interview question: what were your job responsibilities?

This is a guest post from Ron Haynes, editor of The Wisdom Journal.

Have you actually prepared for your next job interview? Interview preparation is a matter of researching the company, the open position for which you’re applying, and even researching yourself. How do your skills, experience, and education match with the open position’s demands? How do you “fit” with the company culture? Those two questions are the ones you have to embed into every answer you give to any interview question.

What were your three most important responsibilities on your last job?

This appears to be a simple information gathering question, but many times it’s followed up with “What special skills or knowledge did you need to perform those duties?” These two questions combine to give the interviewer a larger view of your functional background as well as an insight into your depth of understanding. If you’ve had any specialized training, this is a perfect time to mention it. It tells your interviewer that your previous employer felt you were a good investment of the time and money spent on training (this is an endorsement in and of itself). It also tells the interviewer that such an investment won’t have to be made on his dime!

WORST ANSWER: Make certain your answer contains the responsibilities that match the job to which you’re applying. It doesn’t do any good to answer “ringing up customers, ordering product, and controlling inventory” if you’re applying for an accounting job.

BEST ANSWER: Responsibilities that match your interviewer’s greatest wants or needs will raise your value in the interviewer’s eyes most. Since you’ve done your homework and know what those needs are, you’re already ahead of the game. If you’ve recently graduated college with an accounting degree but your only experience was in working at Old Navy as a cashier, think about how your experience applies:

 

Example: “My top three responsibilities were to account for all cash, checks, and credit card receipts at the end of my shift and balance those with what our management information system calculated. I was responsible to audit the cycle counts of all merchandise in my area, and I also trained newcomers to the company.”

See how those responsibilities match what an accounting firm might like to see? Always, always, always tailor your responses to match what your interviewer is looking for. Yes, he probably knows what you’re doing, but the fact that you’re already thinking like an employee and matching your former responsibilities to the ones demanded of the open position proves you’re the best candidate … and the best candidate usually gets the job offer!