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Using Skills from Past Jobs in Your Entry-Level Job Interview

Using Skills from Past Jobs in Your Entry-Level Job Interview

The Monster Blog

September 25, 2009

Over the past few months in my job search, several wise hiring-firm insiders have told me that if you are brought in for an on-site interview, it means you are considered to have the skills needed to meet entry-level job requirements. So the interview is mostly about your fit with the company’s culture. That said, almost everyone has once held less-than-glamorous job but has been able to move on and adapt to a new company culture. And tales of these jobs offer insights to potential employers about your capabilities that could get you invited for a second interview or even a job offer.

Often the past jobs that seemed rather unattractive at the time did have value beyond the money earned. Many folks learn certain skills or characteristics they can leverage in the job search when going for a new position. One of my favorite colleagues, who had a real nuts-and-bolts industrial job, really appreciated the hard work he had put in on the factory floor for many years while he earned his degree. The job he had was a very smelly one — he was in charge of applying a paste to a surface that was then baked. This paste-and-surface combination was very fragrant. And if he did not properly apply the paste while crawling under moving machinery, then a very expensive piece of material became useless to the company. His job function was critical to the firm, and he learned he had to do his job 100% every single time. As a result, he can speak with confidence in entry-level job interviews about the importance of meticulously doing a task right with complete accuracy the first time out of the gate.

A sporting friend of mine worked as a lifeguard for a local community center for many summers. Given the center was funded by local taxes, the lifeguards also had other tasks when they were not working the guard stands in the pool areas. One such task was to service the bathrooms and locker rooms. This involved using lots of chlorine and other sanitizing products on the floors and surfaces of the facilities. My friend had the ability to clean the facilities with a smile on her face as she always kept in mind that if the restrooms were clean, then most likely the people entering the pools were clean. While this work was not glamorous, it was necessary to keep the community center up and running and in compliance with local health laws. If the community center had been shut down, she would have lost her revenue stream. She’s able to express this past work experience as an integral part of keeping a business afloat to not only her own financial benefit, but also to the benefit of the greater community, literally.

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Yet another job seeking compatriot had the opportunity to drive a forklift for several months. Her firm had a slight labor disruption at the factory and many of the employees had to step up to the plate to keep the customers satisfied with product shipments. While driving a forklift is an unusual skill and very useful if you wish to be on the factory floor, it doesn’t fit in with my friend’s normal corporate persona. However, she can prove to prospective employers she is willing to roll up her sleeves and do whatever it takes to keep the customer happy. After all, the customer pays the bills and she’s demonstrated exceptional customer service by extending herself.


What unusual skills have you gained from past experiences, part-time jobs, and internships that you can leverage to set yourself apart from other job seekers?