs but it looks like they’d be a terrific fit for this position.
  • I resigned from my job because I am interested in a new challenge and an opportunity to use my skills and experience in a different capacity than I have in the past.
  • My family relocated to this area and my previous employer doesn’t have an office here.
  • I’ve been working as a temp, but I’m seeking a permanent position, so I resigned from the temp agency’s staffing roster.
  • I resigned for personal reasons, however, at this point in time, I am excited about moving into a new position.
  • I’m seeking a a new challenge and to grow my career and it was difficult to job search while working.
  • I resigned due to family circumstances, however, I have regained the flexibility I need to work effectively in a full-time job.

Why did you quit your job?

One of the questions that is usually asked during a job interview is “Why are you quitting your job?” or “Why did you quit your job?” if you have already quit.

Review these suggestions on how best to answer questions about quitting your job and tailor your response to meet your particular situation.

Prepare answers to typical job interview questions, like this one, in advance. Practice your responses so you sound positive, and clear, about your circumstances and your goals for the future.

Sample answers to the interview question, “Why did you quit your job?”

  • I quit my job because my supervisor retired. I felt that after many years of working in the office that it was time for a change and this seem like the ideal time to move on.
  • I was able to take advantage of an early retirement offer due to company downsizing and am ready for a new challenge.
  • I resigned to focus on finding a job that is closer to home and will use my skills and experience in a different capacity.
  • I don’t have room to grow with my current employer and I’m ready to move on to a new challenge.
  • I’m looking for a new challenge and to grow my career and I couldn’t job hunt part time while working.
  • I have been volunteering in this capacity and love it. I’m seeking to turn my passion into the next step of my career.
  • I was laid-off from my last position when my job was eliminated due to downshizing.
  • After several years in my last position, I’m looking for an company where I can contribute and grow in a team-oriented environment.
  • I am interested in a new challenge and an opportunity to use my skills and experience in a different capacity than I have in the past.
  • I recently achieved certification and I want to utilize my educational background and technical skills in my next position.
  • I am interested in a job with more responsibility, and I am very ready for a new challenge.
  • I left my last position in order to spend more time with an ill family member. Circumstances have changed and I’m more than ready for full-time employment again.
  • I was commuting and spending an hour each day on travel. I would prefer to be closer to home.
  • To be honest, I wasn’t considering a change, but, a former colleague recommended this job to me and was intrigued by the position and the company. It sounds like an exciting opportunity and an ideal match for my qualifications.
  • This position seemed like an excellent match for my skills and experience and I am not able to fully utilize them in my present job.
  • The company was downsizing and I thought it made sense to seek another position before my job was eliminated.

What have you been doing since your last job?

If you have an employment gap on your resume, the interviewer will probably ask you what you have been doing while you were out of work.

The best way to answer this question is to be honest, but do have an answer prepared. You will want to let the interviewer know that you were busy and active, regardless of whether you were out of work by choice, or otherwise.

Here are some suggestions on how to explain what you did while you were out of the workforce.

  • I worked on several freelance projects, while actively job seeking.
  • I volunteered for a literacy program that assists disadvantaged children.
  • My aging parents needed a temporary caregiver and I spent time looking after them.
  • I spent time being a stay-at-home mom and volunteering at my daughter’s school.
  • I took some continuing education classes and seminars.

As I said, it doesn’t really matter what you did, as long as you have an explanation. Hiring managers understand that people lose their job – it can happen to anyone – and it’s not always easy to find a new job fast. Also, there are legitimate non-employment reasons for being out of the workforce.

Why were you fired?

Fired from your job? Don’t know what to say in an interview? Career expert and author, Joyce Lain Kennedy, shares her twelve best job interview answers to the question “Why were you fired?”

Joyce Lain Kennedy’s sample answers to the interview question “Why were you fired?”

  • Being cut loose was a blessing in disguise. Now I have an opportunity to explore jobs that better suit my qualifications and interests. My research suggests that such an opportunity may be the one on your table. Would you like to hear more about my skills in working with new technology?
  • My competencies were not the right match for my previous employer’s needs but it looks like they’d be a good fit in your organization. In addition to marketing and advertising, would skills in promotion be valued here?
  • Although circumstances caused me to leave my first job, I was very successful in school and got along well with both students and faculty. Perhaps I didn’t fully understand my boss’s expectations or why he released me so quickly before I had a chance to prove myself.
  • The job wasn’t working out so my boss and I agreed that it was time for me to move on to a position that would show a better return for both of us. So here I am, ready to work.
  • After thinking about why I left, I realize I should have done some things differently. That job was a learning experience and I think I’m wiser now. I’d like the chance to prove that to you.
  • A new manager came in and cleaned house in order to bring in members of his old team. That was his right but it cleared my head to envision better opportunities elsewhere.
  • Certain personal problems, which I now have solved, unfortunately upset my work life. These problems no longer exist and I’m up and running strong to exceed expectations in my new job.
  • I wanted my career to move in a different direction, and I guess my mental separation set up the conditions that led to my departure. But by contrast, the opportunity we’re discussing seems to be made for me and I hope to eventually grow into a position of responsibility.
  • I usually hit it off very well with my bosses, but this case was the exception that proved my rule of good relationships. We just didn’t get on well. I’m not sure why.
  • My job was offshored to India. That’s too bad because people familiar with my work say it is superior and fairly priced.
  • I outlasted several downsizings but the last one included me. Sign of the times, I guess.
  • I was desperate for work and took the wrong job without looking around the corner. I won’t make that mistake again.
  • I’d prefer an environment that is congenial, structured and team-oriented, where my best talents can shine and make a substantial contribution.

Kennedy also says, “Practice in advance what you’ll say. Then keep it brief, keep it honest and keep it moving.” That way, you’ll get past the sticky issue of getting fired and can move on to your skills and why you’re qualified for the job.


About E. White
Website Developer / IT Support Specialist • Professional Website Designs • Custom WordPress Themes • Flash Banners / Portfolios • Full Web Development Solution Provider Also, Support Windows Based Network Environments. 20 Plus Years of Experience. • Located in Los Angeles / Orange Co, CA

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