How to Apply for a Job Without All of the Qualifications

Want to know every hiring manager’s dirty little secret?

Most job listings are actually wish lists rather than set-in-stone qualifications. Having too few qualifications will disqualify you from the application almost as much as too many, so it makes sense to apply sooner than later.

Here’s how you do it.

Acquire and Show Off Industry Certifications

Use your certifications to give you an edge when you lack the requisite “years of experience.”

You probably won’t have everything on a given list, but you can demonstrate commitment to your own professional development, assuring employers that you’ll grow into the role if they hire you.

Certifications also show that you have the capacity to learn, lending you the advantage of more potential than the single role for which you’re applying.

Certifications also look official, show that you know the industry well, and make some of the best scannable resume material you can earn.

Play Up Transferable Skills

Yes, most job postings seem to want everything. That’s unrealistic, so you need to draw a clear connection between what you’ve done in the past and how you’ll fulfill the role you want.

It’s not often about having perfect skill matches for every piece of software on the market. It’s about using a set of effective, core skills and bringing a unique perspective to the role that others simply won’t.

If you’re moving into a new industry, play up your skills in the role-and if it’s a new kind of role, play up your industry experience. Everyone’s learning something new, so embrace the direct experience you do possess and put a creative marketer’s spin on the rest.

Showcase Personal Projects

There are a lot of similar-looking resumes out there. Showing personal drive will give you an edge over the competition, and it’s incredibly difficult to fake.

Accomplish this by taking on small projects to build up your skills and confidence over time, demonstrating that you want to grow for internal reasons rather than just financial compensation.

Make that your advantage by taking on personal projects related to the role.

● Programmer? Join a hack-a-thon.
● Lawyer? Tackle pro bono cases.
● Marketer? Manage campaigns or social media profiles.

This is called “Drive 2.0,” and employers want to see it even if they don’t realize it. Start a personal website, tackle community volunteer initiatives, and go to industry-related events whenever you can.

Find an Internal Champion

It’s entirely possible to get hired without any known connections, but it sure helps if you know someone in the organization.

That person becomes your “champion,” and can vouch for you in a way that no application tracking system can. It’s about developing an internal reference for yourself.

Whether it’s passing on a good word or talking up your good attitude, it gives you an internal seal of approval that hiring managers value-it’s a team member’s word over self-proclamations from an outsider.

Don’t know anyone there? Start building a rapport with someone in there today. Even just starting to engage with the company’s social media channels will familiarize you with what the company is all about, giving you an edge with insights about recent events, its culture, and team members.

Start with the company’s Community Manager and you’ll have a champion in short order.

Know the Essential Skills

Some skills are mandatory. There’s just no getting around them. Don’t ever try to fake these-just build these set-in-stone skills at a steady pace.

You can’t talk your way around some of these. An accountant needs to be familiar with QuickBooks or Harvest, for example, while corporate recruiters should know their way around the Taleo system.

Figure out which skills on the job posting are set in stone versus nice-to-haves, and adjust your presentation accordingly. That will be the key to making your “transferrable skills” pitch work effectively.

Show Your Personal Side… Tactfully

Culture can’t fit on a resume, so you need to find another way to show off how your personal side improves your processional efficiency.

Try these angles: Talk about how travels have changed your perspective of the world.

  • Talk about how travels have changed your perspective of the world.
  • Tell the story of how you got into the industry.
  • Explain who inspires you in the industry, or even from your favorite sports team or band.
  • Chat about your creative inspiration and process.

You don’t want to get too personal, of course. You’re applying to a place of business, and it might even be a corporate environment that frowns on that kind of intimacy.

Adjust accordingly, but don’t afraid to show a contented, contained enthusiasm for pop culture you love.

At the end of the day, you don’t need to have everything on the check list. Develop the mandatory skills, showcase your personal projects, and demonstrate that you’re more than a resume.

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