Interviewing: Fill in Your “Gaps” with Indirect Experience – Part 2

In last week’s blog post, I featured a successful enterprise Account Manager, William, trying to move into Marketing by leveraging his indirect experience.

I focused on becoming fluent in the “head knowledge” of the role you’re targeting. This post picks up from there to review specific techniques to use to secure the opportunity.

Making it Happen

One of the great things about high-tech is that the door is wide open with plenty of opportunities to successfully make these kinds of moves - if you understand how to sell yourself throughout the interview process. Here are some strategies to complement the “head knowledge” so you can make your move:


  • Be a good storyteller – Story-telling is one of the most powerful communication tools that you can use. One of our partners, The Henderson Group, helps people master story-telling as part of their Complete Communicator class, which I attended recently and strongly recommend to anyone who wants to go from being a good communicator to being a greatcommunicator. People relate to stories and remember them, and if you’ve been paying attention to people in the kind of role that you’re targeting, you should have some powerful stories to tell your interviewer. Focus on the positive, show empathy for the challenges of the position, and “name names,” especially if there are rock stars or role models in your company performing in your target role. In the example of William, he could mention his conversation with Nancy (a rock-star product marketer) about the highlights from the analyst tour as part of the last product launch. This would show that he’s already learning from people in the department i.e.that he’s “paying attention,” and getting exposure to aspects of Marketing that typical Sales people don’t often care to understand.
  • Market Your Uniqueness – If you focus on positioning your uniqueness, you can turn a perceived weakness (no experience in Marketing) into a strength (with great experience in Marketing’s biggest “internal customer,” which is Sales). William did a great job in his process talking about how as a salesperson, he used Marketing’s materials, training, product roadmaps and more.  He showed how his “internal customer” perspective would make him a better marketer because he had a unique understanding of the needs and challenges of a front-line salesperson. Now instead of his interviewer telling her colleagues “William has no Marketing experience,” she told people “William will bring much-needed front line Salesperspective to our content and processes.” Huge home-run for William!
  • Use the Team, and Use Your Manager – In the absence of direct experience, there will still be some doubts about your ability to perform in the target role, so be proactive and talk about what you’ll need from the team and from your boss to get off to a fast start and be successful. Be careful here. Do not send the wrong message that “I’ll need a lot of help to pull this off,” but instead, show that you can own the game plan for your own success. In William’s example, he said “I know Mark has a lot of experience creating sales tools, so when I have to create one, I’ll draft an outline and get Mark’s feedback before I start writing.” This also tells your potential boss that he won’t have to “spoon feed” you in order to quickly ramp up. You can do this even if you’re moving into a new company and don’t know the new team members well. Talk about the different experiences and expertise that you’ll want to draw on from the team, and give examples of when and how you would efficiently leverage them for your ramp up.
  • Find a friend on the “inside” – Do you know people in the team or department that you’re targeting? Get their feedback before starting any formal processes. Find out what concerns they or the hiring manager might have in considering you for the position. Let them know that you want to make a change, and why you’re excited about the role (and don’t complain about your current role). Find out what the big upcoming projects are, and what adjustments the organization has been making so that you’ll be well-prepared for your interview. If you can build a good relationship and get a supporter “on the inside,” they will advocate for you whenever anyone on the team asks whether you’d be a good fit for the job.

William executed all of these strategies with great effectiveness. He made the transition into Product Marketing, and only 18 months later he was promoted and was running the largest product launch in the company’s history. He’s had a very successful and rewarding career in Marketing since then, and it all started with his ability to make a major career move based on leveraging his indirect experience.

This is all part of what we teach in our High-Tech Job Search Advantage Program for our clients.

We appreciate your thoughts, so please weigh in with your comments.

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The ExecCatalyst blog covers topics related to leadership, career advancement, hiring, finding the right job, company cultures and office politics, and general management. The authors have extensive experience in high-tech in Silicon Valley and elsewhere and have gained experience at small, fast-moving startups as well as large, global technology firms.

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