Getting ahead of objections to being hired

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One of the most important preparations for a job interview is to anticipate objections a hiring manager may have about your career profile or history. This can be related to your education, skills, or specific things like age. Being ready with answers will help you better leverage these “negative” elements to your advantage.

Here are some examples of objections that may arise and how to properly answer them:

Lack of Canadian experience

This is a major obstacle for newcomers to Canada. How can you have Canadian experience if you’ve just arrived? When employers look for Canadian experience, what they are actually looking for is an applicant’s familiarity with Canadian workplace culture, social cues, and expectations. This points to your soft skills.

Interview tip: The best way to counter this objection is to relate situations where you used your “people skills” in your previous work. Highlight instances when you displayed your flexibility, adaptability, sensitivity to cultural differences, and teamwork in the workplace. Mention concrete examples, but make them brief and concise (use the STAR technique).

Gaps in work history

Long gaps between work or being currently unemployed can be seen negatively by employers. They would want to know if you were laid off or fired, and the reasons why this happened.

Interview tip: Being currently unemployed can be easily answered if you are a newcomer. You would need time to look for a job if you’ve just arrived. However, gaps in your work history may be more challenging to answer. The best way to counter this is to be honest. If it was because you were laid off, explain that it was because of economic challenges or shifts in the industry (or perhaps because of the pandemic). If you took time off to take care of children, or if you needed a vacation to recharge, then tell them. Employers are human too and will understand. If you did part-time or volunteer work during the period, focus on these. Talk about the valuable skills that you gained during your break.

Career shift

A career shift is when you decide to go into a different profession. If you were called to the interview, then you were successful in selling your job experience to the employer. They see a potential for you to succeed in your new career path. The next phase would be to prove that you are serious about this change. You should be able to answer the question “why do you want to shift careers?” convincingly.

Interview tip: It is common for newcomers to shift careers when they come to Canada. Often times, it is because of licensing requirements if their occupation is regulated, or the low demand for their occupation. These are perfectly acceptable answers. Your strategy should be to focus on skills that you have gained in your previous career that are applicable to your new one (transferable skills). Provide examples that show how you can apply them to the current job requirements. Don’t forget to mention the steps you are taking to gain more knowledge and skills for your new career. Taking short courses or volunteering are great ways to show that you are committed to the shift. Convey your optimism for this new role. Show that you are ready to take on this new challenge.

Too many movements

If you have moved to several companies in a short period of time, you may be seen as a job-hopper. It raises a red flag because it can be interpreted as disloyalty. Some employers may also think that you could not hold down a job or perhaps you do not get along well with others.

Interview tip: You can counter this objection even before the interview. In your resume, write a short phrase explaining why you moved after each job title. For example, “laid-off because of downsizing” or “contract ended”. During the interview, be honest about each movement but don’t go into too much detail. Never say anything negative about each company that you left. Instead, focus on logical reasons for leaving, such as major changes in your job or company, grabbing an opportunity you’ve been waiting for, or change in location.

Being overqualified

When employers say that you are overqualified, this means they may have other concerns about your background. They could be anticipating that you will demand a high salary because of your qualifications and experience. Sometimes it could also mean that they have concerns about your age and your ability to fit in.

Interview tip: First off, an interviewer should never ask you your age during an interview. This is grounds for discrimination. If the employer does not verbalize it but your feel that the objection is related to your age, then be proactive about countering this concern. Kyle Lee, a career coach at Muse, suggests addressing the concern when the interviewer asks the “tell me about yourself” question. Make sure to connect your skills with the company’s culture and core values to show that you can adapt and fit in. You should also be able to convey that you are flexible about the salary, and that your abilities and wealth of experience will be a big benefit to the company. Avoid commenting on your age or putting yourself down in an attempt to counter overqualification.
Article updated February 11, 2021.

Sources: Explaining short job stints & employment gaps, Michael Spiro, LinkedIn; Ask a career coach: How do I get around ageism in the job search? Kyle Lee, The Muse; How to explain the gap in your resume with ease, Elizabeth Alterman, The Muse; How to explain career change in an interview, Jan Simon, Chron. All accessed on March 31, 2017.

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