Stepping Up? Bridge The Gap with a Killer Answer
“So, we see you don’t have experience in XXX. How will you perform this role without this experience?”
The dreaded question. What on earth do you say?
Try and sweep it under the carpet? Try and make it seem like not such a big deal? Lie?
Be honest. Show self awareness.
Honesty is the best policy in this case – because belittling an interviewer’s concern is never the right approach. Acknowledge the skills gap. Let them know you understand why this is a problem by scoping out the difference between your skill level and what they require.
Show your understanding of what bridging this gap will take
Critically, assure them this doesn’t prevent you from excelling at the job – but don’t minimise it all together. 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 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/experience area? Have you completed internal training that may have covered this?
Offer an action plan
In every job, you’ve had to make a leap. This is not unusual, and like all the challenges you’ve faced before in terms of learning, you’ll squash this one too. What’s important is that you know how to do it. So, tell them. Offer them 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 you have confidence in what you need to do to overcome this obstacle.
Provide an example where you have overcome this before
Finally, reinforce it with an example of where you have successfully bridged a similar skills/knowledge/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 career development is that the further you go up the leadership chain, the more likely you will find 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. Welcome to the world of leadership!
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