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Get the Job Even if You Don't Have the "Right" Experience

Written by Rebecca Okamoto on Aug. 26, 2015

I’m concerned you only have big corporate experience.

I'm interviewing with David, the President of a small company, and he sounds reluctant to bring me on.

”What could a consultant with only a BIG corporate background know about managing small budgets, or being a non-dominant player in the market?” he wonders out loud.

30 minutes later, David was convinced I was the right person for the job.

I changed his concern about my corporate experience, and won his confidence.

Not so long ago I would have defended my lack of experience with a long list of accomplishments, trying to convince him I was the right person.

But I found a faster, more effective way to handle concerns:

Tell my story.

Stories build a connection by putting the listener in my shoes. In contrast, defending myself with a list of experiences only highlights the gap between us.

There's a huge difference.

In this case, I wanted David to be confident that I knew how to win in tough circumstances, with severely limited resources, and a nearly insurmountable goal. I wanted him to FEEL confident in me and his decision to engage me.

And he did.

I told David about a time when I was tasked to start up a plant in a remote area of China. It was a breakthrough project, but in a non-strategic business. There were no big company resources to tap.

I described how isolated the location was, and that we were the first Western investment in the region. It was an uphill battle. None of my corporate team spoke Mandarin, and none of the vendors spoke English. I only had a group of 6 Chinese employees who traveled from another location, not only do their job, but also to dual as translators.

....David became interested and mentioned he used to work internationally too.

I went on to explain that time was tight, and my budget was small. So small that I complained to my management that they were spending twice as much money paving a parking lot at the US headquarters than I had for my entire budget.

....Now David laughed. Typical corporate he agreed.

But against the odds, we started up on time, on budget, and blew everyone away with our success.

By the end of my story, David was hooked.

David didn't just identify with me, he started to root for me.

He saw me as someone like him. Someone who fought the odds, not with corporate resources, but with resourcefulness and determination.

Just 30 minutes before I was “too corporate.”

5 Steps to get the job even if you don't have experience

  1. Assess if you have the relevant skills needed to fulfill the role.

    There's a difference between not having the right experience and being unqualified.

    I knew I had the right skills for the role, just not the small company experience David was looking for. But I had well rounded operational skills, and had handled every type of business operations he had requested.

  2. Anticipate the interviewer's concerns.

    • Is it one specific area?

    • Is a general lack of experience?

    I assessed that David was going to key in on my lack of small business experience, but not my general qualifications.

  3. Identify how your lack of experience might play out in the new job.

    Your interviewer will play out a scenario in their mind based on your lack of experience. Put yourself in their shoes, and think about their underlying concerns.

    I thought that David would be concerned my approach would be too complicated or too costly. I thought he would worry that my suggestions would be completely impractical or that I would be dependent on resources that he didn't have.

  4. Determine your best skills or results that will offset the concerns.

    Big concerns need big responses. Find the one element in your background that completely offsets the concern.

    When I looked at the underlying concerns, I decided the most important thing I could emphasize was my resourcefulness and determination.

  5. Find a story to illustrate your point.

    Remember, the point you make is really a counterpoint. Your interviewer's concern is an emotional one, so you have to tell a story that will evoke as much confidence as there is concern.

    Make your story as descriptive as you can. In my story, I gave an analogy that my budget was so small, the US HQ was spending 2x that amount on a parking lot. That's a memorable detail.

    Lastly, practice makes perfect. Practice your story so you come across naturally and confidently.

Do you want to turn concerns about you into confidence in you?

Forget the lists, and the long, logical defense.

Confidence is a connection, not an explanation.

The next time someone expresses concerns about you, choose to connect, not convince.

Then tell your story.

And give the listener someone to root for.


Looking for more ways to connect to others? Take a look at these Evoke posts

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Check out the Unlock Your Potential page for more insight and inspiration.

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I'm Rebecca Okamoto and I'm on a mission to unlock career potential.


I'm a career and communications coach, and I help my clients turn their communications into a competitive advantage.

Do you have something to say, but struggle to say it? Contact me at reo@evoke.pro to get more information or find about my popular workshop, "How to say who you are and what you do in 20 words or less".

Photo / Business Plans Don't Suck - Mind Games Do by Camille Rose, on Flickr

Business Plans Don't Suck - Mind Games Do

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