How to Admit You Don’t Have Experience and Still Ace the Interview

freelance writing interview

Picture this—

You’re in the middle of an interview. You’re excited but not stressed. So far, everything has been going smoothly. You’ve established rapport with the interviewer, impressed them with your sense of humor and feel for the language. You even bonded over the latest episode of your favorite TV show.

The job is in the bag, it seems.

No wonder. You’ve done your homework. You’ve practiced your answers to common interview questions. Your personal-yet-professional introduction would make Elon Musk take notes.

And then, you hear this question: “Do you have experience in…?”

You’re getting tunnel vision. Your palms are sweaty. Mouth dry.

freelance writing interview tips

This came right out of nowhere. Your resume was tailored: perfect but truthful. Everything the employer needed… It was all there!

You were careful when choosing what skills to list on your resume.

Why would they ask this?

Did they not read your application? Are they looking for something to have a dig at?

Don’t worry, in a moment, we’ll show you how to recover from this question and actually make it work in your favor.

[bctt tweet=”How to Admit You Don’t Have Experience and Still Ace the Interview” username=”freelancewj”]

First, you need to understand where they are coming from.

You might assume that if you’ve made it to the interview, the client knows what experience you have.

This may or may not be true. See, sometimes, interviewers are unprepared. Or, maybe they don’t remember a certain detail. Quite likely, they didn’t read your cover letter or just remember the overall positive impression it had on them.

What’s more, this might actually be an honest interview question. They might be double-checking they got something right. Some might like a little bit of mind games.

In the end, however, work experience and hands-on application of skills are what recruiters look for in a candidate.

If you made it to the interview stage, it’s clear the decision makers are interested in you. They wouldn’t waste their time on chatting with someone who doesn’t meet the most crucial of their expectations.

Your resume passed muster and now you are given the chance to seal the deal!

[bctt tweet=”What should you do if you are asked about experience or skills you don’t have during an interview?” username=”freelancewj”]

Admit it.

Yes, it hurts, but it will avoid trouble down the road.

But here’s the trick—

Don’t just say, “No” and leave it at that. Sure, you don’t want to dwell on this, but a job interview is not a congressional hearing. It’s a conversation in which both parties decide if they want to work together.

So, admit you haven’t done something, but immediately follow up with what similar things you have done. Talk about relevant experience and skills.

See, “Do you have experience…” isn’t a yes or no question. It’s a no, but question.

[bctt tweet=”“Do you have experience…” isn’t a ‘yes or no’ question. It’s a ‘no, but’ question.” username=”freelancewj”]

Chances are the interviewer knows this is your weak spot. They want to make sure you can get with the program fast or work around this problem. Also, they might want to see you work your way out of this tight spot.

Here are a few real-life examples to illustrate what I mean.

1. Interviewer: Have you ever written for outreach campaigns?

Interviewee: No, but I was responsible for our in-house newsletter in my previous job at [Company Name]. I also wrote copy for abandoned cart emails that got above-average return customer numbers…

2. Interviewer: Have you ever worked as a journalist?

Interviewee: No, but I regularly interview experts for my pieces. This includes interviews conducted by Skype and face-to-face. One of my articles published by [Impressive Media Outlet] was an interview with…

3. Interviewer: Have you done any technical writing?

Interviewee: No, but I regularly write articles in which I translate complicated industry vernacular and concepts into language easily understood by the lay audience. I’ve learned everything about [the domain in question] on my own and I feel that — with my understanding and respect for guidelines — I will be able to meet your company standards…

Why does this work so well?

You are truthful and you demonstrate you can still excel at the job. You achieve this by focusing on transferable skills and relevant experience.

If you really want to assure the interviewer you’re a capable writer, try to give relevant achievements a plug. Like in the first example. Bonus points if you can quantify your success!


No, but

In-person interviews for writing jobs aren’t as common as those for other gigs. But if you get invited to one, better come prepared.

This post was written by Bart Turczynski, a writer and resume expert at Uptowork, a popular career advice website and online resume builder. He helps readers find and land jobs by sharing resume writing expertise and interview hacks. You can reach him on Twitter @bart_turczynski.






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