Many of non-techies would have faced this question at some point in time, either during an interview or during a conversation with friends or mentors – ‘why industry change, why not build expertise in one sector?’
Techies are less likely to face this question, as their coding expertise can be applied in any industry. But, I believe we can think about other functional expertise, such as sales, supply chain, and marketing, in the similar fashion – at least in the initial stage of the career. Ultimately it’s about adaptation – even if someone is a coder, he/she will have to adapt; same is true for a non-techie. I do believe that experience in a particular sector is wealth – but that angle comes when you are looking to hire a person with about 5+ years of experience for a leadership position. Even then, this angle is limited only to established companies and traditional candidates only – no boundaries for startups and startup folks.
So, why interviewers bothers so much about the industry change. Why they ask – ‘why industry change, why not build expertise in one sector’. To me, it sounds like – ‘why City change, why not live in the same city forever’. If I were to answer such a question, I will have two responses depending upon the situation I am in (in the context of industry change).
Situation 1: I am looking for a job that can offer me good money – In this case, all I care about is a good workplace, a good company, and an appropriate role to which I can add value, based on the experience & expertise I have.
Situation 2: I have realized that this is the industry I want to be in – In this case, it’s about the time in my life when I have realize that this is something I want to do. And, I know that I have functional expertise with which I can add value to the role I have applied for and this industry is my new love. Well, realizations may change over time – who knows – we are just humans – but, this is what I feel right now.
I have been in two types of situations earlier and I have responded accordingly. Needless to say, not every interviewer/HR bought my logic. To me, both the responses are fair, and the bottom line of both the situations is that “Candidate has expertise with which he/she can add value to the role he/she has applied for.” And, that should be the end of such a question.
I believe the interviewer’s motive behind asking this question is to figure out why this person is inconsistent in his/her career, and to find out if the candidate will stick to the company. Well, guess what – this inconsistency is also a function of company’s performance and treatment toward the employees. So, as a company, I would like to look within myself to figure out ways in which I can reduce my contribution to such inconsistencies. You should read my earlier blog “Why Can’t an Employee Fire an Employer?” to understand what I am talking about.
If you are an applicant somewhere and being asked such a question, you might want to focus only on the below aspect –
“I have expertise with which I can add value to the role I have applied for. I am here because I liked the role and the company and I know that I can add value.”
You may frame your answer in whatever manner you like (depending upon the situation), but bottom line remains. If your interviewer still does not get it, you might want to stick to what you believe and you can consider that your interviewer is an idiot. In fact, you might want to reconsider your decision of wanting to be part of such a work environment.