A common interview question that consultants and contractors are likely to hear is, “What did you learn on your last assignment?” Your answer to this question helps the hiring manager understand what you bring to the table and how you will add value to the existing team. It is important to know how to answer this question by striking all the right notes.
How to Discuss What You’ve Learned in the Past
Hiring managers want to know how your past experiences will help you be successful in the role you’re interviewing for. When discussing things you’ve learned in the past, you don’t have to talk about your specific duties or responsibilities – that’s covered in your resume, and they may ask direct questions about those areas.
Instead, focus your attention on the ways in which your last assignment, and previous assignments helped shape the professional seated in the chair today. How did the assignment allow you to develop professionally? The key to a strong answer is to cite examples that are relevant and transferable to this opportunity.
You can determine the relevancy of your answer by thinking about the key requirements listed in the job description. Those are the areas the interviewer wants to hear about. What did you learn in the past that will allow you to meet and exceed those requirements? Those are the selling points to focus on.
Mistakes to Avoid When Discussing What You’ve Learned
Make sure to keep your answer succinct. Focus on two or possibly three relevant areas of development and stick to those. A long-winded answer shows a lack of focus and can make it seem like you’re actually talking around the question.
Conversely, don’t be tempted to fall into the trap of saying, “I didn’t learn anything,” even if your last assignment turned out to be a dud. Every experience can and should teach you something. If you say you didn’t learn anything, you run the risk of projecting an air of someone who thinks they know everything, or worse, you’re hiding something.
Always avoid complaining about a previous assignment. Again, you may be coming off a very bad experience, but negative comments about a previous employer only reflect poorly on you. Spin any potential negative into a positive and remember the high road is always the best road.