You may have just graduated from University or might even be in the middle of a career switch.
Either way, it might seem difficult to ace an interview without prior working or industry experience. No worries, we’re here to give you tips on how you can increase your chances to get that job!
There are 3 main things that recruiters and hiring managers look out for in an interview:
- How well you understand the realities of a job you’ve never done
- Relevant skills applied in other contexts that could help you be successful in this job
- Enthusiasm for the work and a willingness to take the rough with the smooth that comes with every job
When you have no experience, you have to highlight your strengths and transferable skills. No experience in that particular field does not mean you have no experience at all!
Because of this, the general rule of thumb is to answer somewhere along the lines of:
“One reason I like this job is that I want to improve my skills for (X). I haven’t done (X) before, but I have done (Y). Because of that, I’m confident I can learn to do (X) very quickly.”
This is the best way to admit that, yes, you may not yet have the specific skill. But are capable of picking it up quickly due to how efficient you were at your previous job/university experience.
What to say when the interviewer asks…
1. “What are you looking for in a job?”
Tell the interviewer that you are interested in an entry-level job. You want to be given many opportunities to learn and polish your skills.
This is to ensure you gain all the necessary skills required to deliver high-quality results. Soon when you know all the ins and outs of the job, you can then move on to a higher position.
“I am interested in an entry-level position. I know I have much to learn, so I’m looking for an opportunity that will let me build a solid professional foundation.
In a job, I’m looking to expose myself to as many things that can improve my skills and knowledge in this field of work. I want to challenge myself and see myself reach my full potential in this job.
I’ll take any assigned tasks seriously. I understand that to be good at something I must first learn all the ins and outs of the job.”
2. “Why should we hire you?”
For this question, you can use your lack of experience to your advantage. Convince the interviewer that you’re enthusiastic to learn and are ready for a challenge.
They need to see that you are passionate and attracted to their company so you’ll need a ‘point of interest’ relevant to their company to talk about.
“I believe that I am the best person for this role because I consider myself a very adaptable and passionate person. These qualities would be very useful for picking up new skills. I also definitely hold myself to work to a very high standard.
Whilst researching your company, I came across your innovative and exciting plans for the future, and I very much want to be a part of them.
For example, on your website, I found out that one of your recent new product launches has been a great success with your customers!
I believe I would get a great sense of pride from being a part of a team that delivers excellent customer service. It’ll motivate me to strive to meet your company objectives time and again.”
3. “What jobs/roles have you held and how did you handle them?”
Employers look favourably on any work experience, no matter what it is. From university coursework, internships, volunteer experience… even burger flipping.
Any type of experience will help your interviewer understand you better. What you learned from any job or task you did can be as important as the work itself.
Remember: It’s not the job that defines you, it’s what you bring to the job and how you do your work.
“I had a job at one of the local grocery stores as a cashier right after high school. To some, it may seem like a very simple job but there’s more to it than meets the eye.
In my experience, there were so many technical things you had to learn about the cash register system to be efficient at it. There was even a strategy on how to bag certain items.
Luckily for me, I had coworkers and a supervisor who were all very supportive and taught me well. In 2 weeks, I was a cash register pro. My supervisor even said that I picked up all the necessary skills faster than their previous employees.”
4. “What have you done that shows initiative and willingness to work?”
How well you can anticipate, prevent, and solve problems is very important to a hiring manager. Your answer should demonstrate this.
It doesn’t matter if it’s not specifically related to the job you’re applying for, as long as it shows good work practices.
“I was working in a warehouse and knew that a big shipment was due. The problem was that there was nowhere to put it.
I came in on a Saturday, cleaned up the mess on the loading dock and created the needed space.
My boss was pleasantly surprised when he came in early that Monday to do the same thing.”