How to Categorize Your Interview Responses

You can probably find more books, articles and blogs on the subject of job interviews than any other topic out there today. There are the basics of the process that should be well known – like what to wear, when to show up, and how to follow up – that I won’t be covering in this post. . I would like to focus however on the 20% of the interview that’s 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 a question as to 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 give a specific example is the number one thing that will help you create the most value for yourself in an interview.

Answer Categories

Bullseye showing interview categories.

Category #1

This is the bullseye. If you’re 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

If you’re asked whether or not you have experience in a specific area and you don’t, 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 you heard them properly.  This is now the point where 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 what you have done that is similar.

The key here is to be absolutely sure that the interviewer will truly see your example as something similar.  If they don’t, you are going to lose credibility.

Category #3

How do you answer the question when you don’t have experience in the specific area they are asking and you have not done anything similar? If handled properly, this can be an area where you can create a lot of value for yourself compared to your competition.

The way you respond in this situation is to acknowledge that you don’t have experience in the specific area. But, instead of having it end there, 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 don’t have prior experience.   Again, give a specific example of when you have done this is the past.

Why can this be valuable to do?  Think about it…if you are going to be there for four to six years you will probably be working with technologies down the road that are not in place today.

Although you will have to meet the minimum requirements the employer has set in order to get hired today, most employers want to know that the people they hire people will have the ability to adapt and face new issues, new problems and learn new technologies that they are not familiar with.

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 Take-Aways:

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

About the author


David Kushan

David Kushan is the President of Healthcare IS and has spent the last 18 years of his career working in the Healthcare Information Technology industry assisting over 120 healthcare organizations nationwide. Visit for Dave’s company blog, articles, podcasts and more.