Most jobs are relatively simple. You will learn how to carry our your duties after shadowing your colleagues for a day or two. You won’t be the fastest, or the most efficient worker straight away, but you will handle the job. What’s more, many companies have excellent training programs in place (or at least some training programs). They will teach you how to do everything in work… Bearing this in mind, does it actually make sense to ask you about a relevant experience in an interview?
It does make sense, in some cases. For example when you will work alone, without supervision, and great deal of independence will be expected from you from day one. Or when you apply for a rather specific job (think compliance officer, maintenance technician, programmer with a specific software), and there won’t be anyone in the company to teach you, because nobody from the existing employees will have the same skills.
What’s more, not every interview question has to make sense. Hiring managers are also only people, and not all of them excel in their jobs. They may ask you a senseless question, but it’s still a question, and you can’t remain silent if you want to get a job. Sensible or not, you should get ready, because you may face this question.
Let’s have a look at 7 sample answers. My list includes some typical choices, but also some creative and philosophical answers, including answers for people with no previous experience. I hope you will find on the list at least one answer you can use in your interview, bearing in mind your situation and the job you are trying to get. Enjoy!
* Note: Don’t stress out if you hear this questions with a slightly different wording, such as:
- How has your experience prepared you for this role
- How do your skills and experience match the requirements for this job?
- Tell us how have your achievements and operational experience to date prepared you for this position?
Different wording but always the same meaning, so the sample answers below will work for you, regardless of the exact question you face.
7 sample answers to “How is your previous experience relevant for this role?”
- I’ve worked in a retail store before, spending my days advising customers, trying to deliver a great customer service. I know that a job in a call center is different, but at the end of the day it is also about communication with people, trying to understand their needs and wishes, and finding the right words to motivate them to take a desired action. I honestly believe that my job in a clothing store has prepared me for this position, and feel confident that I will handle the job, and achieve good results.
- Speaking honestly, it is not very relevant. Because the only job I had so far was one with a fast food restaurant during my studies. I worked as a cashier and helped with basic food preparation. Still, job is a job, you need to arrive on time each day, stay vigilant during the shift, and take care of your duties, but obviously it hasn’t prepared me much for this role with your company… But I’ve heard great things about your corporation and the training program you have in place. I believe that I have the intelligence and abilities to learn how to do the job well, and will become a valuable member of your team, though I lack relevant experience. But perhaps sometimes motivation and drive can beat experience.
- I’ve lead XYZ project in my last job, and took care of ABC duties, as a part of my managerial role. Reading your job description and researching about your company, I got an impression that my skills and experience match the requirements for this job–please correct me if I am wrong. I dealt with all challenges such projects propose, including tight deadlines, adapting to changes on the go, and a constant need to re-evaluate the milestones and hire new employees. I didn’t do badly in my last job, and honestly believe that my experience is highly relevant for this position, and will help me greatly.
- Well, I’ll be working mostly with XYZ software in your company. You should know that I’ve been working with this software for seven years already, including ABC modules, and I’ve managed to master the functionality. Hence, at least in my opinion, my experience is highly relevant for the job, and I can’t wait to use my existing knowledge to help to improve the processes in your company.
- My previous experience isn’t relevant to this job, because I have no previous experience. But you do not have to be the smartest girl in the city to become a great receptionist… I will certainly have to learn to work with the software you use at the reception desk, and also learn how to adhere to the code of conduct you have in place for your receptionists. But this is not some specialty knowledge, and shadowing my colleagues in work, and questioning them about the job, I am sure I can learn to handle my duties in no time. What’s more, I believe to have what it takes to be a great receptionist–excellent communication and organizational skills, and desire to go above and beyond for the guests. In my opinion, everything is much easier with this attitude.
- As you can see on my resume, I’ve had completely different jobs before. My experience isn’t relevant, but that’s exactly the reason why I am here. I experienced a burnout, and I need a career change. I know that I will have to learn a lot of things to do a great job in your company. But I am ready to put in the extra effort, and motivated to learn to do new things. Starting from scratch is never easy, but I am confident I will handle the job, and hope that you will give me a chance to prove my abilities.
- In my opinion, everything relates to everything. It may look like my experience isn’t relevant, but I believe that regardless of the place of work, we experience the same tricky situations everywhere: conflicts with colleagues, trying to meet a tight deadline, overcoming some challenges, struggling to meet the monthly goals, etc. Just like I experienced these situations in my previous jobs, I will experience them in your company, just the circumstances will be different. What’s more, I know that your company has excellent processes in place for everything, and employees should work according to them. So in my view it makes no difference whether my achievements and operational experience to date have prepared me for this role. What matters is a willingness to learn and to follow your way of doing things, to adhere to the processes. I can assure you that I am willing to do so, and motivated to learn new skills…
Everything relates to everything–you just need to find the connection
In fact there is nothing like a completely irrelevant working experience. In each job you deal with people, processes, tasks, goals. They may be different from one place to another, but in each place you have to communicate with colleagues or customers, handle your responsibilities, and follow the processes and regulations they have in place.
There is always some connection, and your goal is to demonstrate this connection in an interview, so the hiring managers see that your experience is relevant, though it may not seem to be the case. Check sample answers no. 1, no. 2, or no. 7 as a good illustration of how you can do it.
No experience is not a showstopper
If you apply for your first job, or first real job (not counting in some part time jobs or volunteering roles you had at school), and they ask you about relevant experience (perhaps because they have the question on their list and ask each job candidate the same questions), it is all right to say that you have no experience.
They read your resume (or at least they should read it before the interview) and know about your lack of experience. If they invited you for an interview, it means that lack of experience is not as showstopper. But you should elaborate on your answer.
You can praise their excellent training program, when you find out that they have one in place. Or you can emphasize your motivation to learn and work hard, or refer to the relative simplicity of the job (anyone can learn it and experience isn’t really important, as long as there is motivation). Another idea is focusing more on how your skills match the job requirements, regardless of your lack of experience. See sample answers no. 2, no. 5, and no. 6 as a good example of demonstrating this attitude.
If you have a relevant experience, you should share more details
In almost all cases and interviews, a relevant experience is a plus, though it is rarely the deciding factor. Anyway, if you had the same position before, or were responsible for similar tasks, or worked with similar software products and systems in your former jobs, you should definitely mention it.
But you shouldn’t just say that you have the experience. Try to be more specific. Tell them how long you’ve worked with this or that thing, what exactly you did with that, and how it relates to the job you try to get with their company.
Remember that they do not know what exactly you did in your last job. Things that may seem obvious to you may not be obvious to your interviewers. The better you explain the relevancy of your past experience, the easier it will be for them to see the connection, and to give you some credit for your answer…
Ready to answer this one? I hope so! But it won’t be the only difficult question you will face in your interview. Check our Interview Success Package for great answers to all tricky interview questions (104 in total, including the dreaded behavioral questions), and make sure that you won’t make any mistakes when it counts the most.
Alternatively you may check 7 sample answers to some other interview questions, available for everyone who visits our website:
- What’s the best project you’ve ever worked on?
- What are the top 3 reasons why you’re qualified for this job?
- What makes you stand out from other candidates?