Tell me about a new skill or qualification you have learned over the last 6 months?
Question forms part of
Other questions that are similar to this one
- Have you ever needed to learn a new technology for your role?
- What is one thing you have learned recently?
- Do you often have to use new systems or processes in work?
What the interviewer is looking for when asking this question
This is an extremely popular question – particularly in public service roles like the Civil Service – so you should make sure you have a good answer ready. And make sure you are ready to answer any questions about what it is you were learning or upskilling in (which you will have no trouble with I’m sure since you recently)
When asking this question the interviewer is keen to understand if you are someone who will go out of their way to learn something new if it will help you perform your role.
The interviewer is also trying to gauge how well you can learn something new. It’s not enough to just be willing to learn something new but you need to be able to show that you can learn new skills and new technologies quickly.
This is especially important when you are moving into a new organisation. There are a number of technologies that are ubiquitous (Microsoft Office) but every organisation will have its own software suite that you will be expected to learn very quickly.
The best approach to answering this question
Obviously the best approach is to tell the interviewer what you have learned recently!
Always have a few things in your mind for this question as there are a number of different ways it could be asked:
Tell me about something you have learned in the past 6 months
Tell me about something you have learned in a previous role
Tell me about something you are learning now
Tell me about something you think you will need to learn for this role
See how each question is fundamentally the same but over different timelines. If you go in with how you learned SQL for a previous role and the question actually asks about what you are learning now then you will be stuck.
A good thing to do is to say you enhanced your knowledge on something that is in the job description/advert. Mention how you had been using the software/tool/skill for a while in your current role but you felt that you were not getting the most out of it so took on formal learning to round out your knowledge.
The interviewer will always have follow-up questions. So prepare yourself for questions in relation to the thing you learned. For example if you learned new project management techniques the interviewer might ask you which one you use the most. Or if you learned a new programming language the interviewer may ask which language is your favourite to code in and why.
Things like that. So whatever new skill or technology or process you learn make sure you can, and are ready to, answer detailed follow-up questions.
How NOT to answer this question
“I haven’t learned anything new recently, my current role doesn’t allow me any extra time to take on new skills and there is no real need to as my job doesn’t change”
Don’t say this. Even if it is true that you have no free time at all the interviewer will not look favorably on an answer like that.
If you are in a job that ‘doesn’t change’ you could talk about how you learned a new skill that would make the job faster.
“A new IT system was deployed in work and all of us in the office were required to get certified in how to use it. We went to a training seminar and there was a test at the end. I am good with computers so it was no problem for me”
This is another example of a pretty poor answer. While yes, technically, the interviewee has shown that they are capable of learning new things the answer doesn’t show much enthusiasm for development. The scenario in question was thrust upon the interviewee and they didn’t really have much choice in whether to take part.
The final remark about being good with computers comes across as flippant. It also is pretty vague. What part of computers is the interviewee good at?
“Tell me about a new skill or qualification you have learned over the last 6 months?” – Example Answer
“In my current role I use Microsoft Projects extensively for scheduling tasks when working with certain clients. A few months ago I learned that one of our newer clients used Primavera as their preferred PM tool.
Even though the new firm were content that we continue to use Microsoft Projects I thought it would be best to upskill myself on Primavera so that I at least could understand what the client was used to versus what we would be providing.
I started by following some courses on LinkedIn and eventually I asked my employer if they would support me in attaining the certification – which they did.
I passed the qualification on the first go and was able to successfully amend our MS Project reports so that they more closely resembled what the client was used to”
This is a decent answer for a few reasons:
1 – The interviewee was proactive in seeking out opportunities to learn. They seen that there might be a gap in the service quality they could provide their new client and immediately looked at ways to fill it.
2 – The interviewee embarked on the learning on their own and only came to their employer once they were ready to be certified.
3 – They managed to slip in how they passed on their first go without sounding too big headed (it’s ok to be a little big headed during an interview though)
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