Interview Questions: Work History

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

    Answer : Interviewers demand a candidate for employment to be able to review their work history in detail. Be prepared to communicate 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 would be amazed how many job applicants are lost when asked about prior employment. Don't be one of them! Stimulate your memory prior to the interview by reviewing your resume, so, you can speak about your prior work history in detail and accurately.

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

    Answer : In many cases, interviewers will wish 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 is not a good or wrong answer to this question. The best form to respond is to tell what you expected when you took the job and give examples of how the position worked out for you. If the job wasn't precisely 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). When responding, be specific. Prepare some examples to share with the interviewer in advance.

  3. What were your starting and final levels of compensation?

    Answer : Interviewers want a candidate for employment to be able to give 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 say the interviewer matches what you listed on your job application. Stimulate your memory prior to the interview by reviewing your compensation history, so, you can tell in detail and carefully. Don't exaggerate or inflate your earnings. Many employers will verify references and confirm your salary history prior to making a job offer. A discrepancy among what you reported and what the employer says could knock you out of contention for the job.

  4. What were your responsibilities?

    Answer : 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 form to reply is to describe your responsibilities in detail and to associate them to the job you are interviewing for. Try to link 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 sincere. Don't adorn your job, because you don't know who the hiring manager will be verifying with when they check your references.

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

    Answer: 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.

  6. Which was most / least rewarding?

    Answer: This interview question 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.

  7. What was the biggest accomplishment / failure in this position?

    Answer: Your potential employer will want to know what you accomplished, and what you didn't, in your current or last position.

    The best way to respond is to give an example of something you accomplished that is directly related to the job you are interviewing for. Review your resume and review the job posting. Find the best match and use that to show how what you accomplished will be beneficial to the company you are interviewing with.

    If you wrote a targeted cover letter when applying for the job use the information you included to create your response.

    If you didn't fail at anything, say so. If you can think of an example, be sure that it's a minor one and turn it into a positive.

  8. What was it like working for your supervisor? What were his strengths and shortcomings?

    Answer: A classic interview question is "What Was it Like Working for Your Supervisor?" The motive it's asked it to find out how you got along with your boss. Beware 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.

    You should emphasize the positive and minimize any difficult situations. Discuss the strengths your past supervisors had and how they helped you succeed in your positions.

  9. Who was your best boss and who was the worst?

    Answer: 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.
    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.

  10. Why are you leaving your job?

    Answer: One of the questions that is typically asked in an interview is "Why are you leaving your job?" or "Why did you leave your job?" if you have already moved on. If you were fired from your job, use these answers to respond. If you left of your own accord, review these suggestions on how best to answer and tailor your response to meet your particular situation. Be direct and focus your interview answer on the future, especially if your leaving wasn't under the best of circumstances. Don't badmouth your boss
    Regardless of why you left, don't speak badly about your previous employer. The interviewer may wonder if you will be bad-mouthing his company next time you are looking for work.

    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 leave your job?
    • I found myself bored with the work and looking for more challenges. I am an excellent employee and I didn't want my unhappiness to have any impact on the job I was doing for my employer.
    • There isn't room for growth with my current employer and I'm ready to move on to a new challenge.
    • I'm looking for a bigger challenge and to grow my career and I couldn't job hunt part time while working. It didn't seem ethical to use my former employer's time.
    • I was laid-off from my last position when our department was eliminated due to corporate restructuring.
    • I'm relocating to this area due to family circumstances and left my previous position in order to make the move.
    • I've decided that is not the direction I want to go in my career and my current employer has no opportunities in the direction I'd like to head.
    • 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 technical skills and experience in a different capacity than I have in the past.
    • I recently received my degree and I want to utilize my educational background 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 my family. Circumstances have changed and I'm more than ready for full-time employment again.
    • I am seeking a position with a stable company with room for growth and opportunity for advancement.
    • I was commuting to the city and spending a significant amount of time each day on travel. I would prefer to be closer to home.
    • To be honest, I wasn't considering a move, but, I saw this job posting and was intrigued by the position and the company. It sounds like an exciting opportunity and an ideal match with 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 cutting back and, unfortunately, my job was one of those eliminated.

  11. What have you been doing since your last job?

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

    The best mode to answer this question is to be sincere, but do have an answer prepared. You will wish 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 advices 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.
    It doesn't really matter what you did, as long as you have an explanation.

  12. Why were you fired?

    Answer: 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 is the nation's first syndicated careers columnist.

    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.

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