Despite the fact that the recession has been declared over, many job seekers are still having trouble landing a new job. As a result of their frustration…and espousing the numbers game, many are applying for jobs for which they are only partially qualified, “There’s always something in the job description that doesn’t match with my experience, but that I know I can do if given the chance. How do I convince an employer to hire me in this situation?”
When applying for a job, it’s essential to put yourself in the shoes of the hiring manager. If you feel qualified for the position, you need to make it clear in every communication to her, including your cover letter, resume, emails, and interviews. With the hundreds of resumes a hiring manager receives, don’t expect her to figure it out.
First, assess the 4 or 5 key priorities of this position from the hiring manager’s side. If you don’t have demonstrable achievements in those specific priorities, don’t waste your time. If you were the hiring manager, what would you think of someone sending you a resume with a similar lack of qualifications? There will be plenty of candidates who are qualified, and adding your resume to the pile just makes the process move more slowly and doesn’t help you at all.
When you do feel that you possess the required skills but still aren’t making progress, what can you do to improve your odds? In my experience, most job seekers use the same resume for every job application, or at most will tweak it only slightly. They understand the need for customization but think it can be accomplished with the cover letter. This is a huge mistake. I’ve been coaching clients for many years, and continue to survey hiring managers. The vast majority of cover letters are never read. And most of those which are read are done so after the hiring manager has reviewed your resume, likes it, and reads the cover letter as additional information. The resume must stand alone! However, the cover letter must be written as if it will be read.
Write your resume so that it spells out what you’ve previously accomplished that solved the same or similar problems as outlined in the job posting. List your achievements and qualifications in order of the hiring manager’s priority, not yours. If you don’t have experience with a specific requirement in a paid position, but were successful doing it in a significant volunteer role, include it, but be sure to note that it was in an unpaid position.
In your resume, cover letter, and interview, present your case by drawing a parallel with each of the job’s stated requirements. You may have accomplishments of which you are proud, but if they aren’t directly relevant to the specific job, don’t share them. Don’t confuse the interviewer with extraneous information that muddies the picture you want to present.
And don’t waste time telling them how their job will round out your professional experience. To rephrase President John F. Kennedy’s quote in his 1961 inaugural address, it’s not what the employer can do for you; it’s what you can do for her!
Hi my name is Mauri, and I am the President of Career Insiders, a career management and talent acquisition consulting firm. I speak frequently at conferences, job fairs, and career panels. I have been invited to speak at NCHRA’S Annual HR West Conference. I consult with career centers at universities including UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, Tulane University, Mills College, and others, and contribute regularly to publications such as TheLadders RecruitBlog. I am what some might consider a professional “people person.”