“So, we see you don’t have experience in XXX. How will you perform this role without this experience?”
What on earth do you say?
Try and sweep it under the carpet?
Try and make it seem like not such a big deal?
Experience Versus Potential
It’s actually not such a big deal if you think about it. To move up the ranks, you’ll always be in a position where something, if not a lot of things, are new. Not having the experience isn’t the real issue, not showing the potential to be able to do it effectively, is.
For sure, you’ll be at a disadvantage if you’re interviewing against someone who has more experience than you. But if they’re not the right fit, or are lacking in other areas, you can still snag the role.
Address the Gap
Be honest and show self-awareness. Acknowledge the skills gap, don’t belittle it. Let them know you understand why this is a problem by scoping out the difference between your skill level and what they require.
Before the interview you should always spend some time really evaluating the potential gaps between your current experience and the role in question. You need to understand the gap fully, in order to show them why it is not an issue.
Close the Gap
The key is assuring your interviewer, or potential boss, that this doesn’t prevent you from excelling at the job. Think about what the real challenges of learning this new skill, or gaining this knowledge base, will be.
How long, really, will it take you and what challenges might you face in mastering it? What would it mean if you can’t do it, or quickly enough?
Think about what transferrable experience, skills and learnings you have, and make sure you tell them. Maybe you’ve gained some exposure to this accountability while your boss was away, or maybe you worked on a 2-month project that gave you a foundation understanding of what the priorities are in this skill or experience area? Have you completed internal training that may have covered this?
Moving into a job that feels out of your comfort zone is not unusual, in fact it’s desirable for both your learning and your employer, as you will be hungry to learn. What’s important is that you have an action place in place that gives them assurance you have thought about what you need to do to learn, quickly.
Always offer a plan detailing ‘how’ you intend to bridge the gap – can you do research, self-study, or is at simple as mapping out a set of stakeholders to gather some information from? Give them confidence that you have confidence in what you need to do to overcome this obstacle.
Back Yourself Up
Finally, reinforce it with an example of where you have successfully bridged a similar skill, knowledge or experience gap previously. Detail ‘how’ you did it – and focus in on any aspects of where you took the leading role in driving your own self development process. Explain what the consequences would have been if you hadn’t been able to learn, and then demonstrate your success following the actions you took at that time.
One of the ironies of becoming more senior in your career is that you will more likely find that you are leading areas you don’t have specific ‘expertise’ in. And leaders, in the true sense, are not expected to be ‘experts’ in every area of their business. The trick is in how you manage gaps in experience – how you assess what you need to know and what plans you put in place to bridge those gaps.
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