I have come across a job opportunity of becoming a web developer. The skills I have fit the criteria for roughly 90% of what they ask for.

The employer is looking for experience using technology X, which I don't have, but I do have experience in technology Y. Technology Y is conceptually very similar to technology X, how do I convince the interviewer that I would be capable of transferring this knowledge across the two technologies?

There are a few rounds of interviews and I have already passed one Technical interview which I feel went well. I'm expecting in the next interview that I will be asked about my experience with Technology X. At this point, how can I say that I am unfamiliar with X but very good with Y and I feel the skills can be carried over as there are many similarities between the two.

How should I approach communicating that the knowledge I have can be transferred to the technology that is being used by the company I am interviewing for?

  • 2
    I don't think we can answer "How are my chances to win in that interview?" - only the employer can really know that. You ask "when the question comes..." but don't tell us what question you are expecting. Are you asking how to respond when they ask you about your Java experience? This is either a critical requirement for the position, or it is not. The other skills needed in the technical profile should indicate whether this is simply a prefered skill, or whether it is non-negotiable. – GuyM Dec 13 '12 at 8:32
  • @GuyM: I have modified my question. Is that now clear for you? – Ramya Dec 13 '12 at 8:43
  • Its clear what you are asking now, but its a highly specific question to your particular field, the skills you have and the job description in question. It may simply be too localised (see FAQ) for a answer that would apply in a broader sense. – GuyM Dec 13 '12 at 9:13
  • @GuyM: Does making question in generic terms helps? What do you think? – Ramya Dec 13 '12 at 9:25
  • As it relates to skills for a particular role that are connected, I'm not sure how to make a generic version that could have a good answer, if you see what I mean. – GuyM Dec 13 '12 at 9:33

This is a difficult one to answer as the level of 'convincing' required will be interviewer specific.

At the end of the day the only thing you can do is research technology X. Make a list or a mental note of as many similarities as you can with what you know. Perhaps even begin researching technology X to show you are willing to do what is needed to complete your jobs.

You can then say something along the lines of

'Whilst I have very minimal / no experience with this specific technology I am very experienced in technology Y. These two technologies are very similar to each other and I have done some research into this and discovered that at least x% of the common tasks are handled very similarly. I feel my knowledge in Y could be transferred easily over to X if given a short training period and that my existing knowledge in Y could prove invaluable if you wish to expand into further technologies later down the line.'

This shows you are willing to learn X because you researched it, it shows you are dedicated to the job as you went through all of the effort of comparing, learning, researching ect. It also shows them that you can open new doorways for them with your existing knowledge of Y, and i can think of no company that wouldn't like more choices to choose from for a solution!

I hope this helps you.

  • 1
    Yeah, knowing that they want technology X, you shouldn't get to the interview knowing nothing about it. Learn about it now so you'll be able to talk about specific similarities and transferance. – Monica Cellio Dec 13 '12 at 15:57

I'd argue caution with how transferable are you trying to position things here. Some technology stacks can take some time to become very proficient and if you're going to claim that "A years in Technology Y would mean I should be treated like I have B years in Technology X," then that is likely not going to go over well. I'd highly reframe this to state that, "My experience in Technology Y could be useful in reducing how long it takes for me to ramp up in using Technology X," or something similar where the idea is that you are using your experience but not stating any direct conversion formula. You may also be inviting questions where you have to be careful in how you answer as it could be easy to shoot yourself in the foot. "Well, in Technology Y, I'd do it like this and that and this other thing. It's so easy!" would be the type of response I could see some people dreading as while you are using what you know of one technology, you aren't mentioning the challenges to be faced and how you'd overcome that.

My main reason for the caution is that while things may be similar, working out all the differences can be its own challenge as how many tools are tied to that Technology that may do things a bit differently in another form is something to consider here.

The level of use of the technology is another side to things here. If you have a lot of years of experience, then the transferability may be already factored into things to some extent. Senior developers could be expected to pick up new languages or tools easily enough that this is rather moot. At the same time, junior developers could be seen as having issues in switching stacks, presuming that the changes are sufficiently big, e.g. going from an all-Microsoft shop(IIS, ASP.Net, MS-SQL) to a LAMP stack, as this could be a lot of new stuff to absorb at once.

  • Years of experience in a specific technology is highly overrated. Months of experience is plenty for most positions. If you already have one expert willing to answer questions, specific experience is even less important. – kevin cline Mar 9 '14 at 19:08

If the employer is taking the time to interview you and they know your background, then to some extent they are interested in you and are willing to be flexible with job requirements. It is not a matter of meeting "all" the requirements as much as being the "best choice" out of a pool of candidates.

One successful spin-tactic that I've used in the past when confronted with an opportunity whose skill-set requirements didn't fully match my own is to emphasize that in almost any job you find yourself doing new and challenging things that were NEVER mentioned in the description. As important as the "desired" skill set is for any employee, it is JUST AS important that they be to be able to adapt to new problems on the job for which they don't necessarily have the exact skills.

In other words, if you can show a track record of adaptability/versatility and support it with actual instances, that might go a long way towards convincing them that you can adapt to the job.

  • Worked for me. I landed a job doing Ruby on Rails with no experience in Ruby or web development. I told them I had learned 17 other languages and could learn Ruby too. – kevin cline Mar 9 '14 at 19:09

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.