Every engineering job interview will be different; however, you can count on every hiring manager asking you to discuss your experience. This question helps them learn more about you as a professional, allows them to make inferences about the value you bring to the table and assess how well you align with organizational culture. Use these strategies to discuss your past work experience and position yourself as a strong candidate.
Honesty Is the Best Policy
It can be tempting to skirt unpleasant issues in a job interview, but it is important to be as honest as possible without coming across negatively. Say, for example, you have a period of job hopping on your resume. Perhaps early in your career it took you a few years to find an employer that truly fit you. If you’re asked about that period, be honest. Say you were young and trying to get your bearings but now that you are older, you have a firm grasp of what you’re looking for and where you do your best work – and the role you’re interviewing for fits the bill.
The honesty policy also includes layoffs and terminations. These situations are difficult to discuss and may even make you feel embarrassed. Remember that people get fired from jobs every day and being let go does not disqualify you from getting hired somewhere else. If you were let go, talk about what you learned from that experience and the ways you have worked to correct the issues that led to your termination.
Avoid Trash Talk
Honesty is important when discussing past work experience, but you never want to speak negatively about previous bosses or places of employment, no matter how miserable the experience. Negative talk always reflects poorly on you, not the previous employer. It will also make hiring managers question whether you will speak ill of their company down the line.
Focus on Your Value
Interviews are about showing the value you will bring to the table. When discussing past experiences, always focus on quantifiable and verifiable contributions you made to your employer. Think about ways you might have improved processes, helped your team overcome a major challenge, led a project that came in early and under budget, etc. The hiring manager wants to find reasons to hire you, so the more you focus on the positive value you add, the better.