Work Experience Job Interview Questions & Answers

During a job interview, your work experience will always be discussed. Employers want to get to know you and find out more about your experience. They try to get a better understanding of how your work experience and background relate to the job that you’re applying for.

Interviews, in general, can be daunting and stressful, regardless of what phase of your career you’re in. Application processes can be time-consuming, so when you’re finally at the job interview stage, it’s normal that you have some level of stress about being able to provide the best possible answers to common job interview questions.

The reason why interviewers want to go in-depth on your previous work experience is that it serves as the best indicator of if you will be able to successfully perform the job and if you fit in the company culture. It’s therefore important that you provide the interviewer with answers that include specific work examples and how they prepare you for the job you’re applying.

Example questions about work experience are, for instance:

  1. Can you walk me through your resume?
  2. What work experience do you have that prepares you for this position?
  3. What do you think you’ll like most about this job? And what do you think you’ll dislike?
  4. How does your work experience qualify you for this position?
  5. Do you think you’re qualified for this job?

Interview questions about your work experience can be a great opportunity for you to demonstrate that you’re the right person for the job. With the right preparation, you can use your answers to your advantage by showing that your skills match the requirements of the job.

In this article, we discuss why employers want to know more about your work experience and how you should answer the interview questions. Also, read more about frequently asked job interview questions here and check our job interview preparation checklist.

Why interviewers ask work experience interview questions

There are multiple reasons why interviewers are interested in your work experience, and especially in what you exactly did and what your responsibilities were. In other words, they are interested in your professional accomplishments. Providing a list of companies, dates, and positions without additional information on your job performance only tell the interviewer where you were active as a professional at what moment in time.

Employers are, of course, looking for candidates that fit the position and company culture well. By asking you about your previous work experience and responsibilities, they try to do just that. For them, your past professional work behavior is the best way to gauge your future job performance.

Employers consider multiple elements before hiring someone.

  • Avoid making wrong hiring decisions

The most important reason for interviewers to discuss your work experience is to avoid making the wrong hiring decision. Making the wrong hiring decision can be very costly for companies.

This starts with the time spent on hiring activities. If the wrong decision is made, the process of sourcing, interviewing, and onboarding will start all over.

In addition to losing time, a company may have significant financial costs, which may vary depending on the position for which a person was hired. Furthermore, bad hires can lead to dampened morale, decreased levels of teamwork, decreased productivity, and even reputational damage.

As you can imagine, companies will do everything in their power source and hire the right candidates for their positions. Job interview questions about work experience can help interviewers uncover important information about your professional work behavior and fit into the company culture.

  • Uncovering specific details of your work behavior and responsibilities

By discussing your work experience and what you exactly did in your previous jobs, interviewers are trying to uncover specific details of your work behavior and responsibilities.

Before the job interview, the interviewer will most likely already have reviewed your resume and motivational letter. However, this only allows them to assess your hard skills and educational levels.

Your soft skills, work experience, and responsibilities are better to assess during a job interview through certain interview questions. Interviewers want to go more in-depth during job interviews to see if your qualifications align with the requirements for the job. This is also the reason why it’s important that you show during the interview that the way you go about your work aligns with the requirements for the job.

  • Gauging your future job performance

By asking you certain interview questions about work situations you have been in, interviewers can quite accurately gauge your potential success in the job that you’re applying for. They can, for instance, do this by asking you behavioral, and competency-based interview questions.

This way of interviewing can give more insight into your future job performance. Make sure you prepare well for these questions prior to the interview. Furthermore, you can expect related questions about, for instance, your strengths and weaknesses.

Behavioral and competency-based job interview questions

These interview questions are used to find out how you have used your specific skills and abilities in your previous work experience. The interviewers are specifically interested in how you exactly approached challenges, tasks, or problems. The nature of this question requires you to provide the interviewers with, for instance an example work situation that you have encountered in the past.

Such questions usually start with:

  • Give me an example of
  • Tell me about a time when you
  • Have you ever
  • What do you do when
  • Describe a situation where

Examples of these type of questions:

  • Give me an example of the work experience that you gained that will help you with this job?
  • Tell me about a time when you dealt with a difficult customer.
  • Have you ever made a mistake?
  • What do you do when you do not know how to help a customer?
  • Describe a situation where you were under pressure and how you handled it.

Interviewers will always ask you questions about your past work experience or ask you hypothetical questions that require you to use an example of your experiences from the past to clarify. This is regardless of the position you’re applying for.

A basic example of a hypothetical question is, ‘How do you approach situations where you have to work under strict deadlines?‘ The best way to give more weight to your answer is by providing the interviewer a situation in which you did just that what he or she is looking for.

In this case, give a success story of a time where you, for instance, worked on a project for an important client that you successfully finished within the deadline and how the process went.

An example answer can be, for instance:

‘I have experience with several projects that needed to be performed under time pressure. At my previous employer, I managed a team and had to work on simultaneous projects with different deadlines. The key to success for me is keeping track and staying updated on each project independently. I prioritize my time in advance to make sure I know when and how aspects of the project are running. I believe in clear communication within teams, and everybody should keep each other updated during weekly standup meetings. These meetings allow me to adjust accordingly when needed. This way, I ensure that I meet each deadline successfully.’

This answer is written in the STAR method. STAR is an acronym that stands for a situation (S), your task (T) in that situation, the actions (A) you took, and what results (R) you got based on your actions.

In other words, the STAR method is a way to structure your answers logically and concise if you stick to these basic steps. The STAR interview technique is discussed in more detail later on in this article.

The questions you get asked are related to important characteristics that you need to possess to be considered suitable for the position. In these questions, your work behavior in professional work settings will be discussed.

The main reason for using these questions is that for interviewers, the most accurate predictor of future performance is your past performance in similar situations.

Information that interviewers look for when discussing your work experience

The main idea of discussing your work experience is to gain knowledge about your approaches to your work. This is also why it’s so important that you are able to answer these questions by demonstrating your skills and relating your answers to the job requirements.

Solid interview preparation will help you prepare for these types of interview questions. Your goal during the interview is demonstrating that you can take on the day-to-day responsibilities required for the job. Furthermore, you need to show that you’re self-aware and that you have the potential to grow as a professional.

Behavioral or competency-based interview questions are perfect for uncovering your skills. Say, for instance, the interviewer wants to know whether or not you can adapt easily to changes in the work environment. He or she can ask you how you handle changes and transitions and how you did this in the past. In this case, you need to demonstrate your adaptability skills by providing answers that include examples of how you adapted to changes in the work environment in the past.

The interviewers ask you these questions to uncover answers to the following questions

  1. Do you fit in the work environment, and are you easy to get along with?
  2. Can you communicate effective and efficient with different personalities?
  3. Are you able to adjust to changing work environments?
  4. Can you respond adequately to situations in your work?
  5. Are you a team player, and can you assist colleagues or other teams when needed?
  6. Are you flexible in your approaches to situations at work?

Red flags when answering work experience questions

Just like there are important parts to focus on, there are also elements that you need to avoid during your interview.

  1. Giving vague answers to valid questions

It’s important that you provide specific details or examples that directly relate to the question that the interviewer asks you. The interviewer is likely to ask you about what you stated in your resume or cover letter. Therefore, if you, for instance, stated that you have experience leading teams, you need to be able to back up that claim through clear work examples from the past.

If the interviewer has trouble verifying your employment history and experience, this can be considered as a red flag.

  1. Failing to answer in a concise and effective manner

To ace a job interview, you need to be able to effectively respond to interview questions. This means that when the interviewer asks you a question, you respond in a concise and to-the-point way.

When you’re preparing example answers to questions you expect based on your research, also think about possible follow-up questions. For instance, if you’re preparing for the interview question ‘Tell me about a time you had to deal with a difficult customer?‘ you can expect the interviewer to follow up with ‘How did you approach this situation?’ and ‘What was the result?’

  1. Not taking responsibility

One of the most important skills to demonstrate, regardless of the position that you’re applying for, is taking responsibility. If your answers do not show that you’re able to take responsibility when, for instance, a project failed, this is considered a red flag.

Being able to reflect on situations, understanding what went wrong, and what you would have done differently in the same situation now is an important characteristic.

Self-awareness and self-reflection are key in the workplace. When brought up, employers look for candidates that can admit their past mistakes and explain the important lessons they learned. The interviewers know that the candidates are human and make mistakes, just like everybody else does. It’s important that your answers show that you take responsibility for situations and describe the actions you took to repair any problems or challenges.

  1. Negativity

A negative attitude or giving answers with a negative undertone can decrease your chances for the job significantly. This happens when you come across as not really interested in the position or company but also when you’re talking inappropriately or negative about previous employers or colleagues. Needless to say, you should avoid making a negative impression at all costs.

Frequently asked work experience job interview questions

Below you can find examples of commonly asked work experience interview questions divided into categories:

Work experience questions about you & why you want the job:

  1. What areas of your skills need improvement?
  2. Why do you want to leave your current job?
  3. What do you like about your job?
  4. How do you think you will fit into our company?
  5. What do you dislike about your job?
  6. What do you consider as your greatest strength?
  7. Can you walk me through your resume?
  8. Describe your management style.
  9. What are your career goals?
  10. Do you prefer to work as part of a team or rather work alone?
  11. Tell me more about the employment gap on your resume.
  12. What do you think will be the most challenging and least challenging parts of this job?
  13. What will you miss most about your last job?
  14. Who was your best boss, and who was the worst? Why?

Behavioral & Competency-based work experience interview questions:

These are the types of interview questions that require you to include an actual work experience situation in your answers.

  1. Tell me about a time you had to deal with a difficult customer.
  2. Have you ever had difficulty working with a manager?
  3. What is the most challenging project that you have worked on?
  4. Tell me about a time you managed an important project.
  5. Describe a time where you worked on a project where a conventional approach was not suitable.
  6. Tell me about a time you were on a team project that failed.
  7. What’s your approach to delegating work to employees?
  8. Tell me about a situation in which you had to solve a conflict.
  9. Describe a situation in which you had to adapt to a change in the workplace.
  10. What is your greatest accomplishment? Why?
  11. Can you give me an example of have you have motivated others?
  12. Tell me about a time you had to think outside of the box to solve a problem.
  13. How do you handle conflicts in the workplace?
  14. Tell me about a stressful situation at work and how you handled it.

Preparing answers to work experience job interview questions

There are a couple of things you should focus on when preparing your answers to behavioral interview questions. Make sure to consider the following elements:

Do your homework and research

Thoroughly study the job description and company in general as the start of your interview preparation. This research will help you identify the needed competencies, skills, and abilities.

Write down a list of competencies, skills, and abilities

Behavioral interview questions are very good to actually demonstrate your talent, competencies, and results. Based on the competencies, skills, and abilities you have identified, you can prepare answers to behavioral questions. A lot of companies are looking for similar skills such as teamwork, leadership, flexibility, attention to detail, adaptability, creativity, responsibilities, etc. Rank the skills on importance in relation to the requirements of the job that you are interviewing for.

Come up with a list of your past experiences that relate to the job you’re applying for

Next, make a list of past work experiences. Make sure to highlight successful situations where you demonstrated behavior related to the competencies, skills, and abilities required for the job. Focus on delivering a concise and to-the-point answer.

Focus on successful situations and challenging ones

Just like you should be able to discuss a successful situation, you should also be prepared to answer questions about challenging situations. Make sure that you have some examples ready of situations in which you faced a challenge but came out successfully. Tell the interviewer what you did, why you did it, and what the outcome was. Also, explain what you learned from the situation. Focus on demonstrating problem-solving ability, adaptability, and ability to professionally approach situations. There’s always a chance that the interviewer will ask a follow-up question to test your self-awareness by asking how you might handle a similar kind of situation differently now.

STAR Interview Technique to answer behavioral and competency-based questions

As stated earlier in this article, the STAR interview technique allows you to provide logically structured answers. It’s a way to give the interviewer an answer in the form of a ‘story.’

STAR is an acronym that stands for a situation (S), your task (T) in that situation, the actions (A) you took, and what results (R) you got based on your actions. These are the basic steps to use in your answers.

Use the STAR method to your advantage to display the skills and abilities needed for the position that you’re applying for. In other words, ensure that you match your qualifications to the job and skills, as mentioned in the job description.

Below, the STAR acronym is broken down into steps with more information on what you can include.

Situation

Start by explaining the situation you were in. Include the context around the situation or challenge you were facing. Also, make sure to provide relevant details.

Task

Next, describe your specific responsibilities and what your role was. It’s important that the interviewer gets an understanding of your task in the situation.

Action

After you explain your task, talk about the actions you took to resolve the challenges you were facing. Give the interviewer a step by step description of what actions you took.

Result

Finally, describe the outcomes of the actions that you took. It’s important that you take credit for your specific behavior that led to the results. Make sure your answer questions, such as what exactly happened based on your actions? What did you achieve?

Don’t forget to include what you learned from the situation. Focus here on positive results and learning experiences.

Questions and answers to work experience interview questions

Below you find a couple of example questions and answers regarding work experience. However, keep in mind that these are ‘general’ examples. Do not forget to structure your own answers in a way that includes enough detail to convince the interviewer that you’re the right person for the job!

Example 1 – Work experience question about you and why you want the job:

‘Based on your current work experience, which areas of your skills need improvement?’

‘At the moment, I’m working on improving my public speaking skills to become a more confident and compelling speaker. As I progress in my career, I’ve realized that if I want to become a top manager, I have to sharpen my communication skills too.

Whether I’m talking in a team meeting or presenting in front of an audience, I have to speak publically more often as I develop myself as a professional. By developing these skills to an expert level, it will give me more confidence as a manager and will make me and eventually my team more productive as well.

My current goal is to go from being a good speaker to a great speaker.’

Why this is a strong answer:

  1. The provided answer is related and relevant to the workplace.
  2. The answer directly answers the question of the interviewer.
  3. This answer is a skill-based answer, which is what the interviewer is looking for.
  4. The answer shows that you have a positive attitude and possess self-awareness.

Example 2 – Work experience question about you and why you want the job:

‘As a professional, what do you consider as your greatest strength?’

‘I believe my time management and organizational skills are my greatest strengths. I have experience handling several projects at a time that all have different deadlines. At my previous job, I was selected to be in charge of team assignments due to my ability to beat deadlines and complete work on time.

Being organized will greatly help me perform various tasks within the set period of time in this company.’

Why this is a strong answer:

  1. The provided example answer directly addresses your strengths, which is what the interviewer is looking for.
  2. This answer states your experience with handling different projects.

Note: There is a large chance that the interviewer will ask you follow-up questions about the projects you have managed and how you approach projects and deadlines in general.

Example 3 – Work experience question about you and why you want the job:

‘What are your career goals?’

‘One of the reasons I want to work for this company is because I find the opportunities that you offer to develop myself exciting.

The mentorship program within the company sounds very attractive to me to progress my career and knowledge-levels. In five years, I want to be an expert in my field and add value to the company by leading my own team in some capacity.

Also, I want to become a person that others can go to, to discuss ideas and strategies. Furthermore, I would like to develop myself as a professional that can help and mentor co-workers and be a part of the mentorship program myself.’

Why this is a strong answer:

  1. This answer directly answers the question the interviewer is looking for.
  2. The provided example answer describes what specific aspects of the company appeal to you.
  3. The answer is related and relevant to the workplace.

Example 4 – Work experience STAR-Method:

‘Have you ever had difficulty working with a manager?’

‘In my previous job, I worked with a team manager, where I initially had difficulties getting along with. With regard to my job performance, I got less feedback than I got from other managers in my career, which made it difficult to meet expectations at times. This made it hard for me to evaluate my performance, as well. In the beginning, we had some disagreements, but these were based on misunderstandings.

I requested a meeting with him and asked if he could provide me with more direct and specific feedback on work that needed to be done. He understood what I asked him, and from that day on we were on, the same page in terms of expectations. We had a successful working relationship for over three years after that meeting and worked together on multiple projects. Eventually, he got promoted, and I got a new manager to run the team. What I learned from my previous experience is that I should take time to discuss management styles with new managers and make sure that expectations from both sides are clear.’

Why this is a strong answer:

  1. The answer is written according to the STAR method. It’s a concise and to-the-point answer that directly relates to the question of the interviewer.
  2. It’s a genuine answer that shows that you possess self-reflection skills and that you can talk about difficult situations at work.
  3. The answer shows that you possess problem-solving skills and that you’re proactive in your actions.
  4. The result of your actions was positive, which gives more weight to the situation.

Example 5 – Work experience STAR-Method:

‘Tell me about a time you managed an important project. How did you prepare for it?’

‘I’ve been involved in several important projects in my previous job as manager of the sales department. One time I was asked to set up a project team to work on a sales presentation to convince a new client to use our services. The pressure was on because it was a 5-year deal and a multi-million dollar contract that was at stake. For the company as well as for me personally, this was a big deal. As this deal would mean a lot for the company in terms of turnover increase, I understood that failure was not an option because it was a unique opportunity.

I gathered a team of the most experienced employees and selected them based on their individual qualities and strengths to make sure to balance the team out. Together with the team, a planning document was set up, and goals and milestones were determined. After that, I delegated tasks based on the knowledge and experience levels of each team member. Also, I hired a project manager to carefully monitor the progress on a day to day basis and report to me on the milestone progress.

Because I distributed the responsibilities according to experience and knowledge levels, everyone on the team was aware of their responsibilities and the importance of the project. The team delivered everything on time without requiring intense oversight. We finished our sales presentation ahead of the deadline and were able to provide the client with everything he asked for.  The client told us that he was impressed by our efforts, and we landed the contract, which was the largest contract closed in that year. This was a great achievement for the team as it was an effort that could not have been made without the people on it.’ 

Why this is a strong answer:

  1. The answer is written according to the STAR method. It’s a concise and to-the-point answer that directly relates to the question of the interviewer.
  2. This example shows that you’re not hesitant when important events occur but also that you possess management and leadership skills.
  3. The provided example is related but also relevant to the workplace. It show’s that you’re able to adapt when a situation asks for it.
  4. This answer shows important skills such as being proactive, problem-solving skills, adaptability, teamwork, and creativity.