The question that I have received most this week is, “How do I successfully position myself for a job that I believe I can successfully execute but where I have not had previous experience? “
Answer: Understand what the buyer (prospective employer) is buying beyond prerequisite experience!
One of the keys to successful interviewing is understanding what the buyer, the prospective employer, is buying. Anyone that is interviewing candidates is looking to buy the skills that will be needed to successfully execute the job. They are buying talent. The key to matching up your interests, capabilities, or eligibility for the job is understanding what skills you are selling and how they are compatible with what the buyer is looking to purchase. While previous experience is certainly a plus it is not always a must to get the job. If you understand, what the buyer wants to purchase or in other words, the skills that are required to successfully execute the job, then you can position your strengths to fit that requirement.
For example suppose you are applying for a job with an organization that reviews grant proposals and allocates money to people or organizations that apply for the grants. Your job would be to read, review and analyze the grants and make recommendations to your boss or a committee on which grants to fund. Let’s also assume that you have not had specific previous like this, but you have had other experiences that give you the skills that are consistent with the key success factors of the position. The key here is to understand what are the characteristics of a person that would be successful in this kind of job or what this buyer (prospective employer) is buying. The skills that the buyer wants to boy or the profile of a person that would be successful in this job would be someone who is a fast learner (this is a new area and you may have to get up to speed quickly), has great analytical skills (you will likely have to analyze the proposals in a certain way or evaluate or grade them), takes direction well from others (there is likely to be some limited training, so you have to be focused and able to learn from others), can handle large volumes of work, cool under pressure (as there will be deadlines), is self motivated and goal oriented. If you have evidence on your resume, or in your past experiences that clearly demonstrate that this profile is consistent with who you are AND you can tell that story in a compelling way, then you can position yourself as someone who has a high probability of being successful in this job, even though you have not had specific experience in this area. You are very competitive for this position. This is not the kind of position where you have to have specific technical training like you might need if you were applying for a computer programming or software development position.
Remember that the interviewer has an important job and that is to hire the best candidate for a position that the organization MUST fill. Your job is to make the interviewer feel that he or she is making a mistake if they don’t choose you!