How To Get Hired For A Job That Isn’t A Perfect Match
What is the best way to convince an employer or recruiter that you are a good fit for the role despite not meeting all the qualifications of a position? – Research Coordinator
If you see a job posting where you match some qualifications but not others, it doesn’t necessarily mean you shouldn’t apply. Job postings are often inaccurate. The hiring team may not be sure exactly what they need, so they draft the posting with what they know and this changes later on, but no one updates the posting. The posting could be a copy-and-paste creation from a similar job that’s close enough, but not exact. Or, the posting might be more aspirational – i.e., including every single thing the hiring team hopes to get – but they would be willing to settle for less.
That said, when I recruited, I saw too many candidates apply for jobs where they had absolutely no relevant experience. This was interpreted as laziness on the candidate’s part since they didn’t bother to read the posting. It also showed poor judgment because the candidate was wasting their and the employer’s time. I once did a search for an After Effects animator, and some applicants didn’t have any After Effects experience, or even worse, no animation experience at all. Applying for a job where you don’t meet the main requirement is not a stretch; it’s delusional.
As a candidate, how do you know if you’re stretching or delusional?
Focus your case on the most important aspects of the job
Look at the main responsibilities of the job as described in the job posting. Can you be productive from day one? If the job is focused on financial analysis and you have that experience, then you match the most important aspects of the job, even if the job posting might mention a database you didn’t use. On the other hand, if you happen to know that database because you have been an IT manager and part of your job was rolling out that software, but you didn’t actually use it for any financial analysis, then you shouldn’t apply for that job.
If you could explain to your prospective manager how you would approach the role from day one, then you have enough of a match to apply. It may turn out that certain aspects of the job are more important than you initially thought and therefore you aren’t an exact match or you actually aren’t interested, but you won’t know that now. I would err on the side of applying v. not because job postings are often not completely accurate.
Appeal to the main decision-maker
Your resume is the first thing the prospective employer sees if you apply to a job posting as your first step. If your background isn’t obviously relevant – for example, you worked in a different industry or your job title isn’t an obvious match – then you might be overlooked because resumes are reviewed in seconds. Whether or not the application calls for a cover letter, you should include one, either combined with your resume or as a separate upload. If the application doesn’t call for a cover letter, I would combine the cover letter with the resume to ensure the employer can’t view one without the other.
In a cover letter, you can personalize your appeal and explain exactly how your background matches the role. Even better than a cover letter would be a verbal pitch to the hiring manager, either through a referral from someone who knows both of you and can make an introduction or by reaching out cold. If you don’t think you have a compelling enough pitch to make the hiring manager want to listen to you, then you may not be as strong a match as you think!
Anticipate and address objections
In the cover letter and/or verbal pitch, as well as all along the interview process if you do get called in, be prepared to address any push back that you are not an exact match for the role. What will you say about the qualifications that you are missing? You could point out examples of how you are currently learning skills you are missing. If you have experience that translates (say, from one industry to another), show specific examples of how the apparent differences actually line up.
I had a client who had changed careers from financial services to education and was hired for a role despite competition from very experienced educators. While she had no education industry paid work experience, she did have volunteer and Board work (you can work on a career change outside your current job!) which demonstrated a genuine commitment. More importantly, she showed how her analytical experience from finance was aligned with introducing a more metrics-driven performance culture, a key priority for this prospective employer. Rather than her finance background being a liability, she made it part of her unique value.
Use stories to make your evidence relatable and memorable
When you do make your case that your background is a good match, don’t just provide a laundry list of skills, experiences or even results. That’s a basic requirement that should already be evident in your resume and LinkedIn profile. People hire people, and your average person isn’t going to be able or interested in regurgitating back a list. Instead, tell stories in your cover letter, your email outreach and your interviews about how you got your results, how your experiences unfolded and how your skills were developed and put into good use.
People remember stories, and after they read or hear yours, they can then relay the highlights to the rest of the hiring team. People are moved by stories, so you can enroll them on your quest to land this job. As much as we like to believe we’re all rational decision-makers, we are swayed by emotion and then justify with reason later on.
Matching the job posting is just one step in the hiring process
Getting past the job posting In the application process is the first step of multiple interviews, potentially sharing a work sample and reference checks. Preparing for job interviews right now, even when you’re in the application stage, is crucial to ensuring you have enough time to adequately prepare. Interview preparation is also a great way to curate stories, ways to address objections, specific words to sway key decision-makers and the elements of your case to prove you are indeed a match for this job. You don’t need every single qualification in order to apply, but you do need a solid case that you can do the job from day one.