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18 Career Change Interview Questions and Sample Answers

Trying to prepare for interviews after a career change? This guide's got you covered on all the questions you could be asked, tips to answer them, and even templates you can steal.
18 Career Change Interview Questions and Sample Answers

If you’re thinking of changing your career, you’re not alone. Heck — 53% of people who quit a job in 2021 have changed their career in the past year.

But interviewing for an entirely different field, industry, or even role is tricky business.

Am I underselling or overselling myself? No way they’ll even consider me. Maybe I should have stuck with my last job.

I’ve had those thoughts too — 4 years ago, having just quit my job as a hotel manager. And here I am today, a Head of Content, writing this article. I made it through a career change and got past even the trickiest interviews. And so will you.

In this article, we’ll cover:

  • Why employers will have hesitations about you, and how to overcome them.
  • 18 interview questions you’ll be asked (and tips on how to answer them) if you’re currently changing your career or changed your career in the past.
  • Sample answers to the most important career change questions (and answer templates you can steal).
  • My tips for how to make your career change sound like an asset, rather than a liability.

Oh, and I’ll use examples from all kinds of career changes. Whether you’re making a slight change — like from marketing a convenience good to hygiene products — or taking a huge leap — like from being a lawyer to being a digital marketer — we’ll have an example for you.

Understanding Career Change Interview Questions

Why are interviewers really asking career change questions?

They want to know why they should hire you over one of those candidates that make it seem like their whole lives led up to this job. We all know there are kids who come right out of the womb saying, “One day I want to be a Director of Ethical Hacking.” You have to find a way to defend yourself against that kid.

What you need to be prepared for when answering career-change questions

Employers have many apprehensions about career changers:

  • Since you’re changing careers now, will you do it again?
  • Are you expecting to climb to the top with little experience, or are you willing to accept a more junior role?
  • Will you be able to keep up with people who have been in this industry forever?
  • How fast can you get up to speed and are you coachable?
  • Are you really passionate about the new career, or found this on a list of best jobs for more money?

So no, “why do you want to change careers?” won’t be the only question they ask you about your pivot. There are tons of other questions you’ll be asked. And that’s what we’re here for. Keep reading to find out how to address all of these hesitations and wow the interviewer. Note that there are two kinds of career change questions:

  • If you’re just now changing careers, you’ll face more questions about this current change and your transferable skills.
  • If you’ve changed careers in the past (like me), you’ll be asked questions about the experience and your results.

We’ll cover both types of questions below, so if one section doesn’t apply to you, skip ahead to the next section.

Common Interview Questions about Current Desire to Change Careers

In this section, I’ll cover the basics — walk you through why interviewers ask each question and give you some high-level tips for answering. If you want to see real-life answer examples, scroll down (you’ll also get bonus “answer templates” you can adapt to your exact situation).

Why do you want to switch careers currently?

What they want to know:

  • Are you leaving on bad terms?
  • Are you passionate about this new job or industry?
  • Are there any red flags with your current company?

Tips to answer:

  • List two or three solid reasons for a career switch, don’t just talk about how you felt it was time for a change.
  • Tell a story about what you were doing before, how you realized you needed to make this change, and where you hope to fit in at this company.
  • Keep your answer positive, mentioning what you got out of your previous job. Don’t badmouth past employers.

💡According to research, people who change their careers could be doing so based on shocks, like losing your job, going through a change that questions your values (pandemic, anyone?), or facing frequent challenges in your job. All of these, while unpleasant, are viable reasons to bring up in the interview.

How will your experience from previous roles benefit our company?

What they want to know:

  • Do you have skills that other, “standard” candidates don’t have?
  • Have you used the skills needed for this role in your previous positions?
  • Do you have confidence that you’ll succeed here?

Tips to answer:

  • Use 3–5 skills from the job description that you’ve mastered from your previous job.
  • Identify 3–5 more skills you have that would help you excel in this role. For example, a salesperson trying to switch to marketing might highlight their negotiation skills and research they’ve done about influence.
  • Be confident in your answer. Don’t say that you “aren’t sure this will help,” say exactly why your experience will be a game changer.

What steps have you taken to prepare for this new career?

What they want to know:

  • Do you take initiative?
  • Do you have any experience (even minor) in this field?
  • What will you do when you don’t know how to do something?

Tips to answer:

  • Get specific, don’t just say you took a course. What course and why? And if you’ve done some work to practice, share it with them.
  • Talk about steps you’ve taken that will make up for job-specific skills. For example, someone looking to transition from healthcare to being a restaurant wine expert might talk about getting their wine certification.
  • Don’t lie about books you’ve read or courses you took. It’s much easier to spot fake answers than you think. As much as we love him, we all know that Joey doesn’t speak French and neither do you.

don't lie in an interview

These questions are entirely specific to changing careers. And those aren’t the only kind you’ll get asked. If you want to get lessons on common interview questions and learn how to sell yourself for your next interview, make sure you grab our free interviewing course.

What are your expectations from this career change?

What they want to know:

  • Why are you looking for a job change?
  • Do you have realistic expectations for how this will impact your career?
  • Do the skills and knowledge you hope to gain align with the job requirements?

Tips to answer:

  • State your end goal.
  • Find out how this is going to impact your career trajectory, things such as title and salary, and mention this in your response.
  • Bring up skills from the job description that you’re genuinely excited to master.

What potential challenges do you foresee in your career transition, and how will you overcome them?

What they want to know:

  • Can you handle problems?
  • Are you self-aware and realistic?
  • What are your weaknesses in this industry and do you have a plan to address them?
  • Do you take criticism well?

Tips to answer:

  • Highlight job responsibilities you won’t know how to do, then talk about your plan to master them.
  • Use the Situation-Task-Action-Result (STAR) formula to talk about a time you’ve had to deal with an issue at work.
  • Don’t be overconfident and say, “I’m sure I’ll be able to hit the ground running without problems.” There will be bumps in the road. Identify some and plan ahead.

How does this role align with your long-term career goals?

What they want to know:

  • Are you only taking this job for a short-term win?
  • Will you change careers again?
  • Have you really thought this out?

Tips to answer:

  • Explain how your career goals align with the company’s needs.
  • Show your commitment to gaining certain skills and knowledge in the years to come.
  • Assure interviewers that this is not something you thought about on a whim, and touch on how you identified it was the right fit for you.
This question is really similar to “Where do you see yourself in five years.” If you’re really not sure where to start, check out the article linked above for a full guide on how to answer (with examples and templates).

What attracts you most to this new career path?

What they want to know:

  • Are you interested in this job or the benefits?
  • What are your biggest motivators?
  • Will you be dedicated enough to stay?
  • Do you know enough about the industry to make this decision?

Tips to answer:

  • Do your research. Is the lifestyle, daily activities, and end result what you’re looking for?
  • Explain the type of change you’re looking for and how this career fits that, exactly.
  • Find 2-3 things from the job description that excite you and mention those in your answer.

What approaches will you use to fill any skill gaps needed for this new career?

What they want to know:

  • Can you keep up with everyone else?
  • Why should we hire you instead of someone who already has these skills?
  • Will you continue to grow after you’ve successfully transitioned?

Tips to answer:

  • Explain how you have been using resources to level up in your current position.
  • Identify the exact skills you need to gain and explain how you would go about it, considering courses, networking, and mentorship opportunities.
  • Mention the skills you have (that other candidates might not) that would help you fill your skill gaps. For example, if you’re in real estate and move to HR, a skill you need to learn is how to conduct interviews. So you could mention that you wouldn’t be shy or scared because of all of your communication experience from working with home buyers and sellers.

Are you ready to start at a lower level because of this career transition?

What they want to know:

  • Are you committed enough to take a pay cut?
  • Can you leave your ego at the door?
  • Will you be happy here?

Tips to answer:

  • Don’t just say “yes,” reiterate your motivation for making this change and your commitment to the new job.
  • Give examples of how this new job is the perfect fit for you.
  • Never say, “I don’t think a pay cut is necessary, I have a lot of relevant experience.” Show that you are committed enough to do so. Salary negotiation comes later anyway.

What makes you believe that this career transition will be successful?

What they want to know:

  • Are you committed to making it successful?
  • Do you have the basic skills needed for this job?
  • Can you handle a challenge?

Tips to answer:

  • Explain your motivation behind making this work, and how it will impact your life.
  • Use the Situation-Task-Action-Result (STAR) formula to talk about a time you’ve overcome an obstacle in your personal life, in school, or at work.
  • Review the skills and knowledge you’ve already built that will help you in your daily activities.

Those were just 10 examples of interview questions for a career change, check out this video for more:

Common Interview Questions about Past Career Changes

Why did you leave your previous career?

What they want to know:

  • Are you a job hopper?
  • What were you looking for in a new career that you hadn’t had before?
  • Are you passionate about the industry?
  • How do you make big decisions and handle problems?

Tips to answer:

  • Tell a story, using the Situation-Task-Action-Result (STAR) formula, about how you made the decision to change careers.
  • Talk about key aspects of your past career that you weren’t a big fan of, and how your new career fixes those concerns.
  • Mention what enticed you to make this switch, and verify that your new job met your expectations.

What lessons have you learned from your past career?

What they want to know:

  • Are there experiences you’ve had in your past job that will make you better in this one?
  • Are there any red flags about how you talk about your past career?
  • Can you learn from your mistakes?

Tips to answer:

  • If there are any, talk about mistakes that led to you choosing your previous career. For example, if you were an investment banker for the money, but your lifelong dream was to be a teacher. Mention that and explain how you learned the importance of following your passion.
  • Mention lessons that will apply to your new job: things like teamwork, time management, and building customer relationships.
  • Use the STAR formula to talk about your experience in a storytelling format.
  • Don’t speak negatively about these lessons, focus on what you’ve learned and how you’ve used this to succeed.

What skills from your previous career are transferable to this role?

What they want to know:

  • Can you compete with the other applicants?
  • Is there anything special you have that other candidates might not?
  • Why should we hire you?

Tips to answer:

  • Mention skills you have that were also in the job description.
  • Use the STAR formula to talk about how your previous job tasks relate to your new career.
  • Bring up additional skills you have (not mentioned in the job description) that would make you get things done more efficiently.
  • Use this as an opportunity to sell yourself, and highlight the different experiences and skills you have that other applicants most likely don’t.

What challenges did you face in your past career transition, and how did you cope with them?

What they want to know:

  • How do you handle problems?
  • Are you self-aware about the difficulties you’ve faced?
  • Is your strategy for dealing with problems the same as the company’s?

Tips to answer:

  • Identify 2–3 problems you ran into, only mentioning the ones that you learned from.
  • Tell a story about how these came up and how you overcame them, using the STAR formula.
  • Emphasize how this aided in your growth and how it will help you for the position you’re applying for.

What was your biggest achievement during your past career transition?

What they want to know:

  • Were you able to excel in this job, even with a lack of experience?
  • Do your skills align with the needs of this position?

Tips to answer:

  • Use the STAR formula to tell a story about something you never thought you would be able to accomplish. This can be reaching a quantifiable goal or getting qualitative feedback.
  • Mention some other skills you learned that are also needed in this role.
  • Give credit to the people who helped you on the way, but recognize the work it took you to get to these accomplishments.

What led you to leave your previous industry and enter this one?

What they want to know:

  • Are you (still) passionate about this career?
  • Do your original reasons for the change still resonate?
  • How does our company fit into this motivation?

Tips to answer:

  • Tell a story about what inspired you to make this change.
  • Explain how these reasons rang true once you made the switch, and point out any realities that you might have discovered after.
  • Mention how this new job, and company, meets your expectations.

What would you have done differently during your past career change?

What they want to know:

  • Can you be honest about your mistakes?
  • Can you learn from your mistakes?
  • Is there anything you aren’t happy with?

Tips to answer:

  • Be honest about your experience and identify a real problem you had. Was there an unexpected learning curve you hit? More bias than you thought there would be? Did you choose the right place to work at?
  • Focus on your growth. Talk about how you overcame a setback, grew from the experience, and have since used this lesson in practice.
  • Talk about what you want to achieve by working with them. Your first work experience in a new career might not have been the perfect one, now is the time to mention what you want to change by working at this company.

How do you adapt your leadership style when transitioning between industries?

What they want to know:

  • Was there a difference between leadership in your previous job and in your current one?
  • How do you approach issues in different industries?
  • Have you learned something new about this job?

Tips to answer:

  • Talk about what you’ve learned from your new experience and how you would change your leadership approach to fit it.
  • Tell a story about solving problems in both jobs and how your first experience helped you in your current role.
  • Make sure to anticipate situations that you’ll face in the job you’re applying for.

Sample Answers to Common Interview Questions for Career Changers

Why do you want to switch careers currently?

Example answer: Changing careers from sales rep to HR services specialist

I’ve worked the past 5 years in sales. I really loved my job and devoted everything to it. I’ve happily put in many late nights and weekends. When the pandemic hit, I realized how feeble my job was, and how important time with my family and friends is. I didn’t quit immediately because I wanted to give it a second chance with a more balanced work structure, but that didn’t work out. Once I made the decision to leave, I wanted to be sure I was moving into the right career path. After looking through feedback from past managers and co-workers, and digging deep into what I love to do, I realized that people were the reason I loved sales. And all of my best work moments were because I got to make someone happier at work. Specifically, when I got to onboard our new sales reps. I loved helping get them up to speed and then seeing them thrive in their roles. So I decided to pursue a career in HR. I know that some tasks will require longer hours, and I love those challenges, but I’m excited to work in a people-centered industry. And even though the HR industry is fascinating to me, your position as an HR/Employee Services Specialist is what drew me in to apply. It includes essential HR duties, so I can build a solid foundation.

Why this works:

  • This answer takes the “tell me about yourself” (past, present, future) formula and uses it to explain a career transition, so you’re telling a story.
  • It explains the past — what you were doing before and what led to the change.
  • It covers the present — what exactly you’re going into and what you’re doing to make it happen.
  • And mentions the future — what you’re excited about and how this position ties into that.

Answer template:

I’ve been working in {{oldJob}} for {{years}}. I enjoyed my work because of {{reason1}}, {{reason2}}, and {{reason3}}. But after {{shock}}, I realized that it’s not the industry for me. I took time to think it out and realized that {{newJob}} is a better fit because of {{reason}}. I’ve decided to apply for jobs specifically related to {{responsibility1}}, {{responsibility2}}, and {{responsibility3}}. I can’t wait to expand my career in {{job}} because of {{benefit}}, but this position specifically excites me because of {{jobDescription}}.

How will your experience from previous roles benefit our company?

Example answer: Changing careers from lawyer to nurse

As a lawyer, I’ve had to deal with many of the situations that nurses face on a daily basis. I’ve had to handle crisis situations, like when a client comes in just after an incident, and we need to act fast to capture as much information as we can. I also deal with a lot of problems that seem impossible to solve, and am responsible for documenting every aspect of the case. In addition to this, I have to have stellar interpersonal skills to work with my clients. Most of them are frustrated, confused, and often feel defeated. A big part of my job is to communicate with them clearly and calmly during the entire case process. Lastly, as a lawyer, I have some additional skills that take years to develop for entry-level positions. This includes navigating ethical dilemmas, gathering enough research to make judgment calls, and speaking calmly in front of a large group of people. Considering you are a teaching hospital, I think this could be really helpful when I get to the point where I’m training entry-level nurses.

Why this works:

  • This answer covers 4 key skills for nurses: crisis management, problem-solving, attention to detail and record keeping, and interpersonal skills.
  • They also cover 3 skills lawyers have that will set them apart: ethical judgment, research, and public speaking.
  • The answer is confident, even though going from being a lawyer to being a nurse is a huge jump.

Answer template:

As an {{oldJob}}, I’ve dealt with many of the same situations as I will with {{newJob}}. I’ve had to use skills like {{skill1}}, {{skill2}}, {{skill3}}, and {{skill4}}. For example, there was one time I had to {{example}}. I’m confident these skills will serve me well in {{newJob}}. But in addition to this, as an {{oldJob}}, I’ve developed some skills that other people in {{newJob}} might not have. This includes {{differentiator1}}, {{differentiator2}}, and {{differentiator3}}. Considering this job offer includes {{keyTask}}, I think this would be a great fit with what you’re looking for.

What steps have you taken to prepare for this new career?

Example answer: Changing jobs from retail team lead to retail client advisor

I’ve worked in retail for 6 years, starting as a store associate, becoming a key holder, and finally being a team lead. It definitely came with a lot of challenges, like dealing with upset clients and my employees not showing up for work, but I learned so much from it. Even though the price point and type of clients are different for your client advisor role, I feel I’ve been well-trained. I was always taught to treat every customer like they were the most important person while you’re helping them. In addition to this, I started a side business as a fashion advisor a few years ago. It started really small, with friends of friends, but I’ve built up quite a following of high-end clients thanks to referrals. I love serving this audience, and I’ve learned invaluable skills, like having a strategic mindset and building invaluable relationships to encourage return clients and referrals, but I recently decided it was too much to maintain with a full-time job. That’s what inspired me to search for this role, to maintain that Client Advisor role.

Why this works:

  • This answer covers all the ways their current job has helped them prepare for a new role, with examples.
  • It also covers what they’ve done outside their work time to reach their goals, a great indicator of a growth mindset.
  • They use specific examples of what they’ve learned that’s required for the job they’re applying for.

Answer template:

I’ve worked in {{oldJob}} for {{years}}, doing {{responsibility1}}, {{responsibility2}}, and {{responsibility3}}. In this process, I focussed on developing {{skill1}}, {{skill2}}, {{skill3}}, and {{skill4}}. For example, {{example}}. These skills will definitely help me in {{newJob}} when I’ll need to do {{task1}} and {{task2}}. In addition to this, I’ve also worked on {{technicalSkill}} needed for {{newJob}} outside of work. For the past {{time}}, I’ve worked on completing {{task/certification}} so I can hit the ground running.

What approaches will you use to fill any skill gaps needed for this new career?

Example answer: Changing careers from hospitality manager to content writer

To be honest, I faced this challenge in my past job. I had been working at the front desk for several years, but had been a supervisor for less than a year when they asked me to take on the Guest Services Manager position. I was really scared at first because even though my title was “supervisor,” I wasn’t really managing people. I had 0 experience with hiring and firing, doing administrative tasks, or balancing a budget. To overcome this, I studied everything I could to improve my skills. I went back and studied my notes from the leadership and human resources classes I took in college, but I also spent any extra time I had at work on our in-house training system. And it worked, after 6 months I was nominated for the manager of the year award. And when I quit, we had the lowest turnover rate they had ever seen for guest services. I plan to do the same thing here. When I looked at the job description, I saw that you are looking for someone with SEO/SEM experience. This is something I’ve never done, but I looked it up and think it’s something I can handle. I’ve already identified articles I’m going to read from Ahrefs and Semrush.

P.S. This was my real answer when I made my career switch. The “why this works” below is real feedback I got from my manager after I was hired.

Why this works:

  • This takes the guessing out of it, you’re telling the interviewer a story about how you faced the same problem.
  • Adding in a couple of wins shows that you were successful in your past career, even though you faced some challenges.
  • Mentioning that you already identified areas you need to improve on shows dedication and confidence that most candidates don’t have.

Answer template:

In my last job I faced problems with {{skill}}. It wasn’t easy, but I overcame it by {{step1}}, {{step2}}, and {{step3}}. It worked out really well, I was able to reach my goal of {{accomplishment1}} and {{accomplishment2}}. This is the same thing I hope to do at {{companyName}}. The job description mentions doing {{task}}, something I don’t have experience in yet. To make up for this, I’ve already started {{example}}.

Why did you leave your previous career?

Example answer: Changed careers from customer success manager to sales, now interviewing for senior sales development manager

Well, when I was a customer service manager I was held accountable for upselling customers, among many other things like onboarding clients, leading a team, and dealing with customers that need to be saved from churn. I have a lot of friends who are also in the SaaS industry, and I realized that most of my friends in sales were only responsible for the upselling side, but were making much more than I was in customer service. I felt defeated. Like I was doing all the work but not being recognized for it. I knew I had to change something. After digging deeper, I realized that my position had prepared me really well for a role in sales. I had already learned how to foster long-term relationships, how to find the best solution for customers, and how to monetize this. So I started applying for full-cycle sales rep roles, starting at the bottom again, but I ended up being really successful and loving it! I have the highest upsell rate on my team and have slowly been given bigger accounts. Even though I had to start lower than the management level I was at, I’ve learned so much that will help me in this position.

Why this works:

  • This answer works because of the Situation-Task-Action-Result (STAR) formula used to tell a story about the problem that causes someone to leave, and how to solve it.
  • It highlights how the key skills from their past job helped with their transition.
  • It explains why they are happy with this role and why they want to continue with this career path.

Answer template:

In my past job, I really struggled with {{problem}}. And it made me feel {{emotion}}. I knew I had to do something to solve it, so I {{step1}}. After this, I thought about the key skills I gained in my past role, like {{skill1}}, {{skill2}}, {{skill3}}. This helped me a lot with {{step2}}. Finally, I decided to move on to applying to jobs for {{newJob}}. I ended up {{result}} and this led to {{accomplishment1}} and {{accomplishment2}}. It wasn’t easy, but I’m confident this was the right choice for me and will help me now that I’m applying for roles as a {{jobTitle}}.

What challenges did you face in your past career transition, and how did you cope with them?

Example answer: B2C video editor to B2B marketing, interviewing for marketing specialist position

Being on the video team, I frequently worked with marketing teams and helped in creating videos for social media posts and ad campaigns, so I wasn’t completely out of water. That said, going from B2C to B2B was much harder than I thought it would be. I had a really hard time understanding who the audience was. Oftentimes in B2B marketing, you face the problem where the buyer isn’t the end user, and this was novel to me. I was so used to only talking to one person — it was a pickle for sure. To move past it, I did a ton of customer research. I listened to all of our demos, customer calls, and read through support tickets once a week. After all of this, I asked my manager if I could start taking on some case study calls. I’m so thankful that she was really happy about my motivation to do this, and I started doing one customer call a week. Without her support, it would have been much harder. And after this, I was one of the go-to people for questions about our audience. Our numbers reflected this, the last LinkedIn ad campaign I ran had a 12.7% conversion rate, compared to a 6.2% average.

Why this works:

  • It uses the STAR formula to tell a story about a problem they faced and what they did to overcome it, proving they are a hard worker.
  • They touch on an industry truth that the interviewer might be able to relate to, that it’s really hard to speak to multiple audiences, but proved they could tackle it.
  • It finishes with exactly how this worked out for them, throwing in some accomplishments.

Answer template:

{{task}} was extremely difficult. It challenged me much more than I thought it would. In {{industry}} we struggle with {{problem}}, but I had never dealt with this before. To improve my results with {{task}}, I {{action1}}, {{action2}}, and {{action3}}. It took a while, but it was worth it. And I wouldn’t have gotten through it without {{support}}. But the results spoke for themselves, in the end I was able to {{accomplishment}}.

These were all answer examples to specific questions about your career change, but that won’t save you from answering “standard” interview questions, like:

And to really blow your interviewers away, you’ll need to ask smart questions at the end of the interview.

How to Answer Career Change Interview Questions

In summary:

  1. Analyze your current skill set and how it will benefit you in the new career.
  2. Determine “hard” skills you have that traditional candidates might not have.
  3. Showcase transferable skills, motivation, resilience, and adaptability.
  4. Use the STAR formula.
  5. Create a persuasive story about your career transition.

If you’re not quite sure how to do one of those, keep reading for examples and tips for each.

1. Analyze your current skill set and how it will benefit you in the new career

Look at the job description for jobs you’re looking for and identify 3–5 skills you’ve gained in your current job. These will usually be skills like:

  • Problem-solving
  • Teamwork
  • Communication
  • Organization
  • Conflict resolution
  • Adaptability

If you’re struggling to get started, get inspo by using AI. Here’s a simple prompt you can customize: “What transferable skills would a {{oldJob}} with {{years}} of experience have going into a {{jobLevel}} {{newJob}} position.”

2. Determine the “hard” skills you have that a traditional candidate won’t

This is where you explain how you stand out from the sea of other applicants who have the same background.

Think about the hardest situations you’ve been put in, the biggest mistakes you’ve made, or the biggest problems you’ve had to solve. What skills did you learn from these?

These skills will be your extra weapons.

Again, if your mind is blank, you can turn to AI to get a list going. Here’s a basic prompt to play off: “What are the most stand-out skills a {{oldJob}} with {{years}} of experience would have?”

If this still doesn’t give you some money ideas, ask “I want more unique skills” and you should have a better idea of where to start.

3. Showcase transferable skills, motivation, resilience, and adaptability

In this interview you can’t just mention your skills, you really need to sell yourself and the experiences behind your skills.

To do this, tell stories about why you wanted to make this change, how exactly you did it, the obstacles you ran into, and how you overcame them (mention real results here).

All of these will prove your skills instead of just talking about them.

4. Use the STAR formula

I’ve mentioned this formula 9 times throughout this article. That’s because it’ll be your ace of spades in the interview. The STAR formula breaks down into this:

  • Situation (S): What were the background facts about the problem.
  • Task (T): What the problem was you needed to solve.
  • Action (A): What actions (and process) you took to solve it.
  • Results (R): What were the outcomes and learnings along the way.

This will make your job experience into a fun story that leaves interviewers impressed. It’s most commonly used for behavioral questions, which is why it makes perfect sense when changing careers. You want to show them how your past behavior (in your previous role) will impact your future performance (in the role you’re interviewing for).

Check out this video to see it in action:

5. Create a persuasive story about your career transition

A good story relies on ethos, pathos, and logos.

Explaining what you know about the job you’re applying for, based on research, will give you credibility (ethos).

Talking about the basic needs behind why you wanted to make the change, like job security, a correct salary, and flexibility, will add logic to your story (logos).

And to seal the deal, talking about the emotions you felt that led to that decision will appeal to the interviewer’s emotions (pathos).

Now, normally we would never advise you to get emotional in your interview responses. career change emotions Don’t tell my boss, but today I’m here to say otherwise.

A career transition is highly emotional. Even if you changed careers for the money, chances are there were emotions behind it (and 50 bucks says it was disappointment and rage).

While you shouldn’t go on a rant about how miserable you were, you absolutely should mention the emotions you were battling. That, after all, is the real reason you made the switch. So you’d never have to feel that way again.

Combine ethos, pathos, and logos into your story, and you’ve got something that will keep the interviewer hooked.

Additional Tips and Strategies for a Successful Career Change Interview

These are all tips I wish I had when I went through my career change. I didn’t figure out what is really important to stand out until a couple of years later, when I became a hiring manager.

Conduct thorough industry research

None of this prep work will work if you don’t know enough about the industry you’re interviewing for.

Do your research to ensure this is really the industry for you. It’s a huge step, and you need to make sure it’s not all for nothing.

Here’s where you can start:

Be truthful and authentic about your rationale for the career change

Don’t lie and say you want to get into B2B sales because you’ve dreamed of selling software since you were a kid. You probably didn’t, and that’s okay.

Instead, be honest about your reasoning (even if it is money and remote options) and explain the emotions behind that.

With the sales example, this could be something about reaching certain financial goals, having power over your income level, or being able to work while you visit your family that lives in another country.

Maintain composure and confidence throughout the interview

Regular interviews are stressful and exhausting. Interviewing when you’re changing jobs is like knowing you’re going to be hit by a bus (the career change questions) but not knowing when. Some techniques to calm down:

  • Take an hour before the interview to review your answers
  • If needed, keep a sticky note with your top skills next to you
  • Do a guided meditation right before
  • Remember you’re not alone, changing fields is common

If you’re still fighting the scaries, try this trick:

Prepare in advance (practice your answers)

This way, you’ll have answers to every question they could throw at you. To actually practice, you have a few options:

  • Write all of your answers down based on research you do, and recite these over and over until it feels natural.
  • Do the same as above, but record yourself. Listen back to hear your mistakes, and maybe even send it to a colleague or friend.
  • If you’re a Big Interview user, learn how to answer questions with the Career Change Playbook, and then use the Mock Interview Practice Tool to practice your answer and get AI feedback on the quality of your response, filler words, tone, and video quality.

career change mock interview practice This may seem like a lot, but the average time spent looking for a job is almost 5 months. Big Interview users generally find a job in 1 month. Even if you don’t use a mock interview tool, this shows just how important practice is! Don’t skip it.

Link past experiences to future career goals effectively

To land this job, you need to be able to talk about the great skills and experiences you’ve had that will make you successful in your new job. So the interviewer doesn’t question if you’re worth the hire. To do that, tie your skills to real experiences:

  1. Go through multiple job descriptions for the career you’re hoping to have, let’s say the next 3 positions you’re looking for.
  2. Write down 5–7 skills that you have that are required for these jobs.
  3. Write down the story, or at least a summary, of how you got those skills. What tasks did you do? What challenges did you face? What mistakes did you make or witness others make?
  4. Use these as your STAR formula stories in your interview.

Apply for jobs you want, even if you don’t think you’re qualified

Don’t ever hold yourself back from applying to a job because you don’t think you have the experience.

I can’t really take credit for this advice, this is something my boss told me after I made my career change. I was looking for something new, and worried that my one year of marketing experience wasn’t enough to apply for the jobs I wanted.

The truth is you have so many transferable skills waiting to be used. Don’t doubt yourself.

Network and get support

Changing jobs is not easy, you need to have a support system to back you up.

And I’m not just saying that, there is even a study proving that women who get support during this time are more successful in their career transitions.

Ask friends and family for advice, hit up that really nice college professor, and reach out to people in your in-person or online community. Getting advice from people in the industry you want to be in is invaluable and can lead to career growth later down the line.

In Summary

Here’s how to make sure you ace your interview when changing careers:

  • Prepare for basic interview questions like tell me about yourself, why should we hire you, and what’s your greatest weakness.
  • Also prepare for interview questions related to career change, like why are you looking to change jobs, how will your experience from previous roles benefit our company, and what steps have you taken to prepare for this new career.
  • Write down the story behind why you are changing careers, touching on ethos, pathos, and logos.
  • To succeed in the interview, you’ll need to know (and give examples for) skills you already have that are needed for this job, skills you don’t have experience with but will figure out, and skills you have that other candidates with traditional backgrounds won’t.
  • Use the STAR model for your examples.
  • Practicing before the interview can help you find a job 4 months faster.


Need a hand? There are 3 ways we can help:

  1. Tired of interviewing and not landing the job? Discover actionable lessons and interview practice here (Rated with 4.9/5 by 1,000,000 users).
  2. Changing careers later in the game? Read about how to navigate a career change at 40.
  3. Find out how to decrease anxiety and calm your nerves before a job interview.


What are some good reasons to change your career?

  • Career growth
  • Higher compensation
  • Developing specific skills
  • Improving your work-life balance
  • Having more flexibility
  • Working in a more fulfilling industry/role
  • Working remotely
  • Working in a specific location
  • Getting more stability
  • Following your passion.

What’s the best answer to “why are you changing your job?”

The best answer to “why are you changing your job” uses the past, present, future model. What you were doing before you decided to make this change, and what shocks and emotions led to the change? What field you’re switching to and what you’re doing to make it happen? Lastly, what you’re excited about in this new industry and how the position you’re applying for ties into that.

What questions to ask interviewers when I’m changing careers?

  • A year from now, when you’re looking back on this hire, what would I have done to exceed every expectation?
  • Who would not be a good fit for this role?
  • What opportunities will I have to learn and grow?
  • What are the main challenges for someone in this role?
  • Can you tell me about the team I’d be working with?
  • What tools or frameworks is the team using?
  • In terms of professional qualities, what do you believe sets apart the most successful employees in this organization?

How to prepare for a job interview when I’m making a career switch?

The key to career change interviews is to sell yourself in a way that sets you apart from experienced candidates. To do this, identify your main reasons for making this change, figure out what transferable skills you have, and what skills you have that people from a traditional background won’t. Then practice your interview answers until you’re confident in your responses.

What if I’m currently considering more than one new career? Do I reveal that?

If you’re considering more than one career, focus on why you want to pursue the career you’re interviewing for. Don’t ever lie in the interview, but if this doesn’t come up, you don’t need to mention it.

What to consider before changing careers? Can it be a bad idea?

Before changing careers, consider differences in pay, differences in seniority, and lifestyle changes. Changing careers can be a bad idea if you don’t do your research. To ensure this doesn’t happen, reach out to people in this career and tell them about your motivations and reasons for switching. This way, you’ll easily identify “fairytale” advantages vs. true advantages of this career.

What are the hottest careers to transition into in 2023?

Software Developer, Nurse Practitioner, Medical and Health Services Manager, Physician Assistant, Information Security Analyst, Physical Therapist, Financial Manager, IT Manager, Web Developer, and Dentist. These are according to US News and based on the jobs with the highest projected percent change of employment between 2021–2031, median salary, unemployment rate, stress level, and work-life balance.

Briana Dilworth
Briana has 7 years of experience as a hiring manager in software and hospitality industries. Previously a hotel manager, she’s been in the thick of recruiting and workplace culture. She’s the Head of Content at Big Interview and is committed to publishing fun, actionable content. When she’s not creating content, you can find her watching Friends for the twelfth time.
Edited By:
Michael Tomaszewski
Michael Tomaszewski

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