Getting Your Foot in the Door Despite the Job Description
I recently received a call from my mom who was hoping to discuss a job opening that she was considering applying for. As she described the role, I couldn’t believe how perfect the position was for her- almost as if the position had been created for her. I could tell that she was excited at the thought of making a career move, but something was holding her back from becoming fully invested in the idea of starting a new phase of her career. After some discussion, I found out that she was reluctant to apply for this perfect position because she wasn’t able to check off all of the qualifications listed in the job description. Despite her 30+ years of experience in the field, and glowing recommendations, she was second guessing if she was the right candidate because she does not have extensive experience with PowerPoint. Unfortunately, even though she knew that the use of PowerPoint would be a small portion of the job, it was enough for her to reconsider applying.
Having this conversation with my mom made me realize that she is just one of many job seekers who are hesitant to apply for a job because they are not able to check off every single qualification in the job description. It’s important to remember that while there are automatic disqualifiers (such as a lack of education), most job candidates don’t fit the job description perfectly and still go on to make excellent employees. If you come across your “perfect job opportunity”, but can’t check off all of the boxes, here are some ways to get your foot in the door.
Sell Yourself in Your Cover Letter
If you don’t meet all of the qualifications outlined in the job description, your first step should be to use your cover letter to sell yourself. Get potential employers excited about you as a candidate by outlining the experiences, qualifications, and strengths that make you the best candidate to fill the position. Highlight positive attributes rather than using the cover letter to mention or explain the areas that you are lacking. Once you have your foot in the door, you can discuss the skills that you need to work on; but in the meantime, the cover letter is your opportunity to sell them on you as a candidate.
Highlight Your Transferable Skills
Let’s say that you have 75% of the qualifications listed on the job posting, but are unsure of how to sell yourself knowing that you lack 25% of what they are looking for. It’s a valid concern; after all, if you were to give your resume a letter grade, a 75% would land you in the C (average) category. And let’s be honest, no one wants to hand in a C quality application. Fortunately, you can make up for the areas you lack by highlighting your transferable skills. What skills have you acquired that will help to make you successful in the role that you are applying for? Do you have skills that aren’t listed on the job description that you believe are applicable? Have you had opportunities to lead a team? Are you organized and successful at communicating? Do you have experience with critical thinking and decision making? Use these skills to bring your grade up. You still may not be at 100%, but that C will start looking a lot more like a B+.
Demonstrate a Desire to Learn
There are many times when the qualifications that you lack can be acquired through training, a class or seminar, or by simply learning on the job. What an employer needs to see is that you have the desire to learn and have the drive to acquire those skills and education once you are hired. You can demonstrate this desire and determination by including any continuing education, certificates and trainings in your cover letter and on your resume. By showing them how much you have grown, you are also showing them how much potential for growth you have in your knowledge and career.
Very rarely do candidates have all of the listed job requirements that are outlined on the job description, but that shouldn’t keep you from giving yourself the opportunity to make a career move. Sometimes all it takes is getting your foot in the door so that you can prove that you are the right candidate for the job!