Ask Deb: How To Handle Interview Questions About Skills I Don't Possess
Ask Deb: How To Handle Interview Questions About Skills I Don't Possess
Dear Deb:

Thanks for all of your advice on interview techniques and preparation. It has really helped me to up my game when I am out there looking for my next opportunity. I’ve been looking for a new role as a director of digital marketing, and a few of my interviewers have asked me questions about an experience or skill that I do not have. I’m not sure how I should answer that. For example, an interviewer recently asked me if I had experience creating custom analytics reports. I am not hands-on in creating those reports—another department does that. I explained that while I don’t directly create the reports, I run the reports and analyze the results on a daily basis. He didn’t seem to like that answer! What would be a better way to respond?


Dear Javier:

The best way to respond to questions regarding a skill or qualification you do not have is to stop and think about why the question is being asked, and then formulate your response. In the example you gave about being asked about the development of analytics reports, the interviewer probably wants to know that 1) you’ve worked with analytics reports in the past, 2) you understand the data they capture and how to interpret it, and 3) you know how to use analytics to make decisions or determinations about marketing spend or ROI. Chances are that at a director level, you would not be creating the reports yourself, but would be using them to gain strategic insight into performance.

When you answered that you don’t have experience creating the reports, but that you run them and analyze them, you just told him what you did. You didn’t tell him what you accomplished, which was to use the analytics to make decisions. The former is task oriented, while the latter is achievement-oriented. When you are interviewing, you need to focus on accomplishments, not duties. In the future, think about responding in a way that showcases your unique value—in this case, your ability to turn raw data into meaningful information.