Communication Tips for that Career Change – What Should I Say?
We have shared interview tips in our articles, especially in using public speaking techniques and skills. While these tend to be on a broad level, such techniques/skills can also be applied to manage the more thorny questions you may encounter in an interview. Beyond body language or non-verbal communication, public speaking techniques build on communication theory in exploring how best to organise your thoughts and craft a confident response.
We want to drill down on a specific scenario of an interview that working professionals tend to encounter – the career change. For a fresh graduate, the responses may be geared towards the pull factors that drive them towards a specific job opening. In contrast, experienced or mid-career professionals may encounter a slew of reasons (from the economy, mid-life crisis, or pure push factors) that may be difficult to articulate professionally.
We will approach the three broad questions that cut into such tenuous terrain when responding confidently in an interview setting.
Why did you leave, and why?
Let’s start with the push question – interviewers are often curious about why one would leave a prior job position (especially if the candidate has been there for a while!). Such questions are often used to scout various traits or intentions of the candidate. For example, an employer may be keen to know if the career change came about from a go-getter attitude or stems from one unable to stay loyal to an organisation (without a strong push reason).
For such questions, the key is to direct the interview to the forward potential instead of the painful past. We can unpack this sample answer (as provided by one of our learners):
“In my previous role, I was quite bored, and the work there did not challenge me mentally. The work was dull and methodical.”
While one is entitled to the opinions formed from their work, the framing above does not accurately show the candidate’s potential. Instead, the interviewer may be distracted by assumptions (e.g., if the current work is methodical/repetitive, the candidate may decide to leave as well). Instead, use the pain points as a problem springboard by sharing the solution or change you hope to bring:
“In my previous role, I was not challenged after I had up-skilled (at my own cost) and gained an ABC Diploma. I understand that your organisation specialises in ABC – I know that I will be engaged if I am tasked to …”
You can also see that the possible alternative response also focuses on specificity – the aim is to present yourself as a future solution and asset!
What makes you stand out?
This is a challenging question type – comparative questions may lure us into a defensive soliloquy about why others may not be as good. In our practices, we often encounter answers framed in the negative instead of the positive. As a starting point, this may bring out ‘attacking’ tendencies, such as putting other candidates down or venturing into a self-inflated sense of strength. We must balance the need to stand out while being clear and constructive.
As a starting point, avoid the urge to list your comparative achievements or strengths – this laundry list is unlikely to appeal to an interviewer. Instead, focus on a specific achievement that is relevant, detailed, and shows a change achieved. This might even be something that you have already prepared beforehand, and you may have a story or experience to support the sharing. The objective is thus to bring the focus back to yourself instead of other candidates.
What can you contribute to us?
Working off the previous questions, this question type is thus aimed at the value and role you can contribute to this new organisation. The difficulty in this is the ability to paint an enticing and accurate picture for your interviewer – it is not about setting high standards or over-selling your roles. Instead, aim to give your interviewers a day-to-day view of what you will bring to the organisation and team.
One key technique draws from impromptu settings – the Past-Present-Future, except that we modify this as the Past Motivation, Present Growth, and Future Journey. The Past Motivation allows you to explain what drives you for a start. This shows that your contribution is inherently driven and thus sustainable. This builds into your Present Growth – highlight your latest achievement and how this will continue to help the new organisation grow in the short term. Your answer culminates in the Future Journey – the long-term view of what you hope to contribute. This overall structure should be supported by specific statistics, experiences, or justification!
Clear and Confident!
Interview settings are stressful – unlike public speaking before a stage, the communication scenario may be fluid and unpredictable. For some questions (like those we shared here), the answers may be difficult to frame, especially in that high-stakes—high-stress setting. We hope the techniques and tips above can help you in your journey!
Know how interviewers think so that you can navigate through their minds – WATCH: “[Sharp As A Tack] How To Listen and Analyze Interview Responses Like A Pro!”
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