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Career change interview questions and answers to prepare for

Candidate Advice

Career change interview questions and answers to prepare for

Career change interview questions and answers to prepare for

How to answer career change interview questions

Making the decision to switch careers can be daunting, but it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. In fact, according to RE Recruitment’s Training and Onboard Manager, Lucy Dowie, there’s never been a better time to set out on a new career path.

“In a highly competitive labour market, employers are having to consider jobseekers they may not have previously considered, so this may be the perfect time for those people wanting to change careers,” she says.

Maybe you’re looking for a better work environment, an increase in salary or you finally want to go after your dream job: whatever the reason behind your career change, all you’ve got to do now is persuade the interviewer that you’re the right person for the role! Thankfully, Lucy has shared her top 10 career change interview questions and answers below, so that you can impress the hiring manager, whatever the industry.

Why are you looking to leave your current industry?

Understandably, this is going to be one of the first questions an interviewer asks. They want to find out more about you and whether you are worth their investment. Rather than talking about all the negatives of your previous job, take this as an opportunity to set out your long-term career goals and explain why a career change will help you achieve these. And be honest, says Lucy: “My general advice would be that for anyone changing career, they need to be able to discuss what has prompted the decision, what challenges they foresee and how they will overcome these. They should talk about how their skills and experience can be of use in a new industry and what they want to get out of the career change.”

What skills from your current or previous roles do you feel are most transferable to our business?

Even if you don’t have the specific skills and experience required, it’s likely that you do have several transferable skills. Perhaps you’re good with people, a whizz with words or brilliant at budgets – these skills are needed in every industry. And in today’s job market, they are very desirable. “Clients are more willing to look at transferable skills in the current market as it stands,” says RE Recruitment’s Head of Professional Services, Hayley Morris. “Career-changers need to be confident in giving examples of how these are transferable to a new industry.” If you need help identifying your transferable skills, then head to RE Recruitment’s candidate advice page for specialist one-to-one support.

What education or training have you undertaken to prepare you for this career change?

If you haven’t already, it’s a good idea to undertake some sort of training or gain a qualification that relates to your new field of work. This might be an online course, a volunteering role or even some unpaid work experience. As well as highlighting that you can use your initiative, it shows a potential employer that you are serious about making a long-term career change.

What appealed to you about your previous role that you no longer want?

There are many reasons why a dream role might not have worked out in the past. Maybe you thought you wanted the freedom to work from home but it turned out that you missed the buzz of the office. Perhaps you wanted the salary of a managerial position but then realised you missed doing the actual work itself. There are no right or wrong answers to this interview question, it’s about framing your response in a positive way.

Talk me through all your considerations when changing sector

If you’re changing careers then it’s understandable that you are going to have some concerns, and the interviewer expects this. Whether that’s a gap in your knowledge, a worry about learning new systems or getting to grips with new technology, these are all very real considerations.  They can also be easily overcome – you might not know as much as other people, but you’re willing to take on extra training; you might not be tech-savvy, but you’re a fast learner. Being able to see solutions is a desirable quality in an employee and shows that you’ve thought long and hard about the implications of making this career change.

What will you miss about your previous role?

Before applying for a new position, you will be given a detailed job description. This is your chance to see exactly what the new role entails. Maybe there will be elements of your previous job you will miss but there should also be elements in your new role that excite you and which you are looking forward to taking on. Focus on the positives rather than the negatives.

Why should we hire you over someone with experience in our field?

If you’re looking to change careers then it’s unlikely you will have much experience in your new field. But you do have other skills and experiences that are just as valuable. Being a good listener, being able to communicate with others, being good at time management – it’s these ‘soft skills’ that are now equally desirable to employers in all industries. As Lucy at RE Recruitment says: “Employers may need to consider what skills or behaviours are essential and look for these outside their own sector whilst understanding how a new set of skills and experiences can be of benefit to their organisation.”

What do you see as the biggest challenge in changing career?

There are always challenges when changing jobs, even more so if you’re changing careers as well. Go into the interview prepared – research the company so you can answer this question with specific rather than generic information. For example, you might lack knowledge or experience in your new career, but explain that you are excited about the in-house training or on-the-job mentoring that the company offers.

Tell me about a time when you have had to overcome a significant challenge or adapt your personal style?

This has to be the most dreaded career change interview question! But before you panic, take a moment to think about what the interviewer actually wants to hear. They don’t necessarily want to know all the ins and outs about how you passed your driving test on the third attempt, they want to hear how the experience shaped you and how you might grow as an employee. Are you adaptable, can you take on things that challenge you, can you bounce back when things become difficult? These are the behaviours that interest potential new employers.

Do you have any interests outside of work that you feel are relevant to this career change?

The answer to this interview question requires you to think laterally. Have you undertaken any previous work experience or do you do any voluntary work where there may be transferable skills? What about those ‘soft skills’ – maybe you like playing sport which shows good teamwork, perhaps you like cooking which demonstrates creativity, or maybe you enjoy reading which suggests an ability to focus? You’re giving the interviewer a 360-degree view of you as a person, helping them to determine whether you are a good fit for the company or not.

Ready to consider a career change?

We know that making the decision to change careers is not something people do lightly. RE Recruitment has a team of specialists who can support you every step of the way while helping you to find your next role. Whether you’re looking for full-time, part-time, temporary or professional work, register your CV now to start your new career job search!

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