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An Interviewer's 3-Step Guide to Interviewing Career Changers

By Poyen Ramos on October 17, 2017

At some point in their life, a lot of people change careers or industries (not just jobs) during their working years. Sometimes the change is perfectly planned, other times it's abrupt. It happens when they want to change jobs but their industries are not hiring; or when they want to pursue their true passion.

As interviewers, you often get to interview career changers. It is a risky move to employ someone in an uncharted area, however, these career changers may surprise you with their guts and confidence, knowledge in your industry, and what they could bring to the company.

So how do you approach a candidate's career change during the interview?

Here's a 3-step guide for you to successfully interview career changers.

Step 1: Tell them your concern.

There are only a few job candidates who fit every requirement for a job. Everyone has their weaknesses or missing skills they have to work around in the interview, and it’s really no different when they're changing careers or industries. The strategy is to focus on the skills they do have rather than the ones they don't have.

Be blunt and ask them that you're concerned with their lack of direct experience in your industry, or the job they're entering in. Ask them about the massive career shift. Most career changers are likely prepared for such a question, and it'll be really interesting to know what their reasons are.

Sample question: What’s driving you to make this big change?

Step 2: Ask them about their strengths and soft skills.

While they might not be experienced in a particular skill for the job, you'll be surprised to see that their strength lies in other aspects that would definitely help them succeed on the job.

Here's a list of the strengths you want to look for that will likely relate to the job you're hiring for:

•  A high level of attention to detail
•  Persistence and unwavering focus on results
•  Staying current on industry dynamics and professional
•  Diplomacy and team-building
•  Thorough knowledge of a process that befits the job
•  Project management and follow-through
•  The flexibility and intellectual agility to respond to changing

Step 3: Ask them for specific examples where they've demonstrated these talents.

Ask them to come up with a brief real-world story to back up the strengths they've mentioned. This could be anything from facilitating a sales conference for 100 participants that went off without a hitch despite major challenges prior to the event. This demonstrates attention to detail, diplomacy, project management, follow-through, and flexibility. 

The great thing about this three-step strategy is that you’ll be able to see ways in which their previous experience is relevant and transferable which, in turn, will help you determine how well they are qualified.

A candidate with the right basic skills, along with the desire and confidence to learn and contribute in the new arena, will make a strong impression on any interviewer.

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