How to overcome Job inexperience – Interview Tips

On Saturday, September 8th, 2012

Here are six steps that will help your interviewer look past your inexperience.

1. No Qualifications = No Interview– Hiring managers get hundreds of applications passing by their desk each year. Depending on the position, almost half of the applicants can be weeded out because they do not meet the minimum qualifications in the job description. No amount of name dropping, fancy fonts, and big words will get you the job if you are disqualified from the start.
When the job description lists basic qualifications, meet them. This is your gate to be called for your first interview.

2. Know Why You’re There– In interviews you will be asked why you want this position.
Know why. “Because I need the money”, “Because you’re the first person to call”, “Because my mom wants me to move out of the basement” are all horrible reasons.

You will be asked why you want to work for ABC Company. Know why. I understand that you may not care at this point where you work, you just need a job. Most interviewers know that too. . . .
But that’s definitely not what we want to hear. In fact, giving a few reasons why you are attracted to ABC Corp allows us to “see” you as part of the family. It also shows that you did a little research and came prepared. If this is going to be your first job ever, why do you want to start your career here? If you are changing careers, why are you doing so and why have you chosen to start your new life here?

3. You’re Qualified. Period.– There’s nothing wrong with touching on “I’ll need to learn that” once in awhile. In fact, if you don’t have years of relevant experience, you’ll have to. Just don’t turn that into a theme or a crutch. Don’t wallow in your inexperience – Focus on what you can do, not what you haven’t done yet. If you remind me too often that you aren’t fully qualified or leave doubt that you’re the best candidate, that’s what I’ll think.

4. If You Don’t Know, You Had Better Learn
The interviewer knows you do not have as much experience as most of the other candidates. You know that too. The fact is that your learning curve may look more like a mountain peak than a gentle slope. Show how you’ll race up that mountain- Demonstrate a willingness to learn. Prepare a tentative action plan for the training you would pursue in your first 90 days. If you know you do not have some of the “preferred” qualifications, prepare a list of vendors that supply the training, the cost, and note that you are willing to pay for the training yourself and do it off work time (if you are actually willing to do so).

When I see that, I take you seriously- You know your weaknesses, and you have a plan to overcome them. Being “green” or a “newbie” isn’t going to be an excuse for you. It will be a call to action. It’s exciting to see that you have thought so seriously about your future.

5. Live in the Present, Not the Past- The interviewer wants to hear what you can do for him NOW. Don’t wait for the interviewer to connect the dots. Draw the line for him. Most of the time we won’t know exactly what we’ll be doing, but we can make a good guess. When you give examples and tell stories, relate them to what the interviewer needs. I don’t care if you won an award for creative writing if I need a bookkeeper. But I might care if you tell me how you organized your writing, balanced priorities, made a proofreading checklist, and set a deadline for your submission. Those things can all be related back to the duties of a bookkeeper. It’s even better if you tell me how you can apply the same system to this job. Then I’ll take you even more seriously.

6. Provide a Second Opinion– Unless your resume is stellar and a hiring manager will genuinely be excited to interview you; most likely being skeptical that you are the one. He/she will be looking for reasons to disqualify you. You are especially at a disadvantage if you do not have experience in the field and other candidates do. Hiring you seems riskier because I have no idea how you work, how you learn, and how you interact with others.

A great way to make an employer think that you aren’t such a “risk” is to give  proof. Supply recommendation letters that can attest to your ability to learn quickly, act independently, and produce great work. Ideally your references will be senior managers (to give them more credibility) who have experience or knowledge of the industry (more credibility) and know you in a professional capacity (more credibility). If they know you in an academic capacity, I will want specific, relevant traits and experiences, not just “Mary was an excellent student.”

Your recommendation letters can be from your “official” references (for when you are about to be hired) or from different references. Make sure they are positive, relevant, and specific.

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