Other interview questions that are similar
- Can you recall an instance where you had to adapt to a completely unfamiliar task at work? What strategies did you use to become proficient?
- Share an experience where you were required to acquire knowledge in a subject you were previously unfamiliar with. How did you ensure effective learning?
- Tell us about a situation where you had to develop a new skill under a tight deadline. What resources did you utilize to meet the challenge?
- Describe an occasion when you had to teach yourself a complex concept or skill for a project. How did you structure your learning process?
- Can you discuss a time when you had to rapidly improve in an area you had little experience in? What was the outcome of this accelerated learning?
- Reflect on a moment when you were thrust into a role or task outside your comfort zone. How did you manage to upskill yourself effectively?
- Relate an experience where learning a new skill was essential for your career advancement. How did you balance this learning with your existing responsibilities?
What the interviewer is looking for by asking this question
There are probably an infinite number of questions that the interviewer could ask you on the day. Some questions are incredibly common appearing in almost every interview you will have, while other questions you might hear once and never again regardless of how many jobs you apply for.
Fundamentally though all interview questions are really trying to find out one of 3 things:
1 – Can you do the job? (Do you have the skills/experience needed?)
2 – Will you do the job? (Do you have the drive/motivation to get the job done?)
3 – Will you fit in? (Does your personality match the workplace culture? Are you likeable?)
That’s it. Those are the 3 things that the interviewer is trying to ascertain. Every question that is asked of you will fundamentally be trying to resolve one (or more) of these 3 things.
Understanding this framework can help you effectively prepare for any interview question, including ones asking about learning new skills.
This question, at its core, is assessing multiple aspects:
Firstly, it’s checking for ‘Can you do the job?’. By sharing how you learned a new skill, you’re demonstrating your ability to adapt and grow, which is crucial in any role. Your answer gives insight into your learning process, problem-solving skills, and technical abilities. This shows the interviewer that not only do you possess the foundational skills, but you also have the capability to evolve as the job demands.
Secondly, it delves into ‘Will you do the job?’. Your approach to learning a new skill, particularly under pressure or within a tight deadline, reflects your work ethic, determination, and motivation. It’s an opportunity to showcase your drive and commitment to achieving goals, even in challenging situations. By explaining the steps you took and the effort you invested, you are affirming your willingness to go above and beyond when necessary.
Lastly, it subtly touches on ‘Will you fit in?’. The way you describe your learning process can also give hints about your personality and how you interact with others. Did you seek help from colleagues? Did you use online resources, indicating an independent and self-starting nature? Your response can reveal how you handle teamwork, stress, and new environments, which are key indicators of how well you’ll integrate into the company’s culture.
How Best To Structure Your Answer
Unless the question you are asked is a straight ‘up or down / yes or no’ style question then you are going to need to learn to describe, expand and elaborate on your answers. The best way of doing this is to follow the B-STAR technique for answering interview questions.
Answers using this method follow the below structure:
B – Belief – What are your thoughts and feelings with regard to the subject matter? When reflecting on learning a new skill, share your personal beliefs and feelings about continuous learning and skill development. Are you someone who thrives on learning new things, or do you find it challenging yet rewarding? This insight helps the interviewer understand your motivation and passion for personal and professional growth.
S – Situation – What was going on? Briefly explain the scenario that was taking place. – Try not to spend too much time describing the situation. The bulk of your answer needs to be about you and what you did so keep the situation simple to understand and even simpler to describe. In the context of learning a new skill, succinctly describe the situation that necessitated this learning. This sets the stage for illustrating your adaptability and problem-solving skills, which are key traits employers look for.
T – Task – What was your role in the action? Most of the time it is best that you are taking an active rather than passive role in the encounter. Explain your specific role in learning the new skill. Were you leading a project, supporting a team, or self-initiating the learning? This demonstrates your level of responsibility and initiative, which are valuable in any job.
A – Activity (or action) – What did you do? Detail the steps you took and why you took them. – This should take up the bulk of your time answering the question. Describe the actions you took to learn the new skill. Emphasize the strategies you used, resources you accessed, and how you overcame any challenges. This part of your answer showcases your problem-solving abilities and learning agility, both critical for job success.
R – Result – How did everything end up? Try to use figures if possible (e.g. we cut costs by $3m, customer satisfaction scores increased 25%, failures reduced to zero, ice cream parties increased ten-fold etc.). Finish by discussing the outcomes of your efforts to learn the new skill. Quantify the results if possible, as this provides tangible evidence of your ability to effectively learn and apply new skills, making a strong case for your candidacy.
Remember though that the B-STAR technique is descriptive not prescriptive. You do not need to follow this flow strictly, go with what is best for your answers and that will allow you to put your point across and show your experience the best.
What You Should NOT Do When Answering Questions
Do not avoid the question.
Do not say you have no experience with the subject matter.
Do not downplay the importance of learning the skill.
Do not overhype the difficulty of the situation.
Do not focus solely on external help without highlighting your own efforts.
Do not provide vague or generalized statements about the learning process.
Do not leave out the outcome or impact of acquiring the new skill.
Describe a time when you had to learn a new skill quickly. – Example answers
Example answer 1
“I’ve always believed that learning new skills is vital for professional growth. While it can be challenging, I find it incredibly rewarding to push beyond my comfort zone and acquire new knowledge.
Last year, our company introduced a new customer relationship management (CRM) system. As a sales manager, I was responsible for ensuring my team adapted quickly to this change.”
My role involved not only learning the software myself but also facilitating training sessions for my team. I needed to ensure everyone was comfortable and efficient in using the new system.
I started by dedicating extra hours each day to thoroughly understand the software. I attended online workshops, consulted with our IT department, and practiced using the system extensively. Then, I organized weekly training sessions for my team, where I broke down the software’s features into manageable segments. I also created a user guide and set up a peer-mentoring system for additional support.
Within a month, our team’s proficiency with the new CRM system significantly improved. We saw a 30% increase in our sales process efficiency and a noticeable enhancement in customer follow-ups. My team appreciated the support and hands-on training, which reflected in their performance and morale.”
Example answer 2
More Sample Answers…
The examples provided above can serve as a foundation for creating your unique answers. For additional inspiration, our new guide includes five sample responses to this question and over 250 answers to all of the most common interview queries.