The Dos and Don’ts of Targeting a Customer Success Role Within Your Domain

The Dos and Don’ts of Targeting a Customer Success Role Within Your Domain

It's never easy applying for your first Customer Success job. In my last article, I showed how to translate your past experience.

Let‘s now focus on what can help you further stand out as a job candidate - having domain experience.

Domain experience is knowledge in a specialized field and the ability to speak an industry’s language. This could be expertise in retail, education, hospitality, accounting, etc. If the domain exists, there's a software company in need of Customer Success professionals.

While domain experience is not required, it can help distinguish you from other candidates. This is why I often recommend targeting roles within your domain.

Here are some things to do and avoid when targeting a CS role within your domain.

Don’t make your background about being the best X in, education, retail, hospitality, etc.

Stop using generic, one size fits all, resumes when applying for CS jobs. It was built to become the professional you used to be instead of being the CSM you want to be.

Prior to becoming a Customer Success expert, I was a tech sales expert. This helped show that I had SaaS experience. However, I noticed that hiring managers asked me the same two questions during interviews:

  1. Wouldn’t you be a better fit for sales?
  2. Why do you want to transition into Customer Success?

These were legitimate questions because they were worried I might not be a long-term fit for Customer Success. I focused too much on my past experience working in my profession and not enough on how these skills relate to a role in CS. In turn,

It forced decision-makers to weigh my candidacy against those who exhibited a passion for Customer Success.

Instead, show how your domain experience will help you serve their customers better.

Hiring managers prefer to hire candidates that can relate to and think like their users.

For example, someone with a teaching background understands what motivates teachers, teaching admins, and students. They can speak to their needs, frustrations, and desires.

Using your past experiences, demonstrate how you can:

  • Think like their customers.
  • Become a trusted advisor for their customers.

You should have a leg up here thanks to your domain experience.

Don’t try to impress with acronyms and jargon.

As a result of your past experience, you are likely familiar with the technical terms used by professionals in your field.

Although it’s valuable to be able to speak the customer's language, don’t go overboard. You might come across as knowledgeable but not ready for a Customer Success role.

Instead, showcase your thinking and communication skills.

Rather than overload the interviewer or hiring manager with jargon, demonstrate your ability to translate the technical to simple.

For example, say you're interviewing for a technical role, I would find you a more compelling candidate if you explained your process of translating technical terminology in terms anyone could understand, rather than just how great you are at speaking the language.

The ability to do both well is even better.

Don’t fake it till you make it.

Your company doesn’t expect you to be a product or domain expert, even with your past experience.

However, don't fall victim to overexaggerating your expertise.

Three reasons this will backfire on you:

  1. You will speak with interviewers who know their product and domain better than you. They will figure it out through your conversation.
  2. The interviewer has access to your resume and can infer if you are overexaggerating.
  3. Even if you get the job claiming to be an expert, your peers will know the truth soon enough.  

Instead, come prepared for the interview and acknowledge you are hungry to learn.

Having knowledge of the company’s software you’re applying for is a valuable differentiator. It shows that you will need minimal ramp-up time. This is why it is trendy for some companies to promote from within their support team.

If you’ve been an end-user of their product already, kudos to you! This part should come easy.

If not:

  • Explore their website and blog.
  • Watch their demo videos.
  • Read their reviews on G2 and Capterra.
  • Scour their help desk articles.

Come to the interview prepared to:

  • Demonstrate your knowledge of their key features
  • Talk about their software’s main use cases and how it helps their customers solve a particular set of problems.
  • Show the things you learned and what you love about their software.
  • Summarize and conclude by explaining how you believe you can motivate customers to be just as excited as you after learning the software.

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