How to Interview as a Career Changer

As a career changer, you can expect tough interview questions. Employers will be concerned about:

  • Your level of commitment.
  • Your lack of experience.
  • The value you would bring.
  • Your lack of industry knowledge.
  • Why you are changing careers.

In this article, I will be discussing different types of tough questions that you will be asked as a career changer during an interview. I’ll also talk about how you can best answer them to curb recruiter skepticism.

On that note, I’d love to offer you my two-page, salary-doubling resume cheat sheet that will not only make your career transitioning process smoother but also increase your chances of landing a great salary offer. Submit your information below to receive it:

 

Here are examples of six questions you can expect as a career changer during an interview:

Questions that assess the relevance of your previous experiences

  • Why should we hire you? You haven’t got any experience in this role.”
  • “How have your previous roles prepared you for this job?”
  • “Is there anything common in your current role and one that you are currently seeking?”

With questions like these, interviewers ask if your previous experience is relevant to the job you want. They also want to see if you have the required skillset.

Best way to answer this type of question: Highlight transferrable skills.  

Break down your previous roles to assess related responsibilities and accomplishments.

For example, as a customer service specialist, if you are applying for digital marketing roles, there is no immediate connection. However, both of these jobs require flawless communication, engaging content, and knowledge of certain tools and methodologies. You can highlight these kinds of similarities to recruiters.

“During my time at ABC Company, I refined my customer relationship management skills to the point that I was the go-to person called in to placate disgruntled customers. I seamlessly deescalated tense situations and strove to ensure customer happiness. In fact, our customer satisfaction rating rose 35% during my tenure. Due to that, I began to formally advise our marketing team on how to shape their content strategy. As the role of your marketing department is to improve customers' impressions of the company as well as the overall customer journey, I believe my experience would be a great asset to your team.”

Questions that assess your expertise

  • “Do you think you have the skillset required for this role?”
  • “Are you familiar with any industry tools, platforms, and methodologies?”
  • “What makes you think you could succeed in this profession?”

Employers might ask you, a career changer, this question during an interview to get a better idea of your knowledge, skills, and abilities. They want you to prove that you are not at a disadvantage compared to other candidates.

Best way to answer this type of question: Showcase your industry-specific knowledge.

Elaborate on your  industry specific knowledge.

Thoroughly research the job you are targeting and analyze its requirements. You could start your research on LinkedIn or Glassdoor. Brush up on your industry vocabulary.

Strongly consider taking courses to develop any required technical skills. Furthermore, apply for licenses if necessary.

Mention any relevant experience that shows your expertise and qualifications during the interview. Relevant experiences include awards, courses, workshops, projects, and volunteer work. Emphasize these experiences during your interview.

“I’ve been steadily drawn to this career for several years. While I was getting ready for the transition, I got PMP certified, took some LEAN-AGILE courses, and brushed up on my technical skills, including Microsoft Project, Salesforce, Scrum, and financial modeling. Furthermore, I often contributed to project status meetings and worked closely with all project stakeholders. As such, I feel like I am prepared to take on this role and I am confident that I can help your company achieve its long-term goals.”

Questions that question your career change motive

  • “Why are you changing careers?”
  • “What’s driving you to make this big change?”
  • “What assurance can you give that this career change wouldn't be just a passing phase?”

These types of questions are asked by recruiters to assess for any concerns you might have regarding a career change. Your level of motivation and conviction are being called to question here.

Best way to answer this type of question: Project confidence. 

To answer these types of questions, highlight why the target industry appeals to you and what prospects you see there.

How does it fall in line with your long-term goals? How it is more suitable for you than your previous job? Don't bad-mouth your previous places of employment; only showcase that they do not meet your requirements anymore. Demonstrate your commitment by giving specific examples of what you plan to achieve through this career change.

“Even though I was able to achieve a senior position at X company and helped them achieve their sales targets, I found that I wasn’t fond of people leadership and that I missed working one-on-one with customers. This position seems perfect for me given the fact that I get to do what I enjoy most – build relationships with clients and ensure their continued satisfaction. I honestly have nothing but positive things to say about my previous role. However, I believe that it no longer fits with my long-term goals.”

Questions that test your ambition

  • “What do you know about this job?”
  • “Where do you see yourself in five years?”
  • “How long do you expect to stay with our organization if you are hired?”

With this question, the interviewer is assessing your job profile knowledge as well as your understanding of the field that you want to enter. If you are a career changer, then you have to prove your industry expertise during your interview. 

Best way to answer this type of question: Share your long-term goals.  

While researching your target role, also look at the typical career path associated with that job.

Prior to the interview, map out a five-year plan for yourself in your target industry. Select a role that you believe you can reach in that time to demonstrate your ambition and prove to employers that you see yourself in this industry for a long foreseeable future.

“Within my first five years, I want to have gained experience in leading projects for major clients. Even though I believe I have the required technical knowledge and expertise, it would be beneficial to get some on-site training. Keeping that in mind, I can see myself taking on the role of a lead project manager and further cementing my position at ABC Company. I understand that this would require a lot of work on my part. However, that just motivates me to meet any challenges I may face headfirst.”

Questions about your seniority level

  • “How do you feel about a start fresh again?”
  • “Does the idea of taking orders from people that previously reported to you bother you?”
  • “Are you okay with the idea of working your way up to senior level again?”

Employers want to assess how you would react if you had to take orders from people who may be younger than you, which can be common with career changers. Furthermore, they are testing your people skills and openness to collaborate.

Best way to answer this type of question: Show enthusiasm.

Turn their assumptions around by expressing excitement at the idea of working your way up through the organization.

Challenge employee notions by keeping a positive mindset and demonstrating your ability to get along with everyone regardless of their age and backgrounds. Align this with your long-term career goals and state that it is a chance for you to build up your skills in a more organic way.

“Actually, I am excited to use this opportunity to learn the ins and outs of this job. Technical expertise aside, nothing can replace old-fashioned on-the-job training. Furthermore, I am team-oriented and get along with almost everyone I work with, so I am not bothered by the idea of being supervised. I think building my career from scratch is exciting and I look forward to taking all the steps necessary to meet my long-term goals.”

While changing careers is never easy, you can take steps to prepare and give yourself the best chance for success.

Looking for more help as a career changer? Check out these links:

If you're having a hard time preparing for interviews, email me at contact@careertuners.com about your unique situation. I'd be happy to help you brainstorm.

If you prefer a longer session, invest in our one-on-one interview coaching session with our HR SME by filling out the form here. She has years of HR experience and can help you talk about your unique history in a way that clicks to interviewers.

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