15 Best Tips for Career Change Interview Preparation
By you reading this article, it's a good sign that you're on track to achieving the career of your dreams. Pulling off a career transition is never easy, but is doable, with the right preparation. The gateway to a desired new career is acing the career switch interview. This article is designed to help you prepare adequately so you can beat the competition.
Being antsy about a forthcoming interview is normal, especially a career change one. However, knowing what to expect can help calm your nerves. Such interviews usually focus more on your transferable skills, experiences, and motivation for the career switch, rather than your specific qualifications and experience in the new field. Additionally, the interviewer may be more interested in understanding how your past experiences and skills can be applied to the new role, and how you plan to continue learning and developing yourself in the new field. With this in mind, below is how to prepare.
Preparing for a Career Change Interview
Whatever you do, do not panic! “Will I get this job? What happens if I don’t? I’m not even trained for it! I don’t have
the requisite experience! I can’t afford to lose this opportunity!…” Don’t let the fear of failure consume you. You know that worry is the thief of time, right? Your fearful thoughts keep you stalled, making no progress towards realising the career of your dreams.
Read more about the fear of failure and how to tackle it from our blog.
Here are practical ways to help calm your nerves in readiness for that interview:
Do breathing exercises such as ‘slow breathing’
Visualize yourself acing the interview
Embrace positive self talk
Do an activity you enjoy, to reduce the stress hormones
Do enough research about the industry, company and role you want to get into
2. Research the industry and company
To be above the competition, you must demonstrate a deep understanding of the industry and company you’ve applied to. Researching the industry helps you understand the trends, challenges, and opportunities in the field. You can then position yourself as the candidate who’ll bring valuable skills and solutions to the company. Additionally, showing a strong understanding of the company's mission, values, products or services indicates a genuine interest in the company and the role. It is the right sign that you’re prepared to make a valuable contribution if hired.
How to do industry and company research:
Search online for general information about the industry and company
Read credible publications for industry-specific insights
Visit the official website and social media pages to keep updated with the company’s latest activities
Reach out to current and former employees on LinkedIn and ask about the company
Actively search for company information that’s been published on or by mainstream media
Try out the company’s products or services
3. Research the interviewer(s)
Through conducting thorough company research, it’s possible to find out the hiring manager or the people who'll most likely be in the interviewing panel. You can then seek out information about these people. With social networking sites like LinkedIn, finding people's work profiles has become a lot easier. You can also check their social media to find out what they’re passionate about and their personalities. Walking into the interview having a good idea of the people you'll be interacting with can help put you at ease and improve your confidence.
4. Create your value proposition
Don’t belittle yourself. Yes, you’re green in the new career, but have a lot of value to offer from the work experience, networks and soft skills amassed in your previous roles. You need to sit down and reflect on your work experiences, preferably with a pen and paper in hand. Note down what value you’ll bring to the table. Be honest and truthful with yourself.
The following questions can help make your value proposition clear:
What benefits will the organization gain by hiring me?
What partnerships can I create for the organization?
How much revenue can I bring to the organization?
What makes me a unique candidate?
What would the organization miss out on by failing to hire me?
5. Practice answering common career change interview questions
The interviewer may have concerns about your lack of experience or knowledge in the new field. They may also question your ability to adapt and learn quickly. It's important for you to practice common questions you’re likely to encounter so you can address these concerns and demonstrate your passion, commitment and willingness to learn in the new field.
Common questions include:
Why do you want to switch careers?
What transferable skills can you bring to this role?
What past experiences do you deem useful in this role?
Where do you see yourself 5 years from now?
What challenges do you anticipate to encounter in this new career?
How do you plan to continue developing yourself in this new field?
6. Study the role description
You need to have a good understanding of the required skills, qualities and experience. This will help in curating a value proposition that meets the company’s needs. The last thing you want is to sound unsure about the role you’re interviewing for. Also, have a clear picture of why the role is important to the organization, and how it ties in with other roles within the organization. By showing that you understand the interconnectedness between your role and the work of other colleagues in various departments, you demonstrate that you're a good team player.
7. Plan your attire and items you’ll carry beforehand
Your personal grooming and dressing speak volumes about the kind of professional you are. It is thus important to have on the appropriate dress code in order to show that you mean business. Do research beforehand to establish the dress code of the company you’ll be interviewing at. Try out your interview attire the night before to ensure it fits right, is comfortable and communicates confidence. Also, ensure to have ready all the copies of the documents you'll need to carry to the interview. Being ready ahead of time calms your nerves, as you feel in control.
8. Curate intelligent questions for the interviewers
This new career very likely comes with many questions. However, you must select carefully which ones to present to the interviewers. The rest, you will find answers to when you get hired. Therefore, you need to compile the questions that will make you look enthusiastic but well-researched at the same time. Examples include:
What will this role look like in the future?
What skills will I need to be successful in this role?
What’s the most important thing you’d have me accomplish in my first 60 days?
This article from the Harvard Business Review has 38 smart questions to ask in a job interview, that can help you be better prepared.
9. Practice the STAR technique
STAR is an acronym that stands for:
This technique is superb for answering behavioral or situational questions during your job interview. It helps you break down the response in an easy to understand manner while keeping the spotlight on your skills. For example, when asked, “Tell us about a challenge you encountered in your work and how you dealt with it.” Using the STAR method, the response would look something like:
Situation - “While working as a feature writer, I was once asked to cover an online awards show where the main language used was Portuguese, yet I didn’t understand the language”.
Task - “I was to write a 1,000 word article about the event, which would be published in the English version of our monthly magazine.”
Action - “It was a tough assignment but I took on the challenge. I used the translation tools that I could find online, and also looped in a colleague who was proficient in Portuguese to help with the translation."
Result - “I wrote an in-depth feature story about the awards show and met the submission deadline. The editor loved my story. Through this challenge, I learnt the power of teamwork and a ‘can do’ attitude."
10. Put together a portfolio of your previous work
This applies especially to creatives, but can work for any other career. Go to the interview with relevant examples of previous work done, relevant to the role at hand. This could be in the form of a pitch deck, video or audio presentation of your work, especially that is related to the role you’re interviewing for.
11. Do a mock interview
Ask some friends to come over to your place and help you simulate the interview. Give the session the seriousness it deserves. Pay close attention to questions that are usually a big challenge to you during interviews. Also, practice answering the questions commonly asked during career switching interviews. This exercise will help you adopt the right frame of mind, and be extra prepared for any tough questions that may come your way.
12. Talk to your referees in advance
Most jobs will ask for referees. These are people whom you’ve worked with previously or who’ve mentored you professionally and can give testimony about your work ethic and professionalism. You may be asked to provide a reference list during the interview. This is why you need to talk to them beforehand. You must keep your referees in the know about your career progression. In this case, give them a heads up that you’re planning a career switch. Also, let them know the company you're interviewing with. This will help them put in a good word for you if called upon for reference sake.
13. Refine your salary expectations
You probably have a good grasp of the salary scale for the career you’re currently in, but it may not apply to the new career you wish to transition to. Visit online sites like Glassdoor to find out the industry and company pay scale respectively for the new role you're angling at. Also, if you can access them, ask former or current employees of the particular company about their salary and remuneration benefits. If coming in through a recruiter, enquire from them about the budget for that role. If none of these sources present a reliable salary scale, use your value proposition to create your own salary expectation. Always have a limit in mind that you will not go below during negotiation.
14. Think through your non-verbal communication
It takes around 7 seconds to make a first impression during an interview. Notably, 55 percent of that first impression is made by what the interviewer sees, 38 percent by your vocals and only seven percent by the words you actually use. Even before you utter a single word, the interviewer is already assessing your: confidence; enthusiasm; professionalism; job and organizational fit through your body language and mannerisms. You thus must think beforehand, how you will use non-verbal cues to create rapport with the interviewers, exude confidence and supplement your verbal communication.
Read our blog about the 10 best non-verbal communication tips for successful interviews to find out more.
15. Set up in advance for an online interview
Virtual interviews have become an in thing. Having done all the requisite research and preparation, for a successful online interview, you’ll need to set up in good time. Even if it's an online interview, showing up late and frazzled will dim your chances of getting hired. Be proactive in mitigating poor internet connection or whatever other tech challenges that may present themselves. Also, ensure that the scene has good lighting and is free of distractions.
For you to ace that career change interview, you need to: relax; do thorough research on the industry and company you want to get into; research the interviewer(s); create your value proposition; practice answering common career change interview questions; study the role description; plan your attire and items you’ll carry beforehand; curate intelligent questions for the interviewer; practice the STAR technique; put together a portfolio of your previous work; do a mock interview; talk to your referees in advance; refine your salary expectations; think through your non-verbal communication and set up in advance for an online interview. These tips are bound to put you above the competition and lead to you getting hired.
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