Answering Interview Questions

Interview Tips for Career Changers

When you are changing career direction, answering interview questions can pose some particular challenges.

Recruiters may be doubtful of your ability to switch to something new and so they will need all the help you can give them to understand that you can do the job well, regardless of your previous employment background.

Remember that if you have been short listed, you have already half convinced them that you are suitable. Answering interview questions positively and confidently can be the key to tipping the balance in your favour.

Here is a list of some of the potentially difficult interview questions you may be asked. These are the ones you must really prepare thoroughly for. It is down to you to convince the interviewer, so prepare well and practise your responses.


What makes you think that a change to a career in this industry/sector is right for you?

This is where you must demonstrate that you have done detailed research into the industry or sector and that you are familiar with the demands and challenges they face. Tell them about the extent of your research and how long you have been interested in this field.

If you have done this research carefully you are then well placed to show that there are links and connections between what you have done in the past and this new area. Make sure you can show that your skills are transferable and that you will also bring a valuable new perspective.


What made you decide to change to this new career?

The interviewer will want to see evidence that this decision was not made a couple of weeks ago with little thought and reflection. Changing career is a big move and when you are answering interview questions, you need to show that you have taken it seriously.

Talk about the research you have done, who you have spoken to, any voluntary experience you have had. Then make the case for the relevance of the previous experience you have had and indicate that you will not come in as a complete novice.

If your change of direction has been particularly inspired by an individual or an event, you may wish to share that too.


What is your motivation for pursuing this new career direction?

This is your opportunity to show some real energy and enthusiasm for the role you are now applying for. Let them see that you feel inspired because the new career will allow you to use the skills that you have already developed elsewhere.

Explain how through your previous work experience, (and perhaps through other life experiences) you have come to see where you particular strengths lie and that by working to these strengths you will be able to bring benefits to their organisation and their clients.


How can you convince us that you are committed to this new career direction?

Your job here is to reassure the interviewer that this new career idea of yours is not just a passing phase and that you plan to stick with it. 

They are taking a risk if they appoint you and will probably have to invest in your training. Will you provide a good return on their money? What is important here is to show that you have not jumped from job to job in the past and that you have been committed in other roles.

You might like to show how you have undertaken further study or training which shows your readiness to continue to learn. Tell them about how you see your new career developing.

They need to see that you have a longer term plan which indicates commitment to this career. Talk to them about where you see yourself in 5 year’s time with them.


What challenges do you think you will face entering this new field mid-career?

Answering interview questions about the challenges of the new role is a good way for you to show the interviewer that you have thought through the potential difficulties you may face when making a mid-career switch.

You will potentially be working alongside people who have been in the industry for many more years than you and who will see you as an inexperienced 'incomer'. How will you deal with people who challenge your ability to do the job? You need to provide evidence of your ability to win people over and to work through challenges to your position.

You may well be entering at a lower level than your previous job. How will you cope with the loss of status? You may have been used to giving orders while now you will be following instructions yourself. Your task is to show that your status is not a critical issue for you, but that you are more committed to the job itself and to working collaboratively with others to achieve the goals of the organisation.

And what about the money question? Most career changes involve a drop in salary to a certain degree. When answering interview questions about money, you will need to make it clear to your interviewer that you understand the financial implications of your career move and that you have planned for it.

They do not want to appoint you and then find you expecting rapid pay increases that they cannot meet. Are you confident that you can survive on this new salary? You will need to convince the employer that you have thought this issue through and budgeted for it.

You will probably want to focus on your commitment to the job over and above the financial rewards.


Why should we appoint you over and above someone with more direct experience?

This is a direct challenge to you to show that you can bring something special to this role.

Your task is to be very clear about the particular strengths and qualities you have to offer. You need to make it clear that coming from a different background will be an added benefit rather than a disadvantage.

It may be wise to acknowledge that you may have some particular training needs to get you up to speed (if this is the case) but to indicate that you are confident that you will be able to learn what is needed quickly and easily.

This is the moment where your enthusiasm for the new career must shine through in the way that you are answering the interview questions. An enthusiastic beginner can bring more to a team than someone who has been around for a while and has perhaps got rather stuck in a rut.

Be honest and indicate that you are aware of potential hurdles, but show that you do not regard them as insurmountable.

So if you are changing career, make sure that you are well prepared for these difficult interview questions. It is essential that you have thought through your answers so that you are not taken unawares. I hope that these tips on answering interview questions will help you to approach your interviews with confidence.



And now read on to discover more successful interview strategies...


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