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How to approach an interview when changing careers

With more redundancies on the cards this Autumn, and some industries unlikely to reach pre-pandemic employment levels, many of you will be thinking about how to navigate a career change.

If you’ve one of the lucky ones who has got to the interview stage in a new career, now is your chance to sell yourself and let the employer get to know the real you. Once you’ve reached an interview, the employer will have faith in the knowledge that you can do the job, he or she just wants to see whether you would be the best fit for the company.

Here are a few tips help you make the most of it:

1. Be prepared to talk about why you are changing careers

Be truthful. If you were made redundant, let them know, as in this current climate they’ll understand why that might be the case. You can also speak about why you chose to change career, rather than stay in the same industry, and what you hope to gain from the career, especially if it’s growth and development. 

2. Establish the advantages of your old career path

It might be that you’ve some useful knowledge or expertise for the company you are interviewing for, which might work in your favour and which you want to highlight. For example, the company might be looking to sell to a specific industry or market - the one you were in previously. Or they might be looking to make changes to their ways of working, for example introducing a lean business model approach - something you might have done previously and have insights into what works and what doesn’t. 

3. Show that you are flexible and agile 

As we’ve discussed earlier, agility is the skill you need most in these uncertain times. By even contemplating and working towards a career change you’ve shown that you are agile, but be sure to mention this in the interview.

Show that you have thought through the career change - that you have done your research, spoken to people in the industry, read up on the latest in the industry, done some courses and therefore you know it’s a good move for you and what to expect.

4. Have a plan for gaining the skills that you don’t yet have that might be needed for the job

Having a plan show employers that you are humble - you are acknowledging that you don’t know everything - are able to take initiative and are motivated to do well in your career. Highlight the fact that you have researched the career thoroughly, through informational interviews, any work experience you’ve done and any courses you’ve taken. But also let them see that you are not quite there, and that your journey will involve you developing these skills and knowledge while you are with them.

5. Use the STAR method to demonstrate to employers what your transferable skills are and where you’ve used them previously

The STAR interview technique is a great method to help you format answers to behavioural interview questions, i.e. questions that prompt you to provide a real-life example of how you handled a certain kind of situation in the past.

Behavioural interview questions are easy to spot as they generally start with phrases such as:

  • Describe a time when…
  • What do you do when…
  • Have you ever…
  • Share an example of a situation where…

The STAR interview method gives you the ability to organise your answers so that you provide something meaningful to the employer.

6. Do your research on the company and industry

This way you’ll understand what they are trying to achieve over the next few years and the landscape in which they are going to do this. This will give you a better understanding of how your skills and experience can fit in, which you can draw attention to in the interview.