Is there anything more disappointing than scrolling all the way to the bottom of your dream job listing only to discover that—horror of horrors—you’re technically unqualified? Finding opportunities that make your pulse race and your pupils dilate is a rarity, which is why it feels so wrong to let them pass you by, especially if you’re only slightly lacking in skills or experience. Some job seekers might be tempted to shrug it off and move on—but smart job seekers know that any job is worth applying to, as along as you have a game plan.
Skills vs. Experience vs. Qualifications
Before you start brainstorming your strategy, you need to examine the job description carefully and determine whether you lack skills, experience, qualifications, or a little of each. Needless to say, the more you lack, the harder it will be to sell yourself to the hiring manager. But it’s not impossible!
Skills—like speaking a foreign language or being an expert-level user of certain software—are perhaps the easiest item to make up for because you can start learning now. Being a beginner is better than having no knowledge whatsoever, and it shows your commitment to the role.
Experience always means time, and often time spent doing a certain set of activities. You can’t make up for lost time, but you can find equivalents in your own history that parallel the experience your future employer is looking for.
Qualifications, most often degrees or certifications, aren’t easy to make up for, either. But if you have experience doing similar work to those who possess the qualification in question, it can be a breeze to prove to employers that you’re the right person for the job.
Now that you’ve parsed out exactly where your resume is missing a few pieces, it’s time to act.
Start by writing the best cover letter of your life.
Consult a professional if necessary—you’ve only got one shot. This cover letter needs not only to capture the hiring manager’s attention, but also to make it crystal-clear that you’re the best person for the job with your exact skill set, even though it varies slightly from the one they are seeking.
Be frank and transparent about your background.
Overselling yourself is the worst thing you could do right now, so don’t just tell the employer what they want to hear. Be honest—and that includes being honest about how amazing you’ll be for the company once they hire you.
Express how your background is equivalent to what they’re seeking.
If you’re confident that you can do a bang-up job, practice explaining how and why. Remember that employers must weed through hundreds, even thousands of candidates, and the job description is their number one way to do it. How are you more qualified than the rest?
Tune into the company’s pain points.
Hiring is all about solving problems—if there weren’t a problem to solve, there’d be no need to hire you. The most reassuring thing your potential employer could hear is that you understand not only what their pain points are, but also that you know exactly how to fix them with the precise skills and experience that you bring to the table.
Use your network.
Sometimes it’s just not possible to make contact with the hiring manager by throwing your name into the candidate pool. Tools like Applicant Tracking Systems may weed you out before your resume ever sees human eyes. This is when it’s vital to call upon your network in order to make a connection. Start by asking for an informational interview and finding out why they are looking for a candidate with skills and experience that are different from yours. Only then will you be in a good position to apply (or reapply) to the job—and you’ll have a contact on the inside.
Remember, not all companies are looking for a candidate that matches 100 percent of the bullet points in the job description. If it’s your dream job, it’s worth the extra effort. Have a plan, be forthright, and go for it—you’ll never get the job if you don’t ask for it.
Stephen Van Vreede is not your average IT/technical résumé writer. He provides career strategy and concierge job search solutions for senior (15+ years) (ITtechExec) and up-and-coming (NoddlePlace) (5-15 years) tech and technical operations leaders. Stephen and his team focus on building simplified, targeted, and certain career move campaigns, be it an external search or an internal promotion. He is co-author of UNcommon with career development leader Brian Tracy (out June 11, 2015). Contact Stephen directly at Stephen@ittechexec.com or send him an invite at https://www.linkedin.com/in/stephenvanvreede. To see whether Stephen and his team are a good fit for you, take their free (and anonymous) 1-minute compatibility quiz, Is the ITtechExec Approach a Good Match for You? Also, feel free to take his complimentary resume self-assessment quiz, How Certain Can You Be About Your Technical Resume? You might be surprised by what you find out!