How to Answer Interview Questions About Previous Job Expectations

Woman being interviewed by two people
Compassionate Eye Foundation / Dan Kenyon / Getty Images

In many cases, interviewers will want to know what you expected from your last job when you were hired, so be prepared to answer the interview question "What were your expectations for your last job and to what extent were they met?"

Employers want to know about your past expectations to see if your expectations are reasonable, and if your expectations match with what they will provide you.

While there is no right answer to this question, you want to be honest, positive, and specific.

Read below for tips on how to answer the question, as well as sample answers. 

How to Answer the Question

The best way to respond to this question is to discuss what you expected when you took the job and give examples of how the position worked out for you. Below are some more concrete tips for answering the question.

Be honest, but positive. If the job wasn't exactly what you expected, it's fine to mention that. However, you should focus on the job itself, not the company, your boss, or your co-workers (if they were a problem). Do be careful how you answer and don't focus too much on the negative. Instead, address the highlights of the job.

Be reasonable. Perhaps you had unrealistically high expectations for your previous job, and they weren’t met. Don’t share any unrealistic expectations in the interview. Focus on realistic expectations you had for the job – you don’t want to seem like an employee who expects too much from a position, colleagues, or a company.

Be specific. When responding, be specific. You can focus on one of a variety of topics when referring to “expectations,” from the office environment to your assigned duties to the support from your employer. Once you pick a focus for your answer, prepare some examples to share with the interviewer. For example, if your job involved creating web applications, discuss the specific programs you developed and the responsibilities you were given.

Think about the current job. When selecting the focus of your answer, keep the job for which you are applying in mind. Think about what sorts of expectations you have for this job, and connect them back to your expectations for your previous job. For example, perhaps you know this company provides professional development for many of its employees, and this is something that is important to you. In that case, you might mention the training opportunities for professional development that helped you achieve your goals at your last job.

Sample Answers

  • My expectations for my previous job were that I would be teaching my students a completely new eighth-grade English curriculum that I would have to develop myself, but that I would have the support of a co-teacher in all of my classes. This blend of support and independence allowed me to successfully develop a new curriculum that is still used in the school to this day.
  • In my previous job, my expectation based on the job description and interview was that my job would involve working primarily on team-based projects. Ultimately, many more of my projects than expected were ones I developed and completed on my own. While my expectations were not quite met, this independence allowed me to greatly strengthen my skills in all aspects of project development.
  • One expectation I had for my previous job was that I would have the opportunity as administrative assistant to step into a variety of leadership roles. This expectation was definitely met. For example, I became the supervisor and trainer for all interns and part-time administrative employees. I also attended a number of seminars on leadership and management. I believe my experience and skills as a manager will serve me extremely well as a supervisor at your company.

More Job Interview Questions and Answers

Interview Questions and Answers
Typical job interview questions and sample answers.

Interview Questions to Ask
Questions for candidates for employment to ask the interviewer.

Read More: List of Teaching Skills | What to Wear to a Job Interview | Job Interview Questions and Answers | Top 10 Job Interview Tips | Job Interview Thank You Letters

Continue Reading...