After yesterday’s post about organizations not needing to hire based on experience, a reader rightly asked about being on the other side of this transaction, “How do I get a job when my experience doesn’t match what the potential employer says they need?”
Of course, many organizations still treat past experience as their major criterion for hiring. And sometimes prior relevant experience is required (see below). But sometimes, the experience and talents we already have are enough, even if we’re missing something that they say we should have. We just need an opportunity show how. In these cases, there are five things we can do.
1. Get the experience. If they say we need to get an MBA, to have been in a similar role for a certain number of years, or to update some technical skill, we can do that. Sometimes, the hiring organization is right to focus on experience. Roles heavy with safety and security needs often require proof that we have the training and have done this before. Sometimes the role needs plain old maturity and life experience. Occasionally, employers will agree to let us build the gaining of experience or training into an on-boarding plan once we are hired. Is it worth it to us to get the experience? Should we just go find another role? Tough to say for all cases. If it would feel good to do so, then go ahead and upgrade.
2. Write out your stories. Make a list of your talents and other helpful qualities. For each, find and write down a story from your past that illustrates and proves your claim. Be familiar enough with these items and stories that you can recall them as needed.
3. Retool your resume and cover letters. Should you need to send a resume and cover letter, it makes sense to build them to fit. Hiring managers don’t like when we send something generic: it shows we don’t care and we are forcing them to piece together the answer to, “Could this person do this job?” Create custom cover letters for each role you apply for. The format should be: here is the role I am applying for and what you said you needed that role to do (you can gather this info from their job postings and your networking), this is why I am qualified to do that (describing relevant talents and other qualities), and a request to meet. Let your resume read as basic proof of your talents and other qualities.
4. Get the conversation. Because it is so simple to apply for most jobs, many unqualified people do. So organizations have to filter resumes just to cut through the masses of applications. If we think we have something to offer despite lacking some experience or other trait that would normally get us filtered out, we can use our networking talents to get a conversation with the hiring manager. Asking people we know (including recruiters) for their insights and guidance to other people who may know the hiring manager is a great way to land a conversation about the role and how we might fit.
5 Turn the camera. When we get the conversation, our job is not to impress or convince. The camera should not be on us. No, indeed. It should be (mostly) on them. Our job is to listen and understand. Why does this role exist? What would you like to see happen in this role? How will we all know that the job has been done well? What is your mandate this year? Why is this role important to that? Once we are clear about them and their needs for this role, we can shift the conversation toward us. Now we get to say how we can help, what we are good at, and how we fit. Now we get to share those stories we had gathered. If everyone agrees there’s a fit between what they need and what we offer, the job is basically ours.
In your corner,