When I am asked such a question "How many years experience do you have in skill X?" in interviews, I don't know how to respond it correctly.

Because the culture difference, I am a humble man and don't sell me well. For example, I used a skill X on and off for the last 5 years. When I was asked, my answer was try to calculate the sum of pure months of using the skills. So I always don't get opportunities.

So what is the correct answer?



    in 2012, I had used xxx for 4 months.
    in 2013, I had used xxx for 1 month.
    in 2014, I had used xxx for 5 months.
    in 2015, I had used xxx for 6 months.
    in 2016, I had used xxx for 5 months.
    in 2017, I had used xxx for 11 months.

Can I claim 5 years experience?

  • 1
    Do you mean you used it only in 2012 or do you mean you used it intermittently since 2012? In either case, why don't you just tell them that? Commented Sep 29, 2017 at 21:24
  • I used it intermittently since 2012. But the job description requires 5+ years. am I qualified the requirement?
    – Love
    Commented Sep 29, 2017 at 21:26
  • 1
    If you're in the interview, they should ask follow-up questions to determine whether you have the knowledge they expect from "5+ years" of experience.
    – Chris G
    Commented Sep 29, 2017 at 21:38
  • 2
    From your example, count each year you listed as one year of experience, except perhaps for the year you used it for only one month out of the year. The point of years of experience is to summarize it in a simple way. Counting individual months, hours, etc. is too detailed.
    – Brandin
    Commented Sep 30, 2017 at 9:45
  • 1
    If the OP has used the skill intermittently for a few years, that's close enough. If the OP has used the skill very intensely for 1 year, that's close enough. If the OP has used the skill for 6 months to complete a significant state-of-the-art project, that's close enough. All of this depends very much on the context of the OP's other skills, what the job actually requires, what the other candidates are like, and how much the job description has been adulterated by HR/recruiter. If OP clearly communicates the scope of their experience, that's good enough. Worst case scenario: no call back.
    – teego1967
    Commented Sep 30, 2017 at 14:59

2 Answers 2


In an interview, take advantage of the fact that you are not filling out a form online, or writing up a resume to a strict format. You are talking to a human. So answer in an honest, complete, and useful way.

For example

It's been more than 5 years since I started using X, so I've certainly seen the changes in it and watched it improve. I don't want to suggest I used it 8 hours a day for those 5 years, of course. The first few years I would have some projects that used it and some that didn't. The last year I have been using it pretty continuously and overall I feel comfortable saying I have 5 years experience with it.

This starts with a fact, wanders through details, and winds up with a claim that is pretty strongly backed by the details. (Some interviewers only listen to the first and last sentence fragments of long answers.) You'll not feel that you're lying, but you won't be throwing away your own useful experience by calculating it too granularly. I mean doing that math and deciding you only have 2 years experience just isn't true. Maybe "the equivalent of" but when I hear that I think the person is inflating their experience, not deflating it to account for skipped times.

I've been using C++ since roughly 1987. I didn't record the precise date because I didn't know it was going to be important. It might have been 1986, I don't know. There have been times in those 30 years that I didn't do much or even any C++ for months at a time or even longer. I don't care. I have 30 years of C++ experience. I think it would be good for you to adopt a similar attitude.


The question is vague, as you have realised. Instead of worrying about the exact meaning, consider what the purpose of asking it is. They want to filter out candidates with little experience or understanding, so ask yourself:

  1. Can I honestly claim 5 years? Sounds like you can since you have been using it since 2012.

  2. Do you have the skills to do this job? You will need to convince the interviewer.

"Five years experience" is largely just code for "competent with X".

  • I have updated the question.
    – Love
    Commented Sep 29, 2017 at 22:30

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