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What did you learn in that job?

 

Disciplines > Job-finding > Interview questions > What did you learn in that job?

The question | What they are looking for | How to answer | See also

 

The question

What did you learn in that job?

That was interesting, what did you learn from it?

What went wrong? Why? What happened next?

What they are looking for

This may well be seeking to identify your attitude towards learning. Some people never learn, as they say, in which case they repeat mistakes. Many employers will accept a mistake made once but not one made repeatedly.

Learning often comes from taking deliberate risks and trying things that may fail. They may thus seek to understand your  risk bias.

This is also a way of uncovering particular mistakes that you may have made, including how big and important they are.

It can also turn into a test of how you cover up things or the extent to which you will tell lies.

How to answer

Show that you have a desire and capability to learn. Indicate your attention to what goes on around you and how you can learn from wider events and both the successes and failures of others.

When our main competitor brought out a new product, they used a really good marketing campaign. I made sure we quickly analyzed, improved and and adopted the best elements. This helped to neutralize the short-term advantage they gained.

Show deliberate attempts to learn, including doing careful experiments and opportunistic exploration. Be clear about what you specifically learned.

I did small market trials of a product that was about to be stopped and managed to find a new niche for it. From those trials I learned the more about matching of products to customer need.

Note how learning can be relative ('learned more') or absolute ('realized'). Generally, relative learning shows that you are already knowledgeable. Absolute learning shows that you are open to completely new ideas (though be careful not to show that you did not know something you should have known).

You can also talk about a mistake that you have made and how you learned from it. Make the mistake relatively small (do not expose any serious incompetence, of course) and the learning particularly useful.

There was a great urgency for the change so I railroaded it through. We made the target, but it cause a problem for the helpdesk. When I had another rush job after that, I always made sure the helpdesk was in the loop. I guess I learned the lesson then about keeping all stakeholders close.

See also

Learning Theory, Risk bias.

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