Q. “After ten years in a university community outreach office, I’m ready to join the corporate world. But interviewers ask me why I’ve stayed so long in the nonprofit sector.”
A. When faced with tough questions, most of us begin by feeling defensive. Instead, at the first sign of attack, begin to claim your bragging rights. You know you’re going to get this question. Now plan ahead so you’ll be prepared.
(1) Discuss how you’ve grown in your current job.
“I’ve had promotions every two or three years. Each promotion gave me a whole new set of experiences – like moving from job to job.”
“Actually I resigned two years ago. My current employer made a counter-offer to keep me.”
(2) Show how you’ve contributed value.
“I’ve increased our placements from 50% to 90% in two years with no increase in promotional spending.”
“With my team, I developed a seminar program that doubled student participation in one year.”
(3) Demonstrate your comfort level with corporate for-profit organizations.
“Although I work for a university, I deal more with businesses like Pepsico and Citicorp than I do with my own departments. I submit proposals and work on joint programs with corporate executives.”
“I work with the business school and we’re immersed in contemporary corporate challenges every day.”
(4) Emphasize the prestige of your current organization.
“My university’s business program was ranked 9th in our region.”
“We attract students and faculty from all over the world.”
(5) Use business concepts to frame your resume and interview stories. For example, an academic committee often operates just like a corporate cross-functional team.
“My six-member team developed a marketing strategy that doubled the number of Fortune 50 recruiters who came to our campus from 2005 to 2006.”
Got the idea? Now practice responding to your own toughest questions by flipping the switch from “beg” to “brag.”
Will these tactics guarantee success? Not necessarily. Some companies (and managers) will remain inflexible, no matter how persuasive you are. Remember the Job Changing Mantra: Sometimes the outcome has nothing to do with you.
But when you present yourself confidently, you’ll increase your odds of achieving success. And you’ll come across as a competent professional who deserves respect throughout the interview process.
If you’re seriously making a change and would like to discuss your options, check out the Career Strategy Session.