Work Experience: How to talk about it

Work Experience

Going for a job interview can be daunting under any circumstances but conducting one in a language that is not your first can make the whole process seem even harder.  However, we can enter an interview prepared. Interview questions will frequently relate to our work experience; for those skills we have learned to make us the right person for the job.

The ability to answer those questions clearly, precisely and concisely could be the difference between being offered a contract and getting the rejection letter or phone call a little later.  Having studied an English course online will help, of course. Candidates who have completed one of these will be more confident about understanding interview questions, and better able to answer those queries in strong English.  However, to help even further we have researched a list of six of the most common interview questions relating to work experience.  For each, we have explained what the question is seeking from the candidate – in other words, you – and also a model answer that can be adapted to our own circumstances, skills and experience.

1. Question: What work experience have you gained that will help you with this job?

Context: This is a nice, friendly, warm up question which is there to put you at ease.  Remember, the interviewer will already have seen the answer to this question on your application form. The key is to be concise.  Say what you have done and why it will help.  For this example, we will use the example of applying for a job as a waiter or waitress.

Model Answer: I have some strong work experience that will help me with this job if I am successful.  I worked for a year as a student in a local Pizza restaurant.  That helped me to get confidence in talking to the public, and also showed me that this is a job where I will need to work hard.  I then worked for a short while in a kitchen, helping the chef.  That showed me the other side of working in a restaurant, so I can understand the importance of giving the chef accurate information with orders.  I also worked for a while in a bank.  That shows that I am confident with handling money, which will help when I take payment for meals.

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job interview talk about work experience

2. Question: What will be the most important part of your work?

Context: A tougher interview question.  Although your work experience is not mentioned, you need to refer to it, otherwise your answer will lack authority.  We will use the example of working in a retail store.

Model Answer: I think that dealing with customers will be the most important part of my work.  For my previous work experience in a shop, I needed to develop a good understanding of the products we sold so I could help customers. I also learned to be polite and keep smiling, even with some of the more challenging shoppers.

Note: ‘more challenging’ is a euphemism.  Using a language tool such as this demonstrates a good grasp of English.  It is a polite way of saying rude.  To call customers ‘rude’ or ‘impolite’ at interview is too literal; using a phrase such as ‘more challenging’ will bring a smile to the interviewer’s face.

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3. Question: How would your friends and colleagues describe you?

Context: A good, but common question. You need to show that you are competent, but modest. Let us use the example of applying for a college course.

Model Answer: (Little Pause!) I think that I did well on my previous course.  I got on well with other people, and really enjoyed working with them. At the same time, sometimes I had to put my work first, and make sure that I completed what I needed to do. So, I would say that they would describe me as disciplined, but friendly and supportive.

4. Question: What will you find most satisfying about this job?

Context: This interview question gives you a chance to show your true self. Be positive and show what an enthusiast you are. Let us use the example of applying for a post as a receptionist.

Model Answer: Where should I begin.  There is so much I would enjoy about this job.  Meeting people, helping the public, getting to know my colleagues.  But I think best of all will be meeting a visitor who is confused, or worried, and helping them to know what they want.  I would really enjoy doing that.  When I worked at (your previous job) I loved helping my customers.

How to talk about Work Experience

5. Question: What part of the job would you find hardest?

Context: A challenging question.  You need to answer it, without suggesting that you are not able to do the work.  Since English is not your first language, that is likely to be your biggest challenge whatever work you are trying to win.  Again, bring your work experience in to show

**Model Answer: ** You can hear that English is not my first language.  But even when I was less good at speaking in my job as a (relevant work) I learned to cope.  My English is getting better all the time, but I am not afraid to ask if I do not understand something, and my studies are helping me to improve.

6. Question: What has your work experience taught you about yourself?

Context: A tough interview question to finish. You need to answer the question honestly, but in a way that shows your positive side. Try to find an example from your work experience. Here we will use the example of becoming an assistant in a school.

Model Answer: The last time I worked as a language assistant, I found the work really interesting but sometimes hard. I learned a lot from my work experience. On one occasion I found two boys fighting in the playground. I managed to calm them down by being calm myself. I asked them what had happened and helped them to resolve their fight themselves. I thought that in a situation like that I would get angry myself, and perhaps take sides, but I did not.  I think that this was a great lesson for me.

Of course, many questions about work experience can be asked at interview.  However, those above are some of the most common.  Preparing your own answers will not only help should these questions arise but will really be of use to give you confidence in responding to other questions about your previous work.

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