You did it. After obsessing over your resume and cover letter to make sure everything was just right, hitting “apply,” and anxiously checking your e-mail inbox the last few weeks for any response, you landed the job interview. Maybe you are trying to get hired for your first full-time role after college, find your dream gig, or are simply looking to switch to a different position from your current one.
Now that you have secured the interview, you start to panic a bit. You know that you do not have the full list of qualifications the company is looking for, and your experience in a few areas is lacking.
You are thrilled to have been given a chance to interview, but the question is, what to do now? We are here to tell you that it is completely possible to learn how to ace an interview even if you do not have much experience. If you adequately prepare and utilize a few key tips, you can walk into that interview with confidence and walk out a successful candidate.
Preparing for an Interview
Of course, the first step in working towards how to ace an interview and be hired at the position you desire is to craft an exceptionally well-written, comprehensive application. You may have already landed your interview, but it is still a good idea to review the basics of a strong application.
If you are applying for many jobs at once, it can be easy to begin sending out formula cover letters with the same general jargon. However, if you really want to make an impression, you need to add personal touches and elements to each, making it clear why you should be given the chance to interview.
If you find a role you would like to apply for, but immediately recognize that you are lacking in experience, pause for a moment to determine what you could bring to the table in such a job. If you have most of the qualifications required, but not all, and have just a few years of experience less than what was asked for, you could still be a viable candidate. Of course, if the job posting asked for seven years of experience and you only had two, that is unlikely to be a strong option. Alternatively, if the ad asks for four to six years of experience, and you have three, give it a try.
In your cover letter, be sure to identify interests you have that tie directly into the role itself. Even if you do not have much experience, your cover letter can still work as the bargaining chip to secure your next interview. Personalize the letter, explaining why you would be excellent at the job and why it interests you. Include areas of strength, skills, past experiences, or work habits that you possess which would be relevant to the qualities needed in that role. These are the first crucial steps to help you realize your dreams and learn how to ace an interview.
Analyze Your Skill Set
In order to excel in how to ace an interview, first do some thinking and preparation ahead of time so that you can answer whatever the hiring manager throws your way with ease and confidence. Take notes if need be and review to keep them fresh in your brain.
One of the primary things you should do to prepare for the interview is to analyze the soft skills that you possess. Qualities like a professional demeanor, great attitude, drive, and follow-through motivation can show an employer a balance of your attributes as compared to your lack of experience.
In addition, focus on the experience you do have that you could emphasize. Whether you are just starting out or not, there is always something you can refer back to in this area. Perhaps it was your volunteer work in college, sitting on the board of a student association, or a weekly blog. Relevant experience that you can highlight need not be limited to professional duties, but can expand into any area of your life that has allowed you to display and practice skills useful to the role.
How to Ace an Interview
What to Avoid
Finally, the day has come to attend the interview and meet the hiring manager. You are one step closer to learning how to ace an interview, even without all the experience the role requires. To begin with, we would like to go over a few things you should most definitely avoid. Knowledge is truly power, so part of learning how to ace an interview is found in knowing what not to say.
To begin with, when you are interviewing for a position in which you lack certain relevant experience, the recruiter will often ask why they should choose you above other candidates and what makes you a better fit for the role. While it may seem like the most obvious response, do not say something like “I am actually a really fast learner,” or “I am very teachable.”
Unfortunately, while this may show you are a quick study, the hiring manager usually wants someone who can delve immediately into the role, so simply emphasizing your lack of experience with this type of response is unlikely to get you anywhere.
Another key point to remember when learning how to ace an interview is to never beg for the job, no matter how much you may want it. Saying things like “I will work so hard, if you will only give me a chance,” comes off as needy and reeks of desperation. If you feel that the hiring manager is crossing you off of the list for your lack of experience, this is not the response to come back with.
Finally, if an employer is looking for specific experience, one of the most self-sabotaging things you can say is that you have experienced more fitting to the role than what they are looking for. This basically infers that the qualities they desire in the role are inferior to what you can offer.
You absolutely should highlight your qualities and even non-professional experience that would be relevant, but emphasizing alternative experience that you feel would be far more relevant than what they are looking for will not help you make a strong case.
Focus on What You Have
Knowing how to ace an interview requires you to focus on what you can bring to the table for this potential employer. If you are fresh out of college and inexperienced in the corporate world, do not try to create experiential qualities out of thin air. The recruiter has your resume in front of him or her and is already completely aware, but still brought you to the office to interview.
Focus on what you do have and what you can offer. Identify experience you gained in college which fostered certain abilities and qualities that could help you thrive in this job. If you can point back to situations that reveal you are a quick learner, you are dedicated to whatever task is set before you, and you are committed to success, this will make a far greater impression than putting those qualities into exact words ever will.
Feel free to point out a personal experience that taught you certain lessons which would develop into a quality work ethic. If it was something that changed you, matured you, and helped make you the consummate professional you are today, this could be valuable to showcase your character and assets to a hiring manager.
One of the most important tips to remember when learning how to ace an interview if you are lacking in experience, is to draw a connection between yourself and the role. Maybe the work the company does is in an industry that you have long been fascinated by, or were educated in. If you applied for the role, there was a reason you were interested in it in the first place. Therefore, harness that interest into a concrete connection between yourself and the company, whether it be through your own life, education, or professional background.
Find a Balance
Another key tip as to how to ace an interview without experience is to be confident in yourself and your abilities. There is a definite balance to this as you need to display confidence in your professional self without coming off as arrogant or self-important. Strike an equilibrium between these elements, with a practical attitude towards where your strengths lie and where you may be lacking.
If you are in the interview and you feel like the hiring manager might have preconceived notions based on your lack of experience or is not identifying some of your most relevant qualities, work to keep the conversation fluid and open. For example, if you feel the interview is not going in a successful direction, ask the recruiter if there is another position within the company that he or she could advise you to pursue. This could open the door to further opportunities, and at the very least, show that you are driven and take initiative.
Be sure to ask about the role itself, and what ambitions and goals the company has set for it. Delve deeper into the position besides what was posted in the job ad. Not only does this emphasize your genuine interest, curiosity, and forethought regarding the job, but it allows an opening for you to tie the experience you do have into the picture in a relevant way that showcases what essential qualities you could bring to the role.
Learning how to ace an interview with no experience is a process that requires preparation and planning. Be willing to listen and ask questions. Show your genuine interest in the role and never be afraid to seek clarification where needed.
You need to review the experience you do have, whether it be professional, personal, and/or educational, so you can highlight and emphasize these areas. In connecting your abilities to the necessities of the job itself, you can put yourself forth as a strong, viable candidate and walk out of the interview with confidence.