In the Boardroom

Address your (perceived) lack of experience head-on

You read the job description, applied, and got an interview – congrats. But, you have a nagging feeling that your experience doesn’t entirely fit with the advertised role. Well, fear not! Most job descriptions are just that – descriptions. Guidelines. Generalities. And, more importantly, you made it through enough of the initial screeners to get a chance to show your stuff.

Assuming you’ve applied for a role you genuinely would be interested in taking, we recommend a couple tips for making the case for why your lack of experience, er, non-traditional skills are an asset to the company.

  1. Address your potential skill gap head on and with charm. :: In one of my first corporate roles, I interviewed for a research job with a background that included only sales. During the initial interview, I made a point of highlighting that if the team wanted a traditional researcher, I was definitely not their man. This type of statement shows that you aren’t afraid to call out questions that might be on their mind about your skillset relative to others who might come from backgrounds more directly applicable (on paper, anyway) to the role in question.
  2. Share how your background does fit with the role. :: During my interview, for example, I highlighted that sales roles are rooted in understanding analytics – from market share, to year-over-year growth, to margins. Then, I explain that that my sales background would allow the team to fill the position with a creative, strategic, and non-traditional thinker that could speak the language of internal stakeholders in sales and marketing.
  3. Raise the pros and cons for them. :: In my interview, I wrapped by talking about how I understood that the team could go one of two routes – filling the position with a traditional researcher or a non-traditional one (me). Then spoke of the trade offs between the two options. I highlighted how my non-traditional background would give me the ability to speak to a broad audience with language that didn’t go over anyone’s head and also would allow me to connect the dots between research questions and business insights more strongly than candidates who didn’t have a sales background.

Ultimately, don’t discount a role you’re interested in just because your skillset doesn’t seem to match the job requirements on paper. Throw your hat in the ring with a story that makes the case for why your background should make them comfortable giving you a shot. (I ended up spending 4 years in research and loved it.) Good luck!

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