13 Perfect Candidate Responses to the Question: What Is the Most Important Lesson You Learned at a Previous Job? - Job Seekers | Recruiters | Offboarding | vCandidates.com (2023)

How can a candidate best respond to “What Is The Most Important Thing You Learned At A Previous Job?”

Whether you’re a job candidate in need of the following tips to nail an upcoming interview or you’re an interviewer yourself and want to know how to recognize a discerning candidate, we have 13 HR professionals and recruiting experts that have shared their preferred responses to the question: “What Is The Most Important Thing You Learned At A Previous Job?”

  • What You’ve Learned from Past Mistakes
  • Showcase Your Communication Skills
  • Highlight the Value of Your Previous Company’s Culture
  • Sought Out Additional Learning Opportunities
  • That the People are Just as Important as the Work
  • Share a Moment of Successful Collaboration Within a Team
  • Demonstrate Your Career Learning Curve
  • No Matter What, Keep Your Response Positive
  • Became the Master of Time Management
  • Walk the Interviewer Through a Past Learning Moment
  • Underscore Your High Emotional IQ
  • Focus on Valuable Takeaways and Lessons
  • Don’t Soft Sell Your Soft Skills

What You’ve Learned from Past Mistakes

The best way to show a new employer the type of person and employee you are is by sharing how you’ve responded to negative experiences in the past. While people usually avoid mentioning their past mistakes to new employers, being vulnerable and honest about your past failures can actually be a good thing. Employers will respect your honesty as long as you also provide them with what you have learned from those mistakes, and how you have grown.

Another important thing that employers value is how you react in negative situations. Providing them with a real example of a past mistake and what you learned from it is a great way to stand out as someone who is always looking to learn and improve.

Brandon Brown, GRIN

13 Perfect Candidate Responses to the Question: What Is the Most Important Lesson You Learned at a Previous Job? - Job Seekers | Recruiters | Offboarding | vCandidates.com (1)

Showcase Your Communication Skills

I think any candidate can share a lesson they learned in their previous job that involved stronger communication. Because effective communication increases a workplace’s productivity and helps colleagues gain trust among themselves. For example, if your communication is strong with your colleagues, it will reduce the number of mistakes and risks because you will consult with your colleagues before making any decision, which can lead to better results. The interviewer will be able to understand how beneficial you will be to the company. I think that when you demonstrate how effective your communication skills are, the interviewer can picture a positive and sincere image of you.

Gerrid Smith, Joy Organics

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Highlight the Value of Your Previous Company’s Culture

In most interviews, you will speak about your relevant skills, but this question gives you the opportunity to talk about how you would fit into the larger picture and this is why it’s important to address company culture. Though company cultures may differ, seeing yourself as just a part of a greater whole can let the interviewer know that you understand that you’re there to serve a bigger purpose.

Talk about how your previous company culture taught you to collaborate with other departments, the importance of meeting deadlines, how to be a self-starter, and how to hold yourself accountable. All of these are signs to an interviewer that you’re not only a team player but have the ability to understand that your efforts affect others and fit into the bigger picture. By speaking about company culture, you will impress your potential employer that you comprehend the base values that make businesses successful, and that everyone is part of a greater whole.

Matt Miller, Embroker

Sought Out Additional Learning Opportunities

As you know, we learn a lot in our careers, so candidates can respond that the most important lesson they learned in their previous job was to learn about new technologies. An example may be that the candidate once had a manager who gave everyone the task of maintaining the website, and I took a new course to learn required skills, and maintained the company website. And when they did that, the manager offered them some additional courses where they could learn more about new technologies. By hearing about your desire to learn new technologies and seriousness with your work, the interviewer will think that it’ll be a lucrative deal for their company to hire you.

Lachlan de Crespigny, Revelo

That the People are Just as Important as the Work

I think the most important thing for any candidate is the quality to consider that the people they work with are just as important as the work they’re doing. Because an employee who values their work as well as their coworkers always thrives and supports the workplace’s productivity. I think with this answer you can impress the interviewer and improve your chances of getting selected. Because learning such things makes you professional—and pushes you towards progress.


Daniel Close, We Buy Houses in Kentucky

Share a Moment of Successful Collaboration Within a Team

The answer any interviewer should want to hear is a moment where you successfully collaborated with others. It immediately demonstrates you’re a team player and can work with other people on projects in a productive way that benefits the whole team. Make it clear that you’re eager to do your best work, and that you have experience in both working in a team and with receiving creative, constructive input. It’s best to showcase your ability to be part of a supportive team.

Stephen Skeel, 7 Wonders

Demonstrate Your Career Learning Curve

The single thing you can say to answer this question is that you now understand better how everything is on a learning curve. Each job you’ve held has taught you skills you didn’t have prior, and didn’t even realize you were lacking until you were on the job. This will make you sound humble yet open-minded, and that you want to learn as much as possible not just for your sake, but for the sake of doing the job in the best way it can be done.

Bradley Hall, Sonu Sleep

No Matter What, Keep Your Response Positive

Do not let negativity creep into your answer and even as you cover different points, make sure you sound upbeat about your experiences. No employer likes an employee who paints their former workplace in a negative light, and this is something you should never forget while in an interview. Always present your previous work experience as a learning opportunity you made the most of. Whatever your response, remember to keep it positive at all times because when an interviewer is asking you this question, they’re not only looking for an intelligent response but are also trying to determine the kind of experience you had at your previous organization.

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Azmaira Maker, Ph.D., Aspiring Families

13 Perfect Candidate Responses to the Question: What Is the Most Important Lesson You Learned at a Previous Job? - Job Seekers | Recruiters | Offboarding | vCandidates.com (2)

Became the Master of Time Management

Punctuality is crucial any job. I think the candidate can respond that the most important lesson they learned was how to improve their time management. Almost any work project can be completed on time if someone knows how to effectively manage their time. Time management has multiple benefits such as increased productivity and efficiency, more opportunities for self-growth, etc. I think this would be the best answer because any company always wants their employees to complete work on time.

Kenny Kline, BarBend

Walk the Interviewer Through a Past Learning Moment

They can tell a story to answer this question. Rather than simply giving a direct answer, candidates can walk the interviewer through a situation they experienced at a previous job that taught them something meaningful. Perhaps they made a mistake and learned from it, such as rushing through a project and then realizing they could have done it better if they had worked through it more thoroughly. The candidate needs to include some context to make their responses both powerful and relatable.

Nick Shackelford, Structured Agency

Underscore Your High Emotional IQ

A response such as, “You should never underestimate the power of empathy,” followed by a story demonstrating a time that you put yourself in someone else’s shoes can be impressive. For example, maybe you were able to understand a client’s complaints and de-escalated the situation. Perhaps, you empathized with two co-workers involved in a disagreement and elicited understanding between them. A high emotional IQ is something that manifests in working well with others and your interviewer will be pleased!


Erin Banta, Pepper

Focus on Valuable Takeaways and Lessons

A candidate should answer this question with a positive skill gained through experience directly related to the job. It might be true, that the most important thing you learned was not to trust a coworker, or that you’re really not a fan of customer service jobs, but those aren’t valuable takeaways from the experience.

A valuable takeaway is something that’s learned directly from your unique work experience, like a skill or insight that you would not have learned elsewhere. A better way to think of this question is: “How did your previous job affect your growth as an employee?”

Brian Munce, Gestalt Brand Lab

Don’t Soft Sell Your Soft Skills

Soft skills are the underrated qualities that separate good employees from great employees. The best part about soft skills is that they’re transferable to practically any job and come in handy when required. Whether it’s strong communication skills, empathy, time management or leadership qualities, make sure you mention a soft skill that you truly learned during your previous employment. That, more than anything else, will help you excel in this new role.

Asma Hafejee, CMR Surgical

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What about your character makes you a good candidate for this job? ›

For example, you might explain that you are particularly motivated, or that you are known for going above and beyond for your employers. A second way to answer is to emphasize your unique skills. If you have skills that make you a strong candidate (especially if not many people have those skills), mention these.

What are the three most important qualities that will help a job applicant to get a job? ›

Desired Candidate Attributes
  • Leadership. Even in entry-level positions, most employers look for evidence of leadership qualities. ...
  • Teamwork. ...
  • Communication and Interpersonal Skills. ...
  • Analytical Skills. ...
  • Dependability and a Strong Work Ethic. ...
  • Maturity and a Professional Attitude. ...
  • Adaptability and Flexibility. ...
  • Good Personality.

How do you answer why you are the best person for the job? ›

How to answer "Why are you the best person for this job?"
  1. Learn about their ideal candidate. ...
  2. Discuss your unique traits. ...
  3. Explain how you apply your qualifications. ...
  4. Describe outcomes in past roles. ...
  5. Make a positive comparison. ...
  6. Emphasize long-term compatibility. ...
  7. Mention company values. ...
  8. Be passionate.
Feb 6, 2023

Why do we hire you or how are you the right candidate for this job? ›

For starters, I have all the skills and experience listed in the job description, and I'm confident that I can make an immediate impact on your company. It's not just my background in leading successful projects for Fortune 500 companies, but also my passion for the industry that drives me to succeed.

What makes you stand out from other candidates? ›

These can be professional skills, areas of expertise, personal qualities, or any relevant experience. Also, consider any impressive accomplishments from your past or career goals that speak to your commitment to the field. Think of ways to out-do the other candidates.

What sets you apart from other candidates? ›

6 Ways You Can Differentiate Yourself from Other Candidates
  • Demonstrate That You are a Leader. ...
  • Show That You are Capable of Solving Problems. ...
  • Exhibit Strong Work Ethic Skills. ...
  • The Ability to Be Able to Work with a Team. ...
  • Excellent Communication Skills. ...
  • The Bottom Line.

What are the 3 things that you consider important in this job? ›

When thinking about your current job situation, here are some important things to consider:
  • Your career goals. ...
  • The job's ability to meet your needs. ...
  • Your happiness within your position. ...
  • To determine if the job is a good fit for you. ...
  • To help you look for new opportunities.
Sep 30, 2022

What are three 3 things you look for when hiring a prospective candidate? ›

3 Important Traits to Look for Before Hiring a New Recruit
  • Integrity. When asked Warren Buffett, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway how his company hires. ...
  • Willingness to learn. A person who is eager or curious to learn will always come up with new ideas to improve the business. ...
  • Present Awareness.

What would you say are the three most important characteristics qualities of an employee? ›

The best employees are constantly looking for new ways to improve themselves and contribute more to the company. They listen, take feedback seriously and are open minded when presented with new ideas. They aren't afraid to ask questions and seek help when needed.

Why should we hire you examples? ›

Thanks to my solid background and work in previous projects, I'm confident, but I have certain analytical and people skills that'll prove beneficial in tackling any task you throw at me. I'm a strong team player and a self-motivated one-person unit, and I'm a fast learner and always eager to improve.

How do you handle stress and pressure? ›

2. Commit to a Positive Attitude
  1. Decide what you can do. Pinpoint which parts of the situation you have the power to change or influence for the better. ...
  2. Get support. Find someone to talk to about your situation. ...
  3. Care for yourself. Take especially good care of yourself when stress in your life is high.

How do you handle work under pressure? ›

Under pressure? 5 ways to cope with extra stress
  1. Acknowledge your feelings (without judgement) It's important to name your emotions, especially the more confronting ones, such as fear, anxiety, or anger. ...
  2. Cut yourself some slack. ...
  3. Take microbreaks. ...
  4. Focus on the next best step. ...
  5. Communicate with your support crew.
Sep 14, 2022

What makes me better than the other candidates? ›

Showcase the strengths that you have to offer. In particular, highlight strengths mentioned in the job description or by the interviewer. Give examples. Your response will be most convincing if you provide concrete examples of how you have applied your strengths to add value to previous jobs and internships.

What skills can you bring to the team? ›

Here are seven teamwork skills that are essential for your academic and professional success:
  • Communication. Communication is the foundation of effective teamwork. ...
  • Time management. ...
  • Problem-solving. ...
  • Listening. ...
  • Critical thinking. ...
  • Collaboration. ...
  • Leadership.

How do you stand out in an interview? ›

5 Ways to Stand Out in Your Next Job Interview
  1. 1) Avoid talking about what you're not.
  2. 2) Tell a story about yourself.
  3. 3) Allow yourself to be vulnerable.
  4. 4) Don't hide who you are.
  5. 5) Pose thoughtful questions to your hiring manager.
Jul 1, 2022

What values do you bring to the team? ›

Your enthusiasm for the profession and the employer and your desire to make an impact. Your personal qualities, such as your drive and willingness to learn. The skills the employer seeks and how you have demonstrated them in the past — your answer should show why you would be competent in the job.

Why would you like to be selected for this position? ›

Talk about specific examples of how you can help this company achieve their goals and highlight any relevant transferrable skills that will make you stand out as the right candidate. Write down any recent achievements you can talk about or any challenges you've faced recently that might be related to this new job.

How do you answer what impact would you make as an employee? ›

How to answer "What can you contribute to this company?"
  1. Provide concrete examples from your past. ...
  2. Discuss your skills. ...
  3. Demonstrate how your skills fit with this specific company. ...
  4. Support your answers with data.

What would be the three best things for you about being an employee? ›

Understanding which qualities employers value can help you develop as a professional and excel in your workplace.
The best employee qualities to develop
  • Good communication. ...
  • Interpersonal skills. ...
  • Strategic thinking. ...
  • Integrity. ...
  • Leadership. ...
  • Teamwork. ...
  • Confidence. ...
  • Problem-solving skills.
Aug 17, 2021

What are the 3 most important things that your job needs to have or be in order for you to be happy? ›

That same study offers some interesting revelations about what makes happy employees, well, happy—and how you can be one of them.
  • Finding #1: You need to feel accomplished.
  • Finding #2: You need positive reinforcement.
  • Finding #3: You need to like your co-workers.
  • Finding #4: You need some level of autonomy.

What are the top 3 things you look for when interviewing a candidate? ›

20 things that interviewers look for
  • Your body language. The first impression you'll make in your in-person or virtual interview is how you appear and what your body language says about you. ...
  • Preparation. ...
  • Soft skills in action. ...
  • Leadership. ...
  • Confidence. ...
  • Self-awareness. ...
  • Understanding of the company.
Feb 3, 2023

What are the top 3 things to create an exceptional candidate experience? ›

How to create a great candidate experience
  • Why is the candidate experience important?
  • Make sure you're hiring to fill a real need.
  • Write clear job descriptions.
  • Make it easy for candidates to apply to your jobs.
  • Follow-up early and often.
  • Communicate with (and thank) candidates during each step of the hiring process.

What are the top three qualities you are looking for in an aspiring candidate? ›

So, we narrowed down the list to five critical job candidate qualities:
  • Teamwork.
  • Willingness to learn.
  • Communication.
  • Self-motivation.
  • Culture fit.

How do you describe the candidate's character and attitude? ›

Get Feedback From Existing Employees About the Workplace

Another way to find the key details about the personality and attitude of candidates is to get feedback from your existing team and employees. Learn from their perspective what they believe would make someone best to work with in your company environment.

What is the most important quality an employee should have? ›

Professionalism. Being polite, well-spoken, calm, and presentable is all part of being professional at work. Honesty and integrity. Telling the truth about tricky subjects, such as workload, work/life balance, difficult customers or colleagues, and ineffective procedures makes for a good employee.

What are three 3 most important characteristics you seek in an employer? ›

There are three key employer characteristics a job seeker should look for in an employment relationship: reputation, career advancement and work balance. These often show up in employment surveys as being most important for candidates.

Can you work under pressure and deal with deadlines? ›

And yes, dealing with work pressure is a skill you can learn. While some people relish the challenge of deadlines and love juggling multiple projects, others prefer to plan ahead and diligently work through things to prevent themselves from getting overwhelmed.

How would you describe yourself? ›

Sample answers:

I am a hard-working and driven individual who isn't afraid to face a challenge. I'm passionate about my work and I know how to get the job done. I would describe myself as an open and honest person who doesn't believe in misleading other people and tries to be fair in everything I do.

How do you handle stress in difficult situations? ›

Healthy Ways to Cope with Stress
  1. Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories, including those on social media. ...
  2. Take care of yourself. ...
  3. Take care of your body. ...
  4. Make time to unwind. ...
  5. Talk to others. ...
  6. Connect with your community- or faith-based organizations.
  7. Avoid drugs and alcohol.

Can you give an example of when you have worked well under pressure? ›

In my previous experience, I always worked well during deadlines, and I always learned how to work more efficiently afterwards." "I work well under pressure because I don't panic. I maintain self control and work as efficiently as possible. In all my experiences, I did well and I always enjoyed the experience."

How do you handle high pressure situations at work? ›

6 Ways to Handle Work Pressure
  1. Adjust your attitude. It's automatic for human beings to see pressure as a threat to our wellbeing. ...
  2. Stay in the present. ...
  3. Give yourself positive reinforcement. ...
  4. Visualize the worst case scenario. ...
  5. Take a deep breath. ...
  6. Ask for help.

What are three words to describe yourself? ›

Positive Words to Describe Yourself
17 more rows
Jan 30, 2023

How do you answer what motivates you? ›

Good answers to the question 'what motivates you?'
  1. meeting deadlines, targets or goals.
  2. mentoring and coaching others.
  3. learning new things.
  4. coming up with creative ideas to improve something, or make something new.
  5. analysing complex data in order to draw clear and simple conclusions.
  6. working well as part of a team.

How do you describe your character for a job? ›

A suitable answer to a personality question should include strong words hiring managers want to hear. Some of these words include savvy, risk-taker, observant, energetic, creative, and organized. Others include courageous, honest, driven, result-oriented, positive, orderly, methodical, and adventurous, among others.

What qualities or character traits do you possess that would make you a good candidate for health science theory clinical? ›

To pursue a career in the health science industry, students should learn to reason, think critically, make decisions, solve problems, and communicate effectively. Students should recognize that quality health care depends on the ability to work well with others.

What are the most important characteristics of this career that define me as a person? ›

5 essential qualities for a successful career
  • Curious Mind.
  • Excellent Communication skills.
  • Influencing Skills.
  • Courage & Confidence.
  • Results-driven.
Jul 3, 2019

How would you describe yourself in 3 words? ›

"Enthusiastic, confident and friendly are three words I'd pick to describe myself. My enthusiasm for health care allows me to stay motivated at work and find importance in what I'm doing. My confidence helps me recognize my abilities while also knowing that there's always room to learn more.

Do you think you will be a good fit for this position if so why? ›

“Honestly, I possess all the skills and experience that you're looking for. I'm pretty confident that I am the best candidate for this job role. It's not just my background in the past projects, but also my people skills, which will be applicable in this position.

How would you describe yourself in one sentence? ›

Example: "I am ambitious and driven. I thrive on challenges and constantly set goals for myself, so I have something to strive toward. I'm not comfortable with settling, and I'm always looking for an opportunity to do better and achieve greatness. I was promoted three times in less than two years in my previous role."

What qualities you have which make you an ideal candidate for being a part of management team? ›

These are the people who manage to constantly adapt to new situations, encourage others to reach their full potential, and deliver their best work, too.
What makes a good manager great?
  • Honesty. ...
  • Communication skills. ...
  • Decisiveness. ...
  • Confidence. ...
  • Responsibility. ...
  • Empathy. ...
  • Focus. ...
  • Creativity.
Apr 30, 2020

What character traits should you possess to become successful? ›

Qualities of Successful People
  • Passion. If you want to reach your goals, it helps to care a lot about what you're doing. ...
  • Optimism. The biggest successes often start out as fantastical goals. ...
  • Persistence. ...
  • Creativity. ...
  • Self-Discipline. ...
  • A Desire to Improve. ...
  • A Commitment to Learning.

What traits does the candidate possess that would make them a strong team member? ›

What qualities make a good team player at work?
  • Flexibility. Collaboration is all about compromise—and flexibility. ...
  • Active listening. Collaboration often evokes feelings of sociability and shared ideas. ...
  • Problem-solving. ...
  • Effective communication. ...
  • Positive attitude.


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