Most job seekers encounter the following scenario at some point in their career: you’re not the typical worker bee; you have diverse experience and have performed a variety of functions in your career. Any employer should welcome your skills, but when you apply for your next job, the company wants at least ‘10 years of direct work experience’ and couldn’t care less about your eclectic background. So you’re not even considered for the position.
It’s pointless to ask if this is fair. The burden is on you to demonstrate why you’re a good hire even if your qualifications aren’t a perfect match for the position. Here are 4 tips for getting past this hurdle and landing the job you want:
Fill in the gaps in your cover letter
Cover letters, once a staple of job applications, have become passe. With a large volume of job applicants to review in today’s online world, most human resources professionals just scan through resumes with a cookie-cutter checklist by their side.
That doesn’t mean, however, that a brief, well-crafted note won’t attract the attention of a conscientious reviewer. In fact, if you can make a succinct case for why you should be hired, you will actually make the reviewer’s job easier and differentiate yourself from the pack. It shows initiative and thoughtfulness on your part.
The key here is to tell your story and use it to demonstrate your value: how have you evolved as a professional, what specific skills have you gained from your various experiences, and how will those things add value to the company. Tell that story convincingly, and you should at least get an interview.
Be honest — you’re not perfect
Conventional wisdom encourages us to highlight the positive and stay away from the negative. That makes sense but the flip side of that coin is that if you don’t address your obvious weaknesses proactively and show an employer why they don’t matter (or how you will get around them), they will likely be held against you and eliminate you from the race altogether.
Using the above example, if a job requires 10 years of direct work experience but you only have 5, you need to acknowledge that discrepancy but explain why you believe you can do the job just as proficiently as someone who meets that criterion. Otherwise, human resources will simply throw your resume into the ‘no’ pile without a second thought.
This is yet another reason a cover note is so essential. Even most standard online applications allow you to make a personal statement in a comment box, so use that to help the reviewer understand why your track record, no matter how diverse or indirect, has honed you into the type of professional they’re looking for. If you lack some particular skill, acknowledge it and explain why it won’t be a problem (perhaps you’re taking a course at your local college).
And don’t assume that the skills you have can’t be applied in a particular job just because the description doesn’t say so.
Connect the dots for an employer
When applying for multiple jobs, it’s natural for candidates to become fatigued and start cutting corners. The temptation is to leave it to the company to figure out how valuable your skills are. That’s fine if you meet all the requirements for a job but can hurt you if your story isn’t straightforward.
Make it easy for the reviewer to follow your career trajectory, both on paper and in person. That means don’t just state facts but spell out what those facts mean. For example, if you started your career in media investment banking at Morgan Stanley, then moved to an operations role at Disney, and now want to join Google in strategy, explain how your banking experience taught you about the business aspects of media and got you the operations job at Disney, which in turn showed you how traditional media is changing in a digital age and positions you to help Google with business strategy.
Make a promise
The one quality that a resume can’t capture is motivation. Even if you lack a particular skill required for a job, promising that you will make up for the deficiency through hard work, dedication and willingness to learn will help your chances. Motivation isn’t a guarantee of success, but it’s a strong indicator. And making a sincere promise that you will do whatever it takes to excel at your job will give your potential employer comfort.
S. Kumar is a tech and business commentator. He has worked in technology, media, and telecom investment banking. Kumar does not own shares of the companies mentioned in this article.
Eight Ways to Pitch Your Diverse Background as an Employment Asset
It has become more common to hear employers talk about valuing workplace diversity and inclusion. For Baby Boomers and Gen-Xers, this meant including a certain number of people of different genders or races in the workplace. Todayâs Millennial generation, however, prefers âcognitive diversity,â or the blending of different backgrounds, experiences and perspectives within a team.
As employers seek to hire people with diverse racial, sexual, class or religious backgrounds, you can drive the conversation about the value that your own diversity brings to a company.
Use these shifts in values to your advantage when applying and interviewing for jobs. Here are eight benefits of a diverse workplace that you can cite when talking with employers:
- AdaptabilityâHaving a workforce of diverse experiences and backgrounds will better prepare organizations to adapt to unforeseen challenges and opportunities.
- Range of ServiceâA diverse workforce can impact the range of services the organization can provide.
- Varying PerspectivesâEmploying professionals from a variety of industries and backgrounds can bring new and different perspectives to the table.
- Learning and GrowthâHaving a diverse staff will create opportunities for people to get to learn more about different backgrounds and professions.
- CommunicationâA staff that can conduct business and provide customer service in multiple languages means opportunities to grow and expand into new markets.
- Increased ProductivityâAn organization with a diverse workforce can often increase productivity by tapping into the wealth of knowledge on staff.
- Increased InnovationâHaving a wide variety of opinions, skills, experiences and backgrounds on staff is a great way to encourage innovation in the workplace.
- Satisfy a Diverse Customer BaseâAn organization whose staff represents its diverse customer base is a great way to create connections between the staff and the customer.
Those are just some of the ways that you can pitch your diversity as something that can contribute to the strength of a company or organization. What are some others? Add your comments below, or start a conversation on GoodProspectsÂ® and share ideas with other job seekers and career advancers.
Dennis Nelson joined Goodwill Industries International as a Career Navigation Program Specialist in June 2014. He supports the GoodProspectsÂ® for Credentials to Careers initiative, which is dedicated to supporting members that are engaged in training, credentialing and employment services for nontraditional students. Dennis is considered an advocate for social change and has devoted his career to serving people through civic engagement, career advancement, and professional development.