If there’s something more frustrating than searching for the right job, it’s waiting on the phone for that job offer.
According to a 2014 job seeker study, looking for employment is now considered a 24/7 gig. 45 percent of folks are still on the hunt for their dream jobs – although they’re already employed. Meanwhile, 38 percent look for open positions during their commute, and 18 percent hunt for work in the bathroom.
Considering you already have plenty of competition BEFORE you could even bag an interview, this makes applying for employment you’re obviously unqualified for highly challenging. Companies would go for the qualified candidates. They would see your lack of experience and deny you the interview.
Or would they?
But how can you showcase this when you were rejected before they can even interview you? How do you fill that gap in your employment history? What if you’re a new graduate without experience?
If there’s a will, there’s a way. Here are four practical tips to snag your dream job – even when you’re somewhat unqualified.
1. List Relevant Skills/Passions
To avoid the common frustration of getting rejected without meeting the hiring manager yet, focus on building up your resume AND cover letter. Whether you’re a new graduate or a career shifter, you will have gained some “experience” during your lifetime that you could somehow tie into the job you want.
For example: you’re an accountant but you want to shift into social work. Your target organization prefers someone with at least a year of experience in the field. Highlight relevant skills you’ve acquired through your current position that would come in handy for your future job, such as:
- organization (refer to how you handled client accounts and that time you planned the company seminar)
- communication (you did phone calls, created reports, and spoke with clients about their finances)
- critical thinking (don’t forget about the decisions you had to do to help save your clients’ accounts)
When you write your summary, be succinct yet make sure to highlight these aspects first.
“Current accountant for X company looking to fill the position for social work. Great at organization, communication, and critical thinking. Excellent ability to work under pressure and with highly difficult clients without sacrificing quality of relationships.”
This should present a reasonable enough argument as to why you should be considered for the opening.
2. Consider Related Side Jobs/Projects
“Experience” doesn’t necessarily mean paid work. In fact, it could mean different things to hiring managers. Volunteer work, side hustles, projects for friends or family, extra-curricular activities, etc. could all be considered valuable experience.
For example: after graduation, you worked for a few years as a restaurant manager. But what you really want to become is a financial adviser. Don’t dwell on the fact that you’re without experience from a related field. Focus on other aspects such as:
- Did you graduate with a finance-related degree?
- Do you have money-related projects on the side (i.e. help friends with their budgets)?
- Any other activities that you feel might be suited for the job you’re after (i.e. blogging about money-saving tips, accounting for the restaurant, managing payroll, etc.)?
List these on your resume under the experience section.
“Budgeting. Helped friends and family members on issues regarding funds, savings, and investment on a monthly basis.”
Be VERY specific when citing what you did. If you’re vague, the hiring manager may really think twice about asking you for an interview.
3. Don’t Forget Soft Skills
Although experts advise job seekers to go for work they most fit into, they definitely don’t dissuade applicants from running after a position they don’t have experience in. Job search expert Jessica Simko explains in a blog post that it’s because hiring managers typically hire for attitude – NOT skills.
Are you creative? Do people always describe you as an optimistic person? Do you consider yourself friendly, teachable, and with a high sense of honor? Then you might have an edge over those who are more qualified than you in terms of skill. According to Simko, recruiters are looking mostly for three things: passion, enthusiasm, and presence.
- Passion. Show that you want this job more than others. That despite the obvious lack in skill, you have something that other applicants lack: your excitement at coming to work every day.
- Enthusiasm. How interested are you in the job? Are you going to stick although the going will be tough? Or are you going to bail once a better opportunity is presented? Your interest in the position should be showcased throughout the application process – from your cover letter, your resume, to the interviews.
- Presence. Smile. Display confidence. Give a firm handshake. First impressions DO matter. So make a good one the moment you enter the room. Assure them with your stance that even without experience, you will make up for it in attitude.
Every day, companies and managers lose money from employees who are disengaged and refuse to learn anything new. So if you’re wondering why an under-qualified candidate is sometimes chosen, it’s likely because the person is more amicable and coachable than others.
4. Connect the Dots
Apart from your interview, the cover letter gives you a chance to really sell yourself and your relevant skills. Whether you have a gap in your employment history or you’re about to shift careers, your cover letter allows you to connect the dots and clear the argument for the hiring manager.
Turn it into a story. Begin with your relevant skills, align them with the job requirements, and end with WHY you’re the best person for the job.
“When I saw the opening for the position of X, it was mentioned that you were looking for someone with customer service experience. My years spent helping out at our local café has helped me earn the skills necessary for meeting and handling different individuals. As the café we own is quite small, I had the honor of becoming familiar with most of our customers: calling them by name, knowing their favorite drink, and occasionally joining them for a quick chat. Connecting with people really gives me a high. I look forward to working in a similar environment that will give me the opportunity to work with people every day.”
A T-formation cover letter will allow you to highlight your passions while hiding the lack in experience. In general, the employer’s requirements would be listed on the left-hand side, while your skills would be posted on the right-hand side. This should help the hiring manager overlook your weaknesses, but at the same time, give you an advantage.
BONUS: Have a Plan B
Let’s be realistic: even if you are qualified for the job, there are other reasons why you may not be hired. That’s why every job seeker needs a backup plan.
Creative director and author Katharine Hansen Ph.D. suggests using the “bait and switch” technique. Typically used in the advertising industry, this trick involves enticing the recruiter so you can get an interview (which is great to showcase your skills and charm) even if you obviously lack the credentials.
For example: say you’ve worked for years as a caregiver but you want to enter the healthcare sector as a medical secretary. With no money and without experience, how can you break into the healthcare industry? “Lure” the recruiter by emphasizing related skills (warm, welcoming demeanor, ability to handle various individuals, skilled in basic computer skills, etc.) but indicate a willingness to work for a lower position that would eventually lead to your ideal job. In this case, you may consider a job as a medical receptionist while you hone your talents and save money.
This is NOT going to be easy, but it should help you be invited for an interview. Once you’ve secured that, it’s time to charm them with your attitude (refer to tip #4).
Remember to avoid using generic buzzwords. Be genuine: pick words that you would use in daily conversation. Hiring managers can read between the lines and get a “feel” for words. If you’re confident with the skills you presented, odds are, recruiters will feel that, too.
With a little bit of resourcefulness, a sprinkle of wit, and a dash of passion, it’s possible to get the job you really want.
Featured photo credit: Alex Jones via stocksnap.io