When an applicant asks you this question, they are deciphering actual job tasks and seeing where past work experience transfers. Some position postings are pretty vague, so a person switching into a new industry needs direct insight into daily activities and a better understanding of work flow.
Additionally, the applicant might be working to ascertain whether they are overqualified for the position. This is especially pertinent for job hoppers that are used to moving up the ladder quickly and want to take on a managerial position to showcase skills.
Points to Emphasize
When you answer, make sure that you are giving the applicant detailed information. An applicant with this line of questioning is searching for specific information on how their past work history will be utilized in a new position, and not underappreciated.
· Focus on the basics that make any applicant a strong candidate for a variety of positions. Organization, work ethic, writing skills, and communication can all be strong points here.
· If you know a qualified person is coming in to interview from another background, familiarize yourself with their past positions so you are prepared. Remember that you are courting a good applicant just as much as they are courting a new job.
· If you are unsure of specific past qualifications, just ask. Focus on positives and show your interest to pull out additional qualities, then highlight those as a good fit for the interviewee’s future position.
Mistakes You Should Avoid
While it might seem easy to sweep this question under the rug, it can be a very valuable learning tool for you. Listening is key here, so work with the candidate to match their past skills and give them confidence in their decision to switch to a new industry.
· Don’t bash past skills or industry knowledge, remember that any experience is a learning mechanism for future discovery!
· Don’t say “I don’t know,” it shows that you understand little about the position and care little about a person’s past history.
A simple, informative answer to this question will generally be phrased similar to this:
At XYZ Company we place a strong emphasis on learning and education. The skills you learned in your past industry will be utilized in full capacity, allowing you the opportunity to teach others and lend leadership within your area of expertise.