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3 Interview Mistakes You Should Avoid When Changing Industries

Ryan Helmstetler
October 16, 2016

Changing jobs, let alone changing industries can be an overwhelming process for really busy people. As a sales recruiter in New York, I prep job seekers before interviews on how to answer tough questions.

The industry changers who stand out tell their story in the hiring manager’s language. For example, despite being a sales rep in finance, you still need to research and practice your pitch for that software startup role you want. Rehearse it until you sound like the passionate CEO pitching investors!

Here are three common interview mistakes I’ve seen industry changers make, and how you can avoid them in your job search.

1) Your Current Industry Jargon Does Not Impress Hiring Managers

We’ve all had gut-wrenching nerves before or during interviews we wanted to knock out of the park. Especially for industry changers, the most important questions to prepare for are “tell me about yourself” and “why do you want this job.”

Every hiring manager will ask you about “your story,” or your career elevator pitch. However, he or she may not be familiar with the industry you’re coming from. Be sure to avoid using industry jargon when sharing your past experience. Tell a story that’s so easy to visualize your teenage cousin and elderly grandma would both understand.

Hiring managers also want to know you care enough about their company to research the specific role. Career industry changers need to go above and beyond here to demonstrate their true interest and relevant transferrable skills.

2) Embrace the Switch from Established Market Leaders to Growing Startups

In the New York market, I’ve helped several people switch from established finance or media companies to scrappy, fast-growing startups. The most common challenge they face is the reality that, for example, an Account Executive in media has completely different responsibilities, processes, and best practices than someone with that title at a tech company.

The best way to avoid any confusion is to do extensive research about the job and company before every interview. Even if you “think” you know what a phrase means, take five seconds to Google search and double check your definition. Also, think about your potential job function within the larger context of the startup: What resources and tools do they have available? How will you leverage their brand to guide your day-to-day sales tactics? Ask the hiring manager these questions so you can emphasize your relevant skills and eagerness to learn about a new industry.

3) Don’t Assume Hiring Processes are the Same at Large and Small Companies

Another common pitfall I’ve seen is how industry changers follow-up after interviews. Large companies typically have full-cycle internal recruiters carrying out very specific (and often slow moving) hiring processes. This results in job seekers waiting on the recruiter to make next steps.

Startups, on the other hand, don’t have as many hiring resources. With the right approach, this advantage allows industry changers to stand out more during interviews. Be proactive about closing the hiring manager on what the next steps are. Ask them who else is around at the office you could speak with.

Show hiring managers you can close them to strengthen your first impression with self-awareness and professionalism. These are the intangible requirements of any job and can make industry changers come across as compelling potential employees.


Want to learn more about switching into a sales development role? I’d love to connect with you! Email me at jpando@bettsrecruiting.com.

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*All names used are not real to protect the identity of our clients.