3 tips for landing a job interview in an industry you’ve never worked in

landing a job interview

Job-searching during the Covid-19 pandemic?Take a breath because it’s not going to be easy to find work right away,” says Sharlene Massie, founder of Calgary-based About Staffing.

Landing a job interview even as countless businesses have closed their doors, putting millions of Canadians out of work, might seem impossible, but it’s not. Though the economy has been hit hard by Covid-19 changes, there are some bright spots. Several critical sectors are surging during the pandemic. Here are 10 that are actively hiring right now.

If you are job-searching right now, you might be applying for jobs in industries you’ve never worked in before. You might also be looking at your current resume wondering how the hell it’s going to get you into an interview for a job you’ve never done before. Don’t sweat it, and don’t over-think it.

Writing a competitive resume for a job you’ve never done before isn’t much different than writing a resume for a job you’re experienced in. Just respond directly to the job posting, use its keywords, and make your resume relevant. Easier said than done? Not really.

Let’s look at how you can spin your resume to make yourself a viable candidate for a job you’re not experienced in.

1. Landing a job interview starts with reading job postings carefully.

Sound like a no-brainer? You’d think. But Indeed’s Client Success Specialist, Sara Buonvivere, recently told me, “due to feedback from employers, our product teams have added the “if qualified” verbiage to the [Apply Now] button to encourage job seekers to ensure they are qualified for the role they are applying for. The hope is that it will prompt job seekers to read through all of the relevant details of the job”.

When you’re reading job postings for jobs you’ve never done before, you should be looking for the employer’s spin on “qualified”.

Just because you have no experience doing a particular job doesn’t mean you’re not qualified to do it. “Qualified” means different things to different employers.

2. Look for job postings that highlight soft skills.

Unless you have a great deal of education and training, and/or the right education and training, skip job postings that list a lot of hard-skills requirements.

Hard skills are taught/learned skills. They are quantifiable and are often learned through education, certifications, training, and/or previous work experience. Hard skills are specific to each job and are often the basis of job requirements.

Hard skills are what they are — you either have them or you don’t. When looking at job postings, be realistic and use common sense to determine what is a viable job opportunity for you, and what isn’t.

Look for job postings that call for soft skills. Soft skills are typically interpersonal skills and desirable personality traits that revolve around character, teamwork, communication, and work ethic.

Soft skills tend to be transferable between jobs or industries and, though more difficult to quantify on a resume than hard skills, soft skills are the ones you can spin to give yourself a shot at an interview for a job you have no experience in.

The job posting below for a line worker in a manufacturing plant is all about soft skills:

Job Duties/Responsibilities

  • Set-up and operation of the seasoning machines
  • Maintaining quality controls for seasoning application and salt tests
  • Manage the conveyor system to ensure appropriate product feed
  • Complete loading/unloading of finished cases into trailers using powered industrial truck
  • Troubleshoot Automated palletizer
  • Complete all necessary paperwork, ensuring accuracy of information
  • Understand and participate in inventory counting and reconciliation processes
  • Maintain a high level of sanitation in work area
  • Able to execute against reject materials, action steps including coordination with the Lab and basic troubleshooting
  • Observe Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP’s) and provide GMP coaching to any personnel coming through work area
  • Support end-of-week sanitation duties and preventative maintenance responsibilities as required

Not a single hard skill mentioned. Everything listed here can be accomplished by anyone who has the right soft skills. When you’re reading job postings, focus less on the actual job duties and more on identifying the soft skills it takes to do the job.

Here’s what I get from the ad:

  • attentive and observant
  • mechanically adept
  • troubleshoots and solves problems
  • pays attention to detail
  • takes initiative and action
  • works responsibly with other departments
  • follows rules and regulations
  • shares information
  • assumes accountability

So even though a job-seeker might never have worked in the manufacturing industry before, he or she would have a shot at an interview by showing the employer how they used these soft skills in previous work.

Once you identify the soft skills the employer is looking for, your resume-writing takes on direction. You then have something to work with to help you write a responsive resume. Think about your previous job(s), focusing less on the actual duties you did and more on the soft skills you used to do them.

3. Show, don’t tell.

Use your previous work experiences to describe your soft skills and how they’ll transfer over. Show you are capable of doing the job the employer needs done by describing how your soft skills match those she’s looking for.

You can’t simply say, ‘I can do that’. Even if you can do it, or think you can, simply saying so isn’t good enough. You have to show the employer how you used your soft skills in your previous work. It’s all about proof.

When you’re digging around in your brain thinking about all the things you did in your previous job(s), remember to go right back to the beginning.

  • Did you go into that job inexperienced?
  • How did you learn to do all of the things you eventually got good at?
  • Did you use your own observation to see how things were done?
  • Did you learn how to operate new equipment, or software, or systems?
  • Did you recognize problems and figure out solutions on your own?
  • How did you conduct yourself in a way that aligned with company regulations?
  • Were you really good about openly sharing information?
  • In what ways did you go the extra mile whether it was your responsibility to do so or not?

Typically, job-seekers tend to emphasize the duties they did in their jobs rather than the soft skills they used to do those duties. This is never a good idea, and even less so when writing a resume for a job you’ve never done before.

Writing a resume for a job you’ve never done before isn’t much different than writing one for a job you’re experienced to do. Follow 3 simple tips:

  1. Read the job postings carefully and skip those that call for hard skills you don’t have.
  2. Identify what the employer is looking for in soft skills.
  3. Show you have the soft skills by describing how you used them in your previous work.

Number 3 in that list, “describing”, is the one most job-seekers have a hard time with. Need some help with describing? Grab your FREE copy of HOW TO WRITE A KILLER RESUME!

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terri at resumepro

Terri is an expert resume-writer and a pretty good job coach. During her 30 years in the conventional work force, Terri was fired from 11 jobs, got laid off from 2 jobs, quit 3 jobs, sued 1 employer (successfully), made another cry, and wrote over 100 resumes for herself alone! Since embracing the good old “take this job and shove it” attitude, Terri decided to put all of her shitty “workin’ for the man” experiences and life-lessons to good use, and thus was born www.goresumepro.ca/blog. Enjoy!

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