How to Categorize Your Interview Responses

Oct 21, 2014 12:00:00 AM · by David Kushan

You can probably find more books, articles, and blogs on the subject of job interviews than on virtually any other topic. There are the basics of the process that should be well known — what to wear, when to show up, how to follow up, etc. — and which I will not cover in this post. I would like to focus, instead, on the 20% of the interview that is going to create 80% of your value. I simply want to talk about how to respond to questions.

So let’s get right to it!

During an interview, if you are asked whether or not you have experience in a particular area, your response will fall into one of three categories. Your ability to classify your response into one of these three categories and then provide a specific example will matter most in terms of helping you create the most value for yourself in an interview.

Answer Categories


Category #1

This is the bulls-eye. If you are asked whether or not you have experience in a specific area, and you do, simply give a specific example of exactly when/where you have done this type of work. 

Category #2

Here, you are asked whether or not you have experience in a specific area, and you do not, but you have experience with something that is so similar it would be ridiculous to say no. First, acknowledge that you have not had the specific experience. It is important to let the interviewer know that you heard him or her properly. This is the point at which you can say, “However, I do believe I have experience in an area that you will find extremely similar.” Then give the specific example of that experience.

The key here is to be absolutely certain that the interviewer will see the similarity of your example. If he or she does not, you are going to lose credibility.

Category # 3

How do you answer the question when you do not have experience in a specific area and you have not done anything similar? If handled properly, this can be a point at which you create tremendous value for yourself compared to your competition. 

In this situation, acknowledge that you do not have experience in the specific area. Instead of having it end there, though, transition into giving an example of a time when you were faced with an issue where you had no prior experience. Take this opportunity (if the interviewer will let you) to specifically describe your methodology for solving problems when you do not have prior experience. Again, give a specific example of when you have done this in the past.

Why can this response be valuable? Think about it: If you are going to be there for four to six years, you will probably be working with technologies that are not in place today.

Although you will have to meet the minimum requirements in order to get hired today, most employers want to know that the people they hire have the ability to adapt, facing new issues and learning new technologies with which they are not currently familiar.

So, the way you handle this situation is almost as important as how you handle the responses when you do have the actual experience.

Key takeaways:

  1. Respond with examples of how you have done what the interviewer is looking for.
  2. Acknowledge when you do not have the specific experience, but give examples of “similar” situations.
  3. Be clear when you do not have experience, and give examples of what you have done in the past to adapt to situations with which you were not familiar.


 You may also like: How To Prepare For A Hard Interview

General, Career Planning, Interviews, David Kushan


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