June 2014

Get a Job

Mauri Schwartz

Q: I’ve come across a number of jobs that sound very interesting, but there always seems to be a skill or experience in the job description that I don’t have. I’m a quick learner, and know I can be successful if given the chance. How do I convince an employer to hire me in this situation?

A: When applying for a job it’s essential to put yourself in the shoes of the hiring manager. If you feel qualified for the position, you need to make it clear in every communication to her, including your cover letter, resume, emails, and interviews. With the hundreds of resumes a hiring manager receives, don’t expect her to figure it out. 

First, assess the four or five key priorities of this position from the hiring manager’s perspective. If you don’t have demonstrable achievements in those specific areas, don’t waste your time. If you were the hiring manager, what would you think of someone sending you a resume with a similar lack of qualifications? There’ll be plenty of candidates who are qualified. Adding your resume to the pile just makes the process move more slowly and doesn’t help you at all. 

When you do feel that you possess the required skills but still aren’t making progress, what can you do to improve your odds? In my experience, most job seekers use the same resume for every application, or at most will tweak it only slightly. They understand the need for customization, but think it can be accomplished with the cover letter. This is a huge mistake. I’ve been coaching clients for many years, and continue to survey hiring managers. The vast majority of cover letters are never read. Any reading that does occur is usually after the hiring manager has reviewed your resume, likes it, and reviews the cover letter as additional information. The resume must stand alone! However, the cover letter must be written as if it’ll be read.

Write your resume so that it spells out what you’ve previously accomplished that solved the same or similar problems as outlined in the job posting. List your achievements and qualifications in order of the hiring manager’s priority, not yours. If you don’t have experience with a specific requirement in a paid position, but were successful doing it in a significant volunteer role, include it, but be sure to note that it was in an unpaid position.

In your resume, cover letter, and interview present your case by drawing a parallel with each of the job’s stated requirements. You may have accomplishments of which you’re proud, but if they aren’t directly relevant to the specific job, don’t share them. Don’t confuse the interviewer with extraneous information that muddies the picture you want to present. 

And don’t waste time telling them how their job will round out your professional experience. To rephrase President John F. Kennedy’s quote in his 1961 inaugural address, it’s not what the employer can do for you; it’s what you can do for her!

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