When you have little job experience, answering questions about your qualifications is challenging. But there are effective ways to handle the challenge.
First, understand a lack of job experience doesn’t mean an applicant isn’t qualified for the job.
Second, be aware of your personal strengths and the knowledge you’ve acquired in the classroom, volunteer work and workforce that help compensate. Do some research on the company you’re interviewing for and use the feedback you’ve received from previous job interviews to align your experience with their requirements and culture.
Now that you’re armed with the right mindset, here’s what you must do before the interview process begins.
When an interviewer asks how you plan to compensate for a lack of job experience, they want to see how you react to direct challenges. As you respond, show plenty of confidence, assuring your interviewer you are aware that you have little experience – and then talk about what you’re going to do about it.
Talk about your work ethic; make it clear you have no problem with hard work – and that you know you need to prove yourself. Just as important, communicate that you intend to succeed in this job… not just any job. Once you’ve conveyed those points, the interviewer will know you will do everything you can to learn on the job and that you welcome challenges.
Do Your Homework
If you don’t fully understand the job description or the kind of qualifications the company wants, you don’t have a chance in the interview.
To communicate effectively, you must research the job so you truly understand everything the position requires. This is even more important when you don’t have all the needed experience for the position. You must fully grasp all the core requirements and convey how your skills, and that all-important work ethic, would be a good match.
List Your Best Personal Qualities
Sit down with a pen and paper and make a list of your ten best qualities. Think about how these qualities can make up for your lack of job experience. You may have more than ten qualities listed at first, but narrow the list down to your top ten.
Remember: focus first on the skills most relevant to the employer. You may be a master chef, but unless you’re going to work in the hospitality field, it won’t help you in the interview.
Match Your Skills to Job Requirements
Now that you have your top ten best qualities written down, you must be able to articulate them in a manner that shows how they would benefit you in this job.
Highlight the two or three skills that make you a good match for this position. Now create answer or the “why should we hire you?” question using those skills. Of course: do not exaggerate your successes; be objective about yourself, keeping in mind you want the interviewer to consider you an eager, yet humble candidate.
Focus on Your Accomplishments
When you sense the interviewer wavering about the lack of experience, combat this with a specific example of how those skills made an impact with previous work or teams (internships, previous jobs, volunteer work, team participation and/or activities, etc.). Wherever possible, quantify your story to show how your work directly impacted the bottom line.
This type of storytelling – relevant, impactful and quantified – just may put you ahead of other candidates, including those with more workforce experience!
Everyone has to start somewhere. Be honest, prepared, look your interviewer in the eye and use great communication skills – and you will such a great first impression that the interviewer just may be willing to overlook your lack of experience.