So you finally found it — your dream job. There’s just one little problem: the job description rattles off a list of qualifications and experience that you don’t quite have. Talk about discouraging.
But even if you don’t check all the required boxes, you should still apply. Why? According to Jason Patel, founder of Transizion and former career ambassador for George Washington University, you may still catch a recruiter’s eye. For example, “there might be keywords on your resume and cover letter that impress or appeal to the hiring manager,” he says. “The key is to get an interview. If you can get your foot in the door, you're on the right path.”
Serena Holmes, CEO and hiring manager at Tigris Events, agrees. “We cannot forget the human factor,” she says. “Hiring and interviewing for a position is an extremely emotional job. If you land the interview and connect with the interviewer on an emotional level, they may disregard the fact that you are not 100 percent qualified for the job they are hiring.”
So how do you get your foot in the door — and what do you do in an interview to prove you are the right guy or gal for the job? Here are five ways to compensate for a lack of experience.
1. Customize Your Resume With Key Terms
"The worst thing a seemingly underqualified candidate can do is apply with a generic resume," Patel warns. "If you're already at a disadvantage, then you shouldn't dig yourself deeper into the hole.” Instead, study the job listing carefully, focusing on the requirements and qualifications for which the company is looking. “If your experiences match with those terms — look at the action verbs — then put those on your resume,” Patel says. That way, you’ll pass through an initial filter, whether by a machine or a human.
2. Stand Out With Social Media
Sometimes, all it takes to avoid the slush pile is a little name recognition. And one way a hiring manager or recruiter might get to know you and your name is through social media. So, before you apply, “use your social media presence to interact with various aspects of the company,” Holmes recommends. “Plus, comment and share the company’s blog posts and the other components of their social media activity.”
3. Know Your Elevator Pitch
An elevator pitch is a synopsis of your experience that you can rattle off quickly — hence the elevator part — that describes why you're the perfect person for the job. “Your elevator pitch should consist of what you've done, what you're doing and where you're going,” Patel advises. It’s often used in response to “tell me about yourself,” a question that most recruiters and hiring managers will ask in an interview. So, “prepare a two-minute answer for the [inevitable] interview elevator pitch,” says Patel. Having a succinct, thorough answer will impress them.
4. Link Up
If you can find the hiring manager or the head of the recruiting department, you can “stand out by connecting with them on LinkedIn, liking their content and creating and sharing your own content,” Holmes says. “This will keep you top of mind and help you catch the recruiter’s eye.” It's also worth reaching out to current employees of the company to find out what it's like to work there, and maybe even eventually asking for a referral.
5. Be Confident
Even if you’re convinced you don’t have the qualifications to snag the job, don’t let a recruiter or hiring manager see your concern, Patel encourages. “Sounding confident is a key to human communication,” he explains. “Many professionals climb the ladder by acting and sounding confident.” But how, as they say, can you fake it until you make it? “Talking points that help you speak in a clear and confident manner will allow you to project charisma and confidence,” Patel points out, “and that is always a good thing.”