Best Tips for Career Change (Resume and Interviews)
If you’d like to change careers, you’ve come to the right place.
After recruiting for multiple Fortune 500 companies and top tech startups, I’m going to share the best tips I’ve found for a successful career change.
We’re going to look at resume tips for career changers, and then job interview tips for career changers.
Let’s get started…
Part I: Resume Tips for Career Change
We’re going to talk about your resume first.
The top thing employers want to see in your resume employment history is relevant, recent experience.
They’re looking at what you’ve done recently first, and they’re comparing it to the job description and job duties.
They’re asking themselves, “does this person have the skills and experience to step into this job and succeed quickly?”
And your employment history should be on the top half of page 1 of your resume.
Here’s an example:
Let’s say you’ve never been a manager before but you’re applying for a manager position.
And let’s imagine that in your most recent job, you trained new team members and led small projects. It was only a small part of your job, but you did it.
That should be the FIRST bullet point under that job on your resume… since you’re looking for leadership jobs now.
Especially if leadership/management is the first thing listed on the job description of the role you’re applying for.
(Looking at the job description is a great way to know what’s most important to the employer).
So your first bullet on your resume would talk about training new team members and leading project teams.
You’d want to share specific results you achieved too, ideally.
What did that project accomplish for the company? Here’s a full article on how to write stand-out resume bullet points. Most people get it very wrong.
Don’t rush through your resume. Take the time to “tailor” everything and put things in order of what the employer wants to see, based on their job requirements.
As a career changer, you’re not going to have every requirement listed, but your goal on your resume is to show them whatever’s most relevant and useful for the job you’ve applied for.
Just do your best.
As one final adjustment to your resume, consider tailoring your intro paragraph/resume summary section as well. You can highlight a couple of key accomplishments from your career that you feel are most relevant in this new career you’re pursuing.
You could also mention that you’re looking to change careers in this section if you’d like.
Example intro paragraph for your resume as a career changer:
“High-performing marketing executive responsible for the strategy and execution behind $105 million in ad campaigns over the past five years, seeking to transition into corporate strategy consulting”
In that example of a resume summary, you’re highlighting the most relevant piece of your past work -strategy – before explaining that you’re looking to transition into a new career/field.
Note: It’s not necessary to say what you’re seeking next in your intro paragraph/summary. I did it in the example above, but if you’d rather not, you could just focus 100% on accomplishments and highlights of your career.
Part II: Interview Tips for Career Change
If you followed the resume tips for career change that we just covered, you should start getting interviews in this new field of work that you’re interested in.
So you need to be ready to convince employers to hire you in the interview… all the way from the initial phone interview to the final rounds of in-person interviews.
Explaining Your Reasons for Wanting a Career Change
First, you’ll need to be ready to explain your motivations for changing careers.
Take time to think about why you’re looking to change. I also recommend focusing on the positive things you want to gain in this change, and NOT talking about the negative things or things you dislike about your past career.
Don’t badmouth or complain; just talk about what you’re looking forward to gaining in this career transition.
Showing Them You Know What the Job Involves
Finally, make sure you know exactly what this new job/career involves.
When I was first interviewing to become a Recruiter many years ago, I really had no idea what the job involved. (I thought I did, but I quickly found out I was wrong).
Not being able to explain what you’ll be doing in this job, along with why you want to be doing it, is a surefire way to get rejected.
So before you practice explaining why you want this career change, make sure you know exactly what you’ll be doing in this new career!
Showing Them You’re Ready to Succeed in Their Job
Next, you’ll want to prepare to highlight your most relevant (and hopefully recent) experience for THEIR job.
The interview is really about them, not you…
…It’s about showing you can come in and solve their problems, help them, and succeed in their job.
So keep the same mindset that you did when writing your resume (if you followed the resume tips for career changers above) – think about your past work and which pieces that will be most useful/relevant as you step into this new career, and talk about those things in the interview.
9 Must-Know Interview Questions for Changing Careers
We’ve now covered the best resume tips and interview tips for making a successful career change.
Now let’s look at some of the top interview questions you’ll hear when changing careers.
Prepare for and practice these questions so you’re not caught off-guard when you hear them.
Most of these questions will also be a clickable link so you can read further about each question and see example answers if you want more help.
Why are you looking to change careers?
This is the most obvious/basic question you can expect to hear in the interview as a career changer.
As mentioned earlier in this article, you really need to be ready to show that you have solid reasons for wanting this new career, and that you understand what this new career/job involves.
Also, avoid badmouthing your previous jobs and bosses. Just focus on the positive things you hope to gain in this change!
Another variation of this question that you might hear is: “why do you want to leave your current job?”
Even if they phrase it like this, don’t get sucked into badmouthing or talking negatively about what you dislike right now.
Refocus the conversation back on the positive things you’re looking to gain by making this change.
When they ask this interview question, be ready to show you’ve put a lot of thought into this change.
You can’t seem like you’re desperate, unsure what you want, or just trying to “escape” your current job/career, or you will not get hired.
I’d recommend not sharing specific employer names when they ask this. You can say you’d like to keep their names private, and you’d do the same for this employer if someone else were to ask you.
However, you do want to be ready to talk about the types of companies you’re interviewing at.
Ideally, show them you’re applying for many jobs in the same field of work. You want to show them that their job is exactly what you’re looking for right now.
As a career changer answering this interview question, you’ll want to highlight the most relevant pieces of your past work.
Show any similarities you can between your past work and this new job you’ll be performing.
It’s not always easy, but there are always some similarities you can point to if you think and prepare enough.
You want to show specific proof you can succeed, and avoid general statements like, “well, I’m a hard worker and a very fast learner.” Everyone says this and it’s not persuasive at all.
Always research a company before going into the interview.
Who is their CEO?
How many locations do they have?
Why and when were they founded?
What do they sell or how do they make money?
Who is their typical customer?
This is a very open-ended question, and there isn’t one “right” answer, but make sure you do have something prepared.
When changing careers, the interviewer will want to make sure you’re going to be motivated in this new line of work.
This is important to any employer in the interview, and especially important if you’re changing roles or changing careers.
Make sure you’re ready to give a good answer about what motivates you to come to work each day, and why this new career motivates you.
Employers ask this to get a general sense of your confidence and how you’re feeling about your job hunt.
They also want to know if you have other job offers, other interviews going on, etc.
You can click the link above to read more about this specific question.
In general, you want to sound like you’re confident and excited. It’s okay if you don’t have any job offers yet, you can just say, “well, I’m just beginning to search and it’s going well so far…”
Don’t lie, though. Lies lead to more lies and can cost you the job.
This is a tough interview question to answer, especially as a career changer.
Ideally, you’ll want to talk about how this new career you’re pursuing has a lot of traits that make it an attractive job for you.
The basic idea is: You don’t need to say this is your dream job. Instead, talk about what traits/qualities your dream job would have (for example leadership, flexibility, a chance to be creative, a chance to make an impact in the world or help people, etc.)… and then talk about how this job offers some of that.
Click here if you want more help with this specific question.
When changing careers, you’ll want to make sure to show employers that you think about decisions carefully, use facts and logic, etc.
You want to sound like you have a process or system for making good decisions.
You never want to sound like you just make random, emotional decisions all the time without analyzing the situation, especially when trying to change careers.
Show that you always try to weigh your options and think about the different choices you have and the pros and cons of each.
Tips for a Career Change Later in Life
If you’re 50+, I wrote a separate article on career change at age 50. I’d recommend checking it out as well.
And here’s an article with my best tips on how to overcome age discrimination in any job search.
It’s never too late to change careers, and don’t let a few rejections convince you otherwise.
There are some things you need to make sure you’re doing correctly, though, and those two links above will help make sure you’re doing everything possible to get a new job.
Tips for Changing Careers – Conclusion
If you follow the resume and interview advice above, you’ll give yourself the best chance of succeeding in changing careers.
When it comes to applying for jobs, I recommend focusing on QUALITY, not quantity.
Here’s what I mean…
Send out fewer resumes, but make sure they’re tailored to the job you’re applying for and packed with as much proof/past results as possible that demonstrate you’ll succeed in this new career.
And when you get interviews, don’t risk losing the job to someone else… go prepare for all the top questions you expect them to ask.
You can get the top 30 questions to practice HERE.
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