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How To Answer “What Have You Learned From Your Past Jobs?”

Here at Bubble, we like to spend a lot of time writing up advice and tips for you when it comes to answering common interview questions, as well as some that you might not expect to be asked.

The “What have you learned from your past jobs?” question certainly falls into the latter category, but it is one that tends to come up during interviews.

If you are asked this during a job interview, it’s important that you realise that the employer isn’t asking you what you did in your previous jobs, but more how you developed during your time in the roles, and how what you’ve learned can be applied to this job – should you be successful.

With that in mind, here is five tips on how to answer the “What have you learned from your past jobs?” interview question.

1) Keep It Relevant

When answering this question, it’s a good idea to keep it relevant to the job that you’re applying for. It’s no use saying that in your old job you learned how to use SEO analytics tools if the role you’re applying for is graphic design-related.

Think about the skills that the job requires and tailor your answer towards that. It’s important that you consider what the employer wants to hear, but make sure what you’re saying is the truth.

For example, if you’re going from an SEO role to one with more focus on paid search, perhaps explain that you didn’t have the strongest knowledge of PPC when you started, but took the Google AdWords course while you were at your previous company, and now you’re proficient and comfortable working on PPC campaigns.

2) Mix Up The Answer

Another to consider when answering this question, is to vary the examples that you give to the interviewer. While it’s great to give an answer that showcases how much you’ve developed technically, it’s also useful to show how you’ve grown as a person, as personality fit is one of the most important things an employer will look at when it comes to hiring for a new position.

Think about what sort of “life lessons” you’ve learned in your previous roles, and apply this to your answer.

Give one technical example, like the previous one, but also include more general lessons. E.g. persistence, be more independent, believe in own ability etc. If was given more responsibility and left to own devices, say how you learned to have faith in your own ideas and be more independent.

3) Turn Negatives into Positives

If the places you’ve had jobs at in the past have been very difficult places to work, then use this question as a chance to turn those negative experiences into positive ones.

For example, if you previously worked somewhere where you didn’t receive any guidance or assistance, then perhaps use this as a chance to explain that you were expected to work independently and this encouraged you to use your own initiative and trust your own ideas and judgement.

This will show the employer that you aren’t fazed by negative experiences, and use them as a learning curve, which is a really good trait for any prospective employee to have.

4) Avoid Moaning About Your Previous Job

Following on from the previous point, if your previous roles were a bit of a nightmare and you were treated badly, this isn’t the time to start ranting about it.

While this question could very easily turn into a negative discussion about your old employers, this should be actively avoided as no recruiter wants to hear you slagging off your previous bosses – it’s unprofessional and makes you seem like a moaner.

If your experiences were truly awful and you aren’t sure how to describe it, saying something like “It was quite a challenging environment, but it made me grow as a person and develop my professional skills.” is less negative and shows that you were still thankful of the time you spent at your old company.

5) Align Answer With Company Ethos

Finally, when you’re considering how to answer this question, think about what the company’s values are and what its ethos is, and use this to form part of your answer.

You can normally find out more about a company’s culture, ethos and values on their own website or via their social media channels.

For example, if the company places a high emphasis on teamwork, then use this answer as a chance to say that in your previous jobs, you’ve learned how to work as part of a team and collaborate with people whose ideas may be different to your own.

So there we go, some tips on how to answer the “What have you learned from your past jobs?” interview question. Do you agree with these tips or have any of your own?

Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter @BubbleJobs! 🙂

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