Interview with Career Consultant, Author & Speaker Kristin Sherry – Founder of Virtus Career Consulting

Interviewer: Mahmoud Mansi

Advice to HR People Regarding Hiring Career Shifters:

“I would rather hire a motivated learner with 85% of the skills, than someone who rests on their experience and has a 100% match…”

Kristin Sherry

Career Consultant | Author | Speaker | Entrepreneur

Amazon Page:
Company Website: (Virtus rhymes with Curtis)


1- HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: Kristin, nowadays many individuals aren’t courageous enough to make career shifting moves? Why do you think is the reason? What piece of advice do you have for them?

Kristin Sherry: I would say the top reason, based on working with hundreds of career changers, is lack of confidence. Generally, when people are in a position they dislike, they are either not performing well or are burned out and disengaged. I’ve coached CEOs and Senior Executives whose confidence was shaken because they’re in the wrong role. Many of us tend to tie our identities to our careers, and if the career isn’t going well, our confidence plummets – that doesn’t position us well for risk-taking or stepping out into the unknown. My advice is to take time examining your strengths, the skills you enjoy most, your values (what matters most to you) and your interests. If you work doesn’t align across these four areas, it’s expected you would not feel fulfilled. This is not a personal failure. If the shoe doesn’t fit, get new shoes!

2- HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: Now from an HR point of view, recruiters hire according to a certain criteria, for example the years of experience in the same profession, in case of a candidate who is shifting his/her career, should the HR department consider him/her with a zero experience or an experienced candidate? Would you advise HR people on how to perceive career shifters and how to provide them with a position they deserve?

Kristin Sherry: Always remember that a person who has seven years of experience might have one year of experience done seven times. A person who is a modest fit for a role with desired years of experience is not likely to outperform an ambitious person with the optimal fit for a role. I understand employers receive an overwhelming number of applications for positions, but I recommend being curious about a few applications that seem interesting, where the person shows potential, to avoid missing out on a diamond in the rough. I would also share that Korn Ferry International has proven through research that 85% of skills are portable, or transferrable, from job-to-job. So, the person already has 85% of what you’re looking for. I would rather hire a motivated learner with 85% of the skills, than someone who rests on their experience and has a 100% match.

3- HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: Knowing how to brand yourself or “sell” yourself in an interview is a very needed skill, even for professionals, however we are wondering is the real problem from the candidate side who is unable to fully reflect his/her strength points in the interview or the fault is in the interview questions designed and the interviewing process?

Kristin Sherry: That’s a great question. I think the problem is on both sides of that equation. When I meet new clients I often ask them, “What are your strengths?” I hear answers like, “I work hard” or “I’m good with people.”

No employer wants to hire someone who doesn’t work hard or is bad with people. Candidates are often selling themselves on what are known as “cost of admission” requirements, rather than what truly distinguishes them. Because they truly don’t have the required self-awareness or the language to convey it with clarity.

On the employer side, they are asking questions like, “Tell me about your greatest weakness” or “Tell me about a time you made a mistake.” I’m not saying these questions are causing bad hires, but the questions should really be geared around how that role is going to contribute to the success of the team, the specific expectations for the position, around the defining characteristics of a high performer, and the challenges the person will face in the role. An accountant on paper may look great, but if they can’t navigate they challenges of your culture, having the right accounting skill set won’t help them succeed.

It’s a whole other set of problems when we’re hiring managers. Gallup has determined in their research that 89% of managers that are hired were the wrong choice. We’re not asking the right questions.

4- HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: Kristin, we are curious to know what was the first job you ever had! And what did you learn most from this job?

Kristin Sherry: My first job was a newspaper delivery route when I was 12-years-old. One day, a friend convinced me to ditch my papers and hang out with her, instead of delivering them. I was fired when my customers called to complain they didn’t get their newspaper. I didn’t understand the downstream impact of my decision at the time, so that experience taught me the importance of fulfilling my obligations. It taught me the importance of preserving my reputation by doing good work.

5- HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: Do you believe that career consulting would differ from one era to the other?

Kristin Sherry: Yes, absolutely. I remember when the standard process was one job interview, then an offer was made. Now, interviews are much more complex and people who haven’t interviewed in a while are caught off guard by panel interviews, being asked salary expectations in the first conversation, and some of the behaviour-based questions employers ask.

Technology has also had a dramatic effect on both finding a career, and the job search process. Job seekers have limitless online tools for career exploration, which is great, but we also have more applicants per job thanks to the internet and job boards. That has largely complicated the process for job seekers because the response rate to online applications is so abysmal. Not only that, but they must learn to navigate applicant tracking systems, keywords, LinkedIn profiles, and online networking. It can be overwhelming for many.

One thing that has always remained the same? Personal referrals continue to be the best way to find a job.

6- HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: What are the challenges you face when you are consulting for a person’s career development? Can you share with us a real case-study?

Kristin Sherry: The greatest challenge are employment gaps and short work stints in a client’s work experience because of behavioural issues that lead to their unemployment status. A career consultant or coach can help you find a new job faster, or target your ideal career, but if you aren’t reflecting on how you’re contributing to your termination, or open to receiving and acting on feedback, you’re not going to remain employed. I’ve worked with a few clients who know they are too dominant, share opinions too much, and don’t listen, but they can’t seem to control their impulses.

I have one client who would often butt heads with managers. She is very strategic and very smart, so she tended to not respect other people’s opinions. We did a few assessments to reveal some of her tendencies and she took her coaching seriously. She has been working very hard to listen to others and to be humble. I’ve seen tremendous growth in her over the past year, more than anyone in my career, because she chose to prioritize being effective at work over being right all the time.

7- HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: Soon you will be publishing your 3rd book, congratulations! We will be super excited to review it in our “reviews” section. Would you like to share with us what is the book about? And what are the challenges you faced as a writer during the process?

Kristin Sherry: Yes, thank you! My third book is called YouMap: Find Yourself. Blaze Your Path. Show the World!

Find Yourself guides the reader to discover the four pillars of career satisfaction and build a personalised YouMap. Blaze Your Path shows the reader how to identify a career focus that fits. Show the World! teaches the reader how to authentically and confidently communicate his or her value through LinkedIn profiles, cover letters, resumes, job interviews, and networking conversations.

This book was much easier to write than my first one (a career empowerment book for women based on five success factors). My second book released last December and is an interview preparation book. This book is much more comprehensive in that it helps job seekers from start to finish on how to figure out work you’ll enjoy and then go after it through well-branded job search materials. The hardest part of the process was collaboration. I’ve invited six other career services experts to contribute to the book, so I learned a lot about collaborating with other contributors from the process. I’m used to writing solo.

8- HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: As a public speaker, you have sure attended lots of conferences as an attendee; an observer. What kind of positive criticism you can provide to many speakers out there who are either representing an idea or their companies?

Kristin Sherry: Simplify your slides, tell stories, and make sure there is something the audience can take away and implement right away!

Too many speakers try to cram too much information into their slides. They lose the audience with too much data and they don’t tell personalized stories to make their point. Lastly, inspiration without application doesn’t last. Ultimately, people can’t experience transformation on inspiration alone. You must also provide the information, and the application.

9- HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: As someone who wants to develop his/her career opportunities, should I focus more on developing my weaknesses or sharpening my strengths?

Kristin Sherry: Sharpening strengths. Weaknesses don’t usually become strengths. Therefore, too much time developing weaknesses leads to well-rounded mediocrity. Now, if a weakness is career derailing, such as interpersonal shortcomings, those require attention. Otherwise, you’ll go from good to great if you develop your talents.

10- HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: You have your own business; Virtus Career Consulting, founded it in 2013. What are the different phases your company passed through as a startup, and as a strategic founder how did you work on developing it?

Kristin Sherry: Initially, I would take any career-related service I could do competently. Over time, I learned what I liked and didn’t like, and I’ve become more selective in the work I’m willing to take on. I’ve also started doing strategic planning sessions each year, for the next year. Overall, I’ve narrowed my focus and increased the time I spend on my strategic projects to move the business in the direction I want it to go. In the beginning, I ran around like a chicken with my head cut off trying to react to the demand for my services. Of course, I didn’t have anyone to help me in the beginning, which was part of the problem. Now I have space to focus my time where it will have the greatest impact.

11- HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: From a career consultant point of view, what advice would you have to the U.S. government to be well-prepared for generation Z?

Kristin Sherry: Oh wow, where to begin. First, as an employer, the U.S. government needs to upgrade the technology used by workers. They are going to find it difficult to attract employees who were raised on smart phones and IoT devices to use antiquated systems and push paper around manually.

12- HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: To what extent is volunteering and non-profit work is important in one’s experience? And when to stop volunteering and focus only on profitable work?

Kristin Sherry: Volunteer work was instrumental in refining my coaching practice. I perfected my process with people who desperately needed help and couldn’t afford it. It was a perfect union. However, I still volunteer even though I am successful in my business. I believe it’s important to give back to the community I reside in.

– HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: Kristin, on behalf of all the readers I sincerely thank you for this valuable and inspiring interview, and for your efforts into helping people love their jobs and developing themselves to fit the prefect job-match. Your answers are pretty smart!

  • I continue

    I’ve hired many people over the course of my career and I’ve always thought years of experience is the best selling point a candidate can use. But I’ve never thought of it this way:

    A person who has seven years of experience might have one year of experience done seven times.