But if you believe you’re capable of performing a job well despite the fact that your background doesn’t completely align with the requirements of the position, there might still be hope. You need to consider yourself from a hiring manager’s perspective and build a case that shows why you’re the best person for the position. Following are some tips:
1. Don’t waste their time
First, make sure your background meets at least the most basic criteria for the position. If the job requires expertise in three specific software programs, for instance, and you are familiar with only one, don’t apply. But if candidates should possess seven years of experience, and you have five, an employer might consider your application. Keep in mind, however, that some firms simply will not interview you if you don’t meet every requirement, no matter how close your qualifications are. After all, companies still can afford to be picky.
2. Find an inside connection
One of the best ways to get your foot in the door when you’re a near fit for a job is by getting a referral from someone who can speak to the hiring manager on your behalf. Ask those in your network if they — or someone they know — can provide an entrée into the firm. Social networking Web sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook can be especially helpful in uncovering individuals who may have an “in” at your target firm, but be judicious when requesting assistance. You should have established trust and credibility with anyone you ask to go to bat for you.
If you can, try to leverage your contacts to arrange a meeting with the hiring manager. Sometimes, all it takes to get a chance at the job is a face-to-face meeting where you can make your case directly. This allows you to establish a rapport with the employer and demonstrates your enthusiasm for the position.
3. Address concerns upfront
Instead of hiding any shortcomings you possess, acknowledge them. For example, if you’re overqualified for a position, use your cover letter or the interview to explain why the job nonetheless appeals to you. Perhaps after managing a large team of employees for years, you’ve decided you’d prefer to do more hands-on work as an individual contributor and not oversee others. Or if you’re a bit underqualified, you might note how strength in one area (such as a well-regarded certification you recently earned) could make up for weaknesses in another (your lack of necessary experience, for instance).
4. Highlight return on investment
Hiring managers seek employees who have a track record of saving previous employers time or money. Promote the bottom-line benefits you can offer by highlighting accomplishments in your résumé or cover letter. You could note, for example, how you spearheaded the implementation of a new billing system that saved people time when uploading data, freeing up staff to focus on other critical tasks.
5. Offer a trial run
With some companies only beginning to cautiously add new staff, hiring managers are less likely to take a risk on someone who doesn’t exactly match the job criteria. As a result, you might have to sweeten the deal to persuade an employer to take a chance on you. You might offer to start the job on a project or temporary basis, for instance, with the agreement that you will be brought on full time if certain performance objectives are met.
6. Be truthful
Above all, keep in mind that you should never stretch the truth in an attempt to improve the odds of getting a job. Your lie could easily be uncovered, and you could damage your professional reputation, seriously harming your prospects of finding a job not only with your target firm but also other companies.
Many organizations are willing to take smart risks on seemingly promising employees, but it’s up to you to show them why taking a small leap of faith would be a wise move. By addressing any potential concerns upfront and building a compelling case for yourself, you’ll improve your chances of convincing them that an “imperfect” candidate like you is the right choice.
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