Whether you’re revving up for your first job, or changing gears career-wise, it’s not always the numbers on your odometer that make-it-or-break-it for you.
Advice To Ace Your Interview With NO Experience!
It sounds like something out of a swindler’s grift, or a con artist classic like “The Great Imposter”. But we’re not talking about faking-it-to-make-it; the truth is that whether you’re revving up for your first job, or changing gears career-wise, it’s not always the numbers on your odometer that make-it-or-break-it for you.
In fact, employment analysts have consistently found that many jobs have lost out on a significant number of applicants simply because those applicants believed themselves to be underqualified. You see, while you are invariably going to come across some strict benchmarks for job openings when it comes to years and type of experience, many employers have a tendency to list what is ideal and not necessarily what is required.
So let’s be you for a minute. We’ve applied to dozens of jobs with no reply, and the list is getting shorter. Maybe we spotted a dream job opening, or have simply run out of other options --- whatever the case may be, we’ve decided to put in for a job that’s asking for way more experience than we have. But it’s in our ideal industry, and we just know we’d make it work if given the chance... Well, now’s our chance!
The first part is going to be easy: wait and see if you’re accepted for an interview. Your resume can speak for you. Don’t lie on your resume or cover letter, but you should, as always, showcase how the experience you DO have lines up with the qualifications requested in the job posting.
What luck! Now we have our interview! So...what do we do next?
We should be honest, and even a little bit forthcoming about our inexperience.
As with any interview, thinking ahead about what questions an interviewer is going to want to ask you will help you prepare mentally. It’s also a good time to think about how you’re going to spin that deficit of experience into a positive for the company. You have a lot to learn, but you also don’t have anything to unlearn.
Be brief and concise, and address their concern, then move on to talk about subjects that paint you in a better light. You don’t want to come across as deflecting, just focused on getting through to the recruiter.
Highlight Personal Achievements
Take some time to ask yourself about what it is that the company is looking for when they ask for a certain type of experience. What qualities would someone with that type of experience possess?
While you may not have written the book on whatever it is they do, you can at least show them that you’ve read it! Talk about other experiences you’ve had that align with the company’s goals, and with the expected performance for the person hired.
You can also think outside the box here. What sort of achievements have you accomplished outside of work and school that would reflect well on a candidate? Maybe you volunteered, or travelled, or participated in team-based competitions. No one lives without gaining some kind of experience, now it’s up to you to connect the dots between your own and the type of experience your potential employer is looking for!
If our on-paper credentials were all that mattered, we would never have in-person interviews in the first place!
When a recruiter asks to sit down with you face-to-face (or even 1-on-1 via phone or video), they are doing so in order to get a better understanding of your personality; your personal brand. They’re curious to see how well you interact with staff who are already well-steeped in the company culture.
Numerous studies point out that likeability is considered more important than proficiency. Imagine you were interviewing a potential coworker or employee, would you want someone who did an above average job but made work miserable for everyone? Or would you rather spend time with someone whose work is just average, but who you enjoy being around (even if you spend some of that time training or coaching them). Most people opt for the latter.
Focus on body language, tone, appearance, and listening skills in order to impress your interviewer with your magnetism and charisma. They understand that technical skills can be taught, but these personality skills are usually well-ingrained in us by the time we reach the workforce.
Show How Open You Are
When we interview for a job, we almost always want to seem eager to please. But even better than that, is showing them that we are eager to learn.
Your curiosity, determination, and pure unadulterated passion should be your flagship traits. Honest interest is one of the main things a recruiter looks for in an inexperienced candidate, because they want to know that the person is willing to do what it takes to become the best at what they do. They want to know you want to grow, so they can trust the company will grow too.
Own the conversation when asked “where do you see yourself in 5 years?” or “why are you interested in working here?” These are goldmines for a job seeker who isn’t just looking to punch-in and punch-out at their job. It’s time for your motivation to shine through --- if you want into the business, show them you mean business!
Talk In Their Terms
Steer the conversation towards the merits you’ll bring to the company. Having done some research on the company, you should be well-armed to profess the business’ goals. Let them know exactly how you’re going to help them meet and exceed those targets, and how your values will help amplify their own.
Instead of leaving them to ruminate on how you won’t be bringing X number of years experience to the table, drive home what benefits you WILL bring, and watch those tables turn!
Going into any interview is nerve-wracking. Going into one when you feel underqualified is even more so! But now that you understand how to promote your value and turn any perceived negative into a positive, you can start feeling more positive about your chances, and yourself!