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 On this page: Mark Cohen answers the question: how to best present yourself in a job interview when you are making a career change.
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  Back to «  Home     «    Ask the HR Manager
Ask the HR Manager: What should I say about my career change in a job interview?
Question: I am changing careers from Accounting to IT. I have obtained certification in Oracle financials to solidify my focus in my new field. What are the major points that I need to get across during the interview?

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Questions about the Job Hunting Process:
How can I get a reference from my former boss?
What to say in a job interview when you are changing careers?
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Questions about Work:
Can I negotiate a better severance package?
The HR Manager:
Mark Cohen, the HR Manager
Mark's Answer:

There are always advantages and disadvantages to making a career change. As a candidate, part of your job is to help the interviewer see how the positives will benefit their company.

I’m inferring from Oracle financials certification that you see your best options as working in an IT department for a financial organization. It’s certainly not your only option, but if I’m following your thinking, it seems like a smart place to start.

By pursuing an industry where you already have some expertise you can mitigate your lack of IT experience.

With regard to the interview, you know that the hiring manager is likely to have several candidates to choose from, some of whom will probably have more hands-on IT experience than you.

So how do you play to your strengths?

  • Assuming you have a history of being a hard-working, diligent, conscientious employee, make sure you come to the interview with solid examples demonstrating your character and work-ethic that emphasize what you were able to accomplish.

  • Most jobs, regardless of the discipline, involve problem-solving and initiative. Be sure you have good examples of those as well.

  • Address the issue of your job change directly. As positively as possible talk about what you are eager to move to, that is, why is IT a better match for you than your prior work. Put this in terms of the job and company you are interviewing with.

    For example, “I’m excited about the prospect of using my Oracle training to develop receivable solutions in this position. My accounting background helps me understand the complexity of these solutions, so I’m eager to leverage both skill sets in this position. I enjoyed accounting, but this role will allow me to use my creativity and initiative in ways that I believe will fit well with this role."

  • Explain that having gotten the Oracle certification is an example of your initiative and job knowledge to be a success in this job

The key thing that’s different for you as a candidate in the middle of a career change is your ability to satisfactorily answer 2 key questions:

  1. Why are you making this career change and as a result...
  2. What do you bring to the table that is a competitive advantage over your more experienced competition.

As in any interview, it’s important that you come across as positive and confident about your situation. If you come across as apologetic or uncertain about your career change, nothing else will matter to the interviewer.

Many people come to realize that there is a better career path for them than the one they are currently in. Ideally you can present this as a point of pride. If you can, the interviewer is likely to pick up on that as well.

Have a Different Question?

Have a question about the hiring process or about working with the Human Resources department where you work?  Mark will answer new questions every month. Please send your questions to questions [at] Job-Hunt.org. We will never publish your name when we publish your question and the answer.

© Copyright Mark Cohen, 2013.  All rights reserved. Used with permission.

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Mark Cohen is an experienced Human Resources leader who has worked for many employers.  He offers his assistance in this column to help you navigate through the sometimes-puzzling processes of  Human Resources departments.

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