How to handle your lack of experience at a job interview
We've all worried about being under-qualified for a role we've applied for. While this may be a common concern particularly for new graduates or career changers, the thought of being 'found out' at the interview stage is enough to send even the most hardened job seeker into a cold sweat.
The good news is that there are a number of strategies that can be used to counteract and overcome a lack of relevant experience, starting with the following:
1. Don't be put off
If your application has taken you this far (to interview) then your lack of experience is unlikely to be a deal-breaker, and your interviewer will have noted any shortcomings in your skillset. Nevertheless, it's important you're able to foresee questions about your experience and are prepared for them.
2. Do your homework
One of your first tasks is to spend time really analysing the requirements of the job. Go through the job specification and make a list of the key points; then plot examples of your own skillset against this. Don't limit yourself – you can draw on volunteering or extracurricular activities if you don't have relevant work examples.
3. Avoid the clichés
Your interviewers will be wary of the standard responses candidates give when they're lacking experience. Employers need workers who can hit the ground running, so telling them you're a fast learner is unlikely to impress them. Nor is being a “hard worker” – this is generally taken as standard.
4. Take control of the conversation
A better tactic is to try to direct the conversation towards the positive, drawing on your understanding of the role and how they align with your own strengths. Mention transferable skills as well as achievements from previous roles that bear similarities to the position you're applying for.
5. …but be honest
While you don't necessarily have to dwell on the gaps in your CV, there's little to be gained by exaggerating your achievements or feigning skills or experience that you don't actually possess. The last thing you want is to be caught out by a reference or when it comes down to doing the job itself.
6. Talk about other options
If this role isn't a perfect fit, there's no reason why you can't ask about other positions you might be better suited to within the organisation. There might not be anything available at the moment, but having this personal connection could prove useful further down the line.
Direct experience isn't always the be all and end all when it comes to doing well at the interview stage. Preparation is key, however, and preempting the challenges or questions you're likely to face and having a plan in place will help you to stay confident and in control.
Source: Abintegro, The Muse; Youtern.com
The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Pearson