Transitioning to a New Role: How to Interview

There's a comment in Interview Questions for Program Managers. What should I do if I have experience relevant to being a program manager, but I haven't been a program manager? How do I answer these questions? (I had posted a number of potential questions a hiring manager could ask a program manager in that post.)

That question is the more specific question of “How do I transition to a new role. How do I interview for it?”

You, as a candidate, have to be ready to answer those questions and show the hiring manager how your expertise fits. You have to show your value. Once you've done that in your resume, you can craft a cover letter that explains how your past experience fits this job.

I'm assuming you've done your targeted networking, and that's how you got in the door, right? Now, it's a question of nailing the interview.

You have to help your interviewers make the connection between your previous roles and this role. Let's assume you are interviewing for a project manager or program manager role, since that was the question.

You might hear these questions:

  • “Tell me about a recent program you managed.” To answer it, you might say, “Well, I ran a consulting business, so it wasn't quite a program. Here's how it's similar to a program:…” and then explain how you think it's similar. Make the connection for the interviewer. Do not let the interviewer wonder, “How is this similar?” No. Help the interviewer see why you are the right candidate by drawing the parallels yourself.
  • The interview might say, “I was going to ask, ‘Did you have a program charter?' but I'm not sure what to ask.” You can say, “Here's how I knew what was driving the business.” You have to make the connection. You have to know what's in a program charter. Or, you can ask, “What's in your program charters, so I know what you mean. Let me make sure we're speaking the same language, first. Everyone has something different in a charter.” (You would be correct 🙂
  • “Tell me what metrics you used to manage your projects or programs.” You should be able to answer that, and explain how you modified those metrics for your projects or programs for your needs.

Does this make sense to you?

Here are your steps when you transition to a new role:

  1. Make sure your resume/CV is clear about what role you want.
  2. Make sure your resume/CV shows your value for the work you have done in the past.
  3. Don't forget to do your targeted marketing/networking, so you know how to find employers who will hire you.
  4. In the interview, make the connection as you answer the questions, so your interviewers understand you are ready for the transition.

Read Manage Your Job Search for more detail about this from the candidate perspective.

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