Career Transition

5 Questions Hiring Managers Ask
About Career Changers

hiring manager

You may be passionate about starting a new career, but making the transition is going to take more than enthusiasm.

You have to convince a company to hire you, and generally to hire you instead of hiring someone already in the industry who may be able to hit the ground running.

Harder doesn’t mean impossible, of course. Or even unlikely. But you are most likely going to have to make a very strong case for yourself if you are to succeed at landing a new job. Before you start sending out resumes, you need to have done enough legwork to understand enough about the job and industry that you can convince them you can succeed.

Part of that is recognizing the specific skills and capabilities that the companies you want to work for want in their workforce, and highlighting them in your resume. Part of that is preparing for interviews by practicing the stories that show how you get results by using those skills.

But those are true for all candidates. For those changing careers, there is a third step. Identifying the particular questions hiring managers will need answered before they take a risk on a career changer. And yes, most of them will see hiring you as more risky than someone in the field.

Here are 5 Questions Hiring Managers Ask About Career Changers

  1. Do you have the skills needed for the job? You don’t need to have them all, but the majority—70 or 80 percent—is considered enough to succeed and grow in the position.
  2. Do you know the strategic issues in the industry? Managers need to see that you have a good grasps of aspects of the industry you want to work in, including trends, challenges, growth areas, key players, regulatory or legal issues, and threats.
  3. How familiar are you with the tactical industry issues? Do you know how companies in the industry operate, their processes, logistics, technologies, etc.
  4. Do you have the drive to get up to speed quickly?  Showing you have passion for your new career is important. But don’t rely on it. “You can’t lead with mojo,” says Susan Bernstein, an Ivy Exec career coach. Employers appreciate enthusiasm, but mostly they want to get the job done.
  5. Are you in this industry for the long run? Managers want to know that you will stay on your new path and not return to the old one. They may have been burned by hiring folks that liked the idea of the new career. On your resume, highlight any experience you have in the new industry–an internship, a side gig, a consulting or freelance project, or even working on a team with people who had the job you are targeting. During an interview, you can make clear that you understand what you are getting into, that you have realistic expectations of the challenges and the tasks of the job, and that you accept that you may have to start at a lower level than your last job or at a lower salary, if those are the case. You want to demonstrate your commitment to the change.

About the Author

Susan Price has been writing about careers, entrepreneurs and personal finance for more than a decade. She’s been an editor at BusinessWeek, Money, and iVillage.com, among others.