Tell Me How Your Experience Has Prepared You For This Job

military experience prepares veterans for jobs

When preparing for an interview it can be extremely helpful to anticipate the questions you are likely to receive and to prepare your responses to those questions so you have the opportunity to show yourself in the best light possible. For most jobs, there are certain common questions that you could expect to be asked and we’ve covered some of these previously.

One very common question that you can almost be certain will be asked of you goes something like this: “Tell me how your experience has prepared you for this job.” It’s a broad question and that represents big benefits for you as you prepare for your interviews. Why? Because there are multiple opportunities to tie many aspects of your past experiences to the new position you’re interested in.

Understand the Job Before the Interview

Before the interview, as you’re researching the company and the job you’ve applied for, take some time to think about how your past experiences align with the position you’re applying for and the tasks and responsibilities that are likely to be required in that position.

For instance, if you’re applying for a customer service role, you could expect that some tasks and responsibilities you would perform would include:

  • Developing a solid understanding of the company’s product and service offerings

  • Answering phone calls and responding to customer inquiries and questions

  • Multi-tasking—dealing with phone calls, inquiries from colleagues and teammates, doing paperwork, etc.

  • Handling challenging calls or customer inquiries/complaints

If you’re applying for a management role, you might anticipate responsibilities that would include:

  • Establishing job expectations for your team

  • Providing support, coaching and counseling for team members

  • Providing positive and constructive feedback

  • Working collaboratively with other departments and senior leaders

The job posting or job description will also give you some insights into the types of things that you might be doing in the position. You can do additional research by visiting the company’s website, searching for information online about the company that might appear in media reports, news releases, etc., and connecting with people you know, or who you are connected with on social media who may have familiarity with the company—or even the specific position you’re interested in.

Break Down the Elements of Job Tasks to Identify Key Competencies

For each task or responsibility that you might be called upon to perform in a job, you have an opportunity to identify specific skills or competencies that could help you perform that task. For instance, using the customer service position as an example, dealing with customers over the phone would involved competencies that could include:

  • Strong verbal communication skills

  • The ability to listen actively

  • The ability to ask open-ended questions to gather information

  • The ability to paraphrase what the customer is saying

  • The ability to effectively handle conflict

  • And the list could go on…

What you’re trying to do here is identify aspects of your own background and experience that can be tied to the job duties you can expect to perform. Then you’ll come up with specific examples that you can share to illustrate how you’ve put these competencies to work in previous positions—and to illustrate how those competencies can be applied to your new job.

Make Relevant Connections Between Your Background and Your Desired Job

Then, for each of the items on your list identify aspects of your past experience that would be well aligned with the anticipated task and frame it in a way that illustrates your strong capabilities to take on the role. Call upon both previous jobs you’ve had as well as aspects of your military experience.

For instance, using the management role as an example, you might provide a response like this: “As an officer in the military I was responsible for planning, organizing and leading troops in what could be very intense situations. My experiences in providing strategic advice, guidance and support to my team has provided me with a very strong background in successfully leading others.”

Providing a range of background experiences in both civilian and military roles can help you emphasize a comprehensive and diverse background that conveys that you are well prepared to bring your skills and experiences to bear in the position you are applying for.

End on a Positive Note

After sharing some specific examples of how you past experience—in both civilian and military roles—has prepared you to take on the duties of this new job, summarize with a strong statement of your confidence in your capabilities and your strong interest in the job. For instance: “As you can see my background and experiences position me very well to take on this position. I believe I would be a strong performer and hope I’ll have an opportunity (to return for another interview, to work with you, etc.).

As you can see, the most important aspect of preparing for this critical interview question is doing your homework. Take steps to ensure that you have a solid understanding of the job you’re applying for and the most important elements of that job. Then spend some time thinking about how you can tie your background and experiences to your anticipated tasks in ways that position you as an exceptionally strong candidate.