Inspiring Organizational Growth
As a Job Interview Coach I am often asked "How do I apply for a job I have never done?" "How do I convince an employer that I have what it takes to be effective in this new position?" As a leadership coach I get the same question from supervisors and managers "Why should we hire them? They haven't even done the job. How can we determine if they are a good fit?"
Let me answer these questions by sharing with you what I have learned from becoming a farmer.
My husband and I own a 142 acres farm in Ontario, Canada. He has lived here since he was 15... I came into the picture much later! I had never driven a tractor, run a baler, cleaned horse stales, fed cows, fixed fences, or done any of the other 1000's jobs that farming requires. If I had been applying for a job on a farm I think the employer likely would have looked at me funny, and thought "What does she know?" Well, here is how I would have prepared for that interview, and also convinced them to hire me.
The First Step- DO SOME RESEARCH
Researching the job you are applying for is key. In this case, I would have talked with family and friends who are farmers and learned more about the skills needed to be an effective farmer. I would have highlighted needed skills and abilities such as: problem solving skills, ability to quickly change priorities, ability to deal with stressful situations and emergencies, proven ability to work independently for hours at a time, the ability to be resourceful and innovative, mechanical skills, crop management skills, and organizational skills.
Second Step- LEARN MORE
Next, you need identify areas of experience you don't currently have and develop ways to gain that knowledge. In the case of farming, I would have learned more about the equipment this farm used and sought out ways to gain some practice operating it. I would have taken a course or watched videos on animal husbandry (taking care of cows and horses) so that I could demonstrate some knowledge when asked specific questions on animal care in the interview. I would have learned more about environmental and crop issues farmers face, and maybe even have visited a farm so I could see first "what a day on the farm" involves. By making this effort, even though I had never lived/worked on a farm, I would at least be able to demonstrate to the farm owner (employer) my willingness to learn, my research skills, and my ability to apply that new knowledge to their interview questions.
Third Step- LINK PAST BEHAVIOURS TO FUTURE TASKS
It is your responsibility, in an interview, to create the linkages between who you are, what you know, and the job you are applying for. You need to convince the employer that you are a good return on a investment... that you will be a great employee. To do this, you need to effectively link your past experiences, knowledge and skills to the new job. In the case of farming, look back over the skills I have highlighted above. Many of the skills needed are ones that you or I had obtained in other work environments. In my case, before moving here to the farm I had spent 8 years in emergency services. I had good examples I could use to demonstrate my ability to problem solve, handle emergencies, quickly switch tasks, and work independently. I just needed to clearly outline the linkages between my past behaviour and the new farming tasks I would be expected to perform. To do this I would have answered something like this:
"It my understanding that in farming you are often required to creatively come up with solutions to problems you may have never experienced before. A fence breaks, or an animal gets hurt and you have to handle the situation quickly and effectively. In my previous work experience I often had to deal with similar emergent situations. Often I would attend a call I had never previously experienced. I dealt with these situations in this way. 1- determine what had occurred 2- determine what issues need to be addressed/solved 3- use my resources, knowledge and skills to develop options, 4- execute my plan and evaluate my success". ( I would tell them about a specific example of a time I did this and the results). Finally I would end by saying " I recognize that in farming problem solving will be a daily occurrence (insert more examples you learned about in your research). I believe the experiences I have developed in my previous positions will lend well to this farming role. I am comfortable with making decisions and am always open to feedback and learning more about an issue."
Diverse Experience Is Sometimes the BEST EXPERIENCE
Although I didn't have any previous farming experience when I moved here 19 years ago, I have proven that I can make useful contributions to the work. I approach problems in a different way (if I don't know how to run the equipment I YouTube it!). I enjoy spending time with the animals and "mothering" them when they are sick . I have learned how to garden, and harvest many new vegetables (Brussels sprouts are a favourite). I have learned to drive and tractor and help to rake hay while my husband is cutting or baling in another field. I have fixed fences in the dark, and rescued animals when they have escaped. We discuss issues, and come up with solutions together. Together we have helped to ensure this century old farm continues to support life and its community. It is a job that is never boring, and we never stop learning!
Employers- don't sell yourselves short. Consider diversifying your hiring pools and expanding your screening tools. Just because a candidate doesn't present with "3 years of previous experience in this field of work" it doesn't necessarily mean they can't do the job. Develop interview questions and tests to measure their knowledge, skills and abilities. Provide them with the opportunity to make the linkages for you and convince you that they are viable candidate and very well suited for your position!
To learn more about how to potentially diversify your workforce, and learn more about the candidates that are applying, visit my website www.inspiringorganizationalgrowth.co/home
Candidates... don't give up. Keep applying. Sell your skills. Make the linkages - outline them in your cover letters, your resumes, and your interview answers. Its up to you to convince the employer they should take a chance on you. You just need to show them you will be a success.
To learn more about how to effectively Rock Your Interview, visit my website www.jobinterviewcoach.ca/.
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Carrie-Lynn Hotson is the author of Knowing Who You Lead, has created a series of blog posts to generate discussion, insight and inspire transformational leadership growth.