How to Properly Explain What You Did at a Previous Job

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There comes a time in every interview where you’ll be asked about your previous jobs: what you did there, how you interacted with your co-workers and why you left.

While this may seem like an easy task, framing these prior experiences takes a little tact. Too much enthusiasm? Maybe you’re not ready to move on. Too much acrimony? Maybe you’re too negative.

Here are four tips on how to describe your old job that will help you land a new one:

Keep It Positive

Getting asked about your old job isn’t an excuse to unload all your pent-up resentment. If your friends ask, or a spouse, or a therapist, feel free to vent. For a prospective employer, put on a happy face.

Describe your previous employer in a good light. It will reflect well on you. Whatever the actual reality, get the message across that your previous career stops were constructive experiences that have prepared you for the current position.

Say something like, “It was a great experience. I learned a lot that I think could help me here. Mostly, I’m excited about the opportunity here.”

Pivot to the Current Job

Ever watch a politician get interviewed on TV? They have a trick. It’s called pivoting. If the politician wants to talk about tax reform, but gets asked about their recent DUI arrest, they’ll say something like, “I just want to focus on the things I can do to help my constituents. Right now, we’re preparing this tax reform…”

Hopefully, your experience at your old job isn’t so bleak. Hopefully, the transition won’t have to be that abrupt. But the general idea still applies. Turn the conversation back toward the future and the position at hand. Let them know your focus is on what you can do in this new opportunity.

Don’t Get Bogged Down in Details

No one wants to hear you run through a boring rehash of your previous day-to-day routine. (“Well, I’d get there around eight and then usually I’d be the one who had to set up the coffee…”) Similarly, no one signed on for a recitation of your former job description. They don’t want a detailed outline of how your old purchasing department worked.

Your prospective employer only wants to hear things that bear on your ability to do the position they are trying to fill. Keep that in mind when framing your answers.

Talk in Terms of Skills and Values

You learn from the past. Your experiences make you the person you are. That’s the message you want to send. You want to let your prospective employers know how your past has informed your present.

Concentrate on the skills you learned and the lessons you can bring forward into the future. Use the events of your past jobs to tell the story of who you are and why you are right for the current opportunity.

Looking for a new job?

Having the right work experiences can help prepare you for your dream career. Working with the right staffing partner can help you get the right experiences. Team up with Qualified Staffing. Contact their expert staff to find out how to get started today.