Answering Tough Interview Questions When Changing Careers

If you're changing careers, you'll face some tough questions during a job interview. Employers may be concerned about your commitment to a new field, lack of experience, and more. You can make headway with hiring decisions when you give the interviewer convincing reasons why your lack of experience doesn’t matter.

Study these sample answers and then add your own circumstances, interpretations, and phrases to the scripts that follow.

  • To respond to hesitations about your career change:

    This job is a good fit for what I’ve been interested in throughout my career — working with others to achieve an above-average outcome, the satisfaction of being technically competent, and having a serious interest in sports. For example, my work at Leader Public Relations taught me that a team needs bench strength. When the senior publicist left Leader unexpectedly, I was able to successfully step in and increase placements within six months by 20 percent. The persuasion skills I bring along with seven years of surfing ideally qualify me for this position as assistant manager of surf board production. Do you agree?

  • To respond to concerns that your previous experience is irrelevant to the job you want:

    I am a well-qualified candidate for this educational research position because cost control expertise required by the grant is more than met with my 15 years’ experience as a manager with budget and supervisory responsibility.

  • To respond to concerns that your previous position is irrelevant to the job you want:

    Yes, I was a receptionist for twelve years and it was great training to deal with all levels of individuals. Here’s why I am so well-matched to your brokerage department. Not only have I interacted with venture and equity capital managers and with retirement fund managers in a high-pressure environment, I have taken a course in financial markets and stock, bonds, and other investments. With the world rushing forward, I think we need new thinking for new times, don’t you? My people skills will help me to bring in the kinds of customers you’ve been losing to online traders. Do you see any reasons why I wouldn’t be a great addition to your team?

  • To demonstrate that you are changing directions with forethought and action:

    As I matured and got to know myself better, I realized how I fit into Career X better than what I’d been doing, although my previous work has been fine preparation for what I plan to do with the rest of my life. I’ve been steadily drawn to Career X for several years and getting ready for this transition, I did the following (attended school, researched and volunteered in the field, took a part-time job in the new industry). Since you didn’t screen me out because of my prior experience, I assume you recognize my crossover skills.

  • To the issue of the cause of satisfaction in your last career and concern that you would experience changer’s remorse:

    I didn’t see the results of all the hard work I put in. The structure was overly rigid and bureaucratic and, frankly, I like to feel as though my contributions accomplish a positive outcome. And although I am good with computers, I also like to work with people. I checked out your company with my network and you get glowing reviews for rewarding outstanding performance, for giving employees breathing space to accomplish their assignments, for being able to observe the fruits of their labor and for hiring great teams. Is that how you see this company?

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