You’ve finally landed the interview, you’re excited about the role, and then the interviewer asks, “Do you have experience with ______?” And it’s admittedly an area that you’ve never worked in or trained on. What do you say? Do you tell the employer no, you don’t have the experience, and risk losing the offer? Or, is there another way to answer the question that can instill confidence in the employer about your ability to learn quickly and take on the challenge?
Employers want to know that you have the experience and the ability to perform the essential functions of the job. And you can usually tell where their biggest “hurts” are by the questions they ask during the interview.
If they need someone with special expertise or experience in a given area, they’re going to make sure they ask you about that experience. So how do you answer this all-important question in the best way possible?
Here are three tips I’ll cover in this article to help you answer interview questions about experience you lack:
- Explain that you’re confident in your ability to learn it.
- Give them an example of how you learned something new or similar.
- Prepare examples in advance.
Alright, let’s dive into more details!
Let Them Know You’re Confident in Your Ability to Tackle Something New
Just because you’ve never done something, doesn’t mean you can’t do it. And it surely doesn’t mean you can’t excel at it.
If you’re asked a question about prior experience regarding something you’ve never done, the best way to answer isn’t to say “No, I’ve never done that.” Or, “No, I don’t have experience in that area.” End of the story.
The best way to handle the question is to say something along these lines:
“While I have not had any direct experience in XYZ, I am a fast learner, and I am confident that I could (do, manage, direct, handle, etc.) XYZ successfully and exceed your expectations.”
Give An Example of How You Learned Something New
An effective way to enhance your previous confident response would be to share with the hiring manager about a time when you did do something new and similar—or something that could in some way relate to the experience they are asking you about.
You could share an example of how you were able to quickly learn a new software program in your last position and then taught the entire team how to utilize it, saving the company $$$.
Or, how your last company didn’t have anyone to manage a really large project or new client, so you dove in headfirst, learned everything you could about the potential client, and closed the sale.
However, you approach the question, be sure to emphasize that you’re confident you can do whatever it is they’re asking you about unless it’s something you absolutely know you stink at, have no desire to learn or improve in, and wouldn’t want to do in your next role—in which case at this point you’ve probably determined this isn’t the best fit for you.
It makes a potential employer feel better to know that you’re confident in your abilities and talents—and it’s also a far better alternative than just telling them, “No, I don’t know how to do that,” and possibly excluding yourself from consideration.
Prepare Examples in Advance
It’s always best to practice and prepare for an interview. If you go into the interview with several examples and stories ready to share, you won’t be caught off guard or lost for words.
If you’ve reviewed the job description in detail, you may already know there’s an area where you lack experience or could be stronger.
Reflect on any related experience you possess or a time when you faced a similar challenge, learned a new skill, or took on a challenge you’d never faced before.
Use the challenge, action, result format or the situation, task, action, result format to relay the information in the interview.
For example: “When I joined ABC Company they didn’t have a marketing department and no one on the team knew anything about digital marketing. The company wanted to bring attention to a new product it was launching, so I researched the best digital marketing strategies, and created a lead generator and new email marketing campaign. I was able to grow our subscriber list from 0 to 10,000 subscribers in three months and the company generated $500,000 in revenue from our email list alone.”
In the above example, the candidate is sharing the situation and challenge, then explaining the action that they took to address the challenge and the result of that action.
Since employers will judge your ability to perform in the future based on your past actions, it’s always wise to use examples of how you’ve taken similar action or delivered results in the past. This is even more important when you don’t possess the exact experience they’re asking about but you can relate a similar experience.
You may also want to check out the factors the interviewer will be looking for and possibly scoring you on your answers.
If you’ve found that you struggle with interview anxiety, here are a few tips to take with you the next time you suit up and head out to meet with a hiring team.
Also, have a look at how you can maximize your research to help you ace your interview.
Need help getting your resume, cover letter, and LinkedIn profile ready for hiring managers to review? Let our executive resume writers uncover what makes you the only one for the job. Schedule a free resume strategy session here.
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About the author
Jessica Hernandez, President, CEO & Founder of Great Resumes Fast
Hi, I’m Jessica. I started this company back in 2008 after more than a decade directing hiring practices at Fortune 500 companies.
What started as a side hustle (before that was even a word!) helping friends of friends with their resumes has now grown into a company that serves hundreds of happy clients a year. But the personal touch? I’ve kept that.
You might have seen me featured as a resume expert in publications like Forbes, Fast Company, and Fortune. And in 2020, I was honored to be named as a LinkedIn Top Voice of the year!
I’m so glad you’re here, and I can’t wait to help you find your next perfect-fit position!
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