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I want to know how to address an issue of 'lack of experience.'

I recently had to go on more interviews than I probably ever have in my life before. I have over 25 years corporate experience. my job experience is as follows:

  • 10 years with company A
  • 14 years with company B
  • 2 years with company C
  • 4 months with company D.

For company B, my duties encompassed two different career paths. When my job was outsourced to another state, I decided to pursue the more interesting direction of QA testing. I had an aggregate of over 5 years testing experience at that point.

For company C, testing was 100% of my duties. I would still be there now but my department was outsourced to another state and I still had no interest in relocating.

4 months with company D (laid off due to lack of work)

I am scrupulously honest. If I do not feel proficient in something I will not claim I am. I have excellent references from former supervisors. A number of my job opportunities have come through people I have worked for previously, as they feel comfortable suggesting me for a position as I have an excellent work ethic.

However, after several of these recent interviews, I received feedback indicating I wasn't getting hired because I did not have enough "experience".

How do I make it clear that I am a rapid learner? I did try to point out during the various interviews that a hire who just has the knowledge of any particular program or app is not necessarily as useful as a hire who can learn any program or app quickly.

Is the "you lack experience' the interview equivalent of, "it's not you, it's me?" Is it even something I can overcome?

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    In my experience, "lack of experience" means they didn't want to hire you but they needed a nice enough excuse for it. – Kaizerwolf Mar 6 '17 at 19:11
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    It's been my experience that everyone I interview is a "quick learner". Pointing that out is a non-starter with me. Personally I'd never tell someone whose been in the industry for 25 years that they don't have enough experience. That is just meaningless boilerplate. Unless they've been tied to some ancient tech that is no longer in use.... Perhaps you should apply your quick learning skills to learning the things that these interviews are saying you should. – NotMe Mar 6 '17 at 20:35
  • Have you asked the interviewers for more specific feedback? Not everyone does, but many interviewers will provide it if you ask them. – HorusKol Mar 7 '17 at 12:37
  • It may help if you clarify if you are applying for more QA/Testing positions or positions for which you have zero experience (i.e. not QA/Testing). The answer to that points us in the correct direction to answer your overall question. – user45269 Mar 15 '17 at 20:54
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As the old expression goes: Show. Don't tell.

If you can put it in a bullet point on your resume, that's ideal, if not, then include something in the cover letter that describes a time you actually did it like. "Our XYZ programmer quit on short notice, so I stepped in and learned XYZ and was able to sustain operations without any interruptions by the end of her notice period" or something to that effect.

Bullet points are trickier, but still could be done like

  • Learned XYZ programming while on staff to ensure seamless operations.

Or something to that effect, but the most important thing is to show how this works in the real world.

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It's impossible to tell from a response what the "actual" reason is for non-hire. Sometimes "not enough experience" means that they didn't feel you were a good match, you didn't line up with the job closely enough, or honestly didn't know what they needed.

As for "making it clear...", I think discussing the information that you will be expected to know is more clear than just saying "I can learn fast". When you go into an interview, go in with foreknowledge of what the company is doing. What tech are they using, what sets them apart (according to them, more than likely). If you can't read up on it on the internet, ask them. What is it you're working in? Will I be responsible for something more like X or Y? I have experience in X, but I've not read up on Y. I think I'll take a peek at that, it seems interesting.

All of those things I said for my current job. I was open and honest: "I don't know JQuery all that well, but I'm interested in it and have been reading up. I have limited SQL experience, I'm not a newbie, but I can at least read and write a stored procedure without making the computer catch on fire...". If you show interest in learning, it will speak to your commitment to doing so quickly. I think, in most situations, they're more interested in whether you're willing to learn than whether or not you do so "quickly".

Last, don't "point out" that particular fact about a person who can learn quickly. To be frank, avoid pointing out a failing with another potential worker or applicant at all. Sell yourself on your strengths, not on the weakness, real or imagined, of others. "I can learn a variety of applications quickly, which will make me an asset in a flexible working environment" would be a more...polite(?)...way of making that same point.

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I think you may be underselling yourself.

Whenever you qualify your claims ("I have limited SQL experience") you're throwing up a red flag that screams "newbie" - hence the "not enough experience" claims.

The interviewer hears "limited" and thinks "3 months".

It would be far better to say "well, I'm not a DBA but I know my way around as a SQL developer". Compare yourself to the run-of-the-mill garden variety employee, not the top 0.5%. The rest of the interview will let you know if they're truly looking for superheroes. (If they are, they'd best be ready to pay accordingly - Spandex isn't cheap)

  • I wouldn't even say "and pretty good". If they pressed for how well you know sql say "well, I'm not a DBA but I know my way around as a SQL developer" – Chris E Mar 6 '17 at 19:58
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There's an old study that shows that non-experts tend to over-estimate their expertise, and that experts tend to under-estimate their expertise. It's called the Dunning-Kruger effect.

I suspect you suffer from this, and are under-selling yourself. The very fact that you recognize your non-expertise suggests that you know more than you think you do.

Rather couching your experience, be more explicit about what you do know. When you list your QA testing experience, include details. Did you do manual testing? On what kind of application? What about automated testing? What tools did you use?

What about JavaScript? Have you done any programming? Describe what you did, and what you know. Be sure to pepper in other things you understand, like hints that you know the difference between server-side and client-side.

Taking this approach will help the interviewer to see what you know instead of what you don't know, and as a confident professional, which can make all the difference.

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