When we sit down with hiring managers to create job descriptions, we're constantly helping to level-set expectations. There are no perfect candidates, and a job description is really just a list of all of the things that would be nice to have in an ideal world. But, we don't live in an ideal world, we live in this one, and that hiring manager will hire someone for the job, missing qualifications and all. That person could be you, but you'll need to find the confidence to apply if you're going to get hired.
What is a job description?
First, let's understand what a job description is. At their core, job descriptions are guiding frameworks. They outline the ideal set of skills and experiences preferred for a role. These descriptions serve to attract potential candidates who align with key requirements and possess the potential to grow into the role.
It's common for job seekers to feel daunted when they don't meet every listed requirement. This hesitation stems from the misconception that job descriptions are strict prerequisites. In reality, they are more flexible, highlighting a combination of necessary skills and ideal attributes.
How to Approach Job Postings
Identifying Key Components: Dissect each job posting to understand its fundamental needs. Differentiate between what's absolutely necessary and what falls under 'additional skills.' This clarity helps in assessing your fit for the role more realistically.
Emphasizing Your Strengths: Concentrate on the skills and experiences you possess. Highlight your strengths and any transferable skills that could be beneficial in the role. Think broadly about the skills, what have you done that relates, even tangentially? What are you excited about learning?
Beyond the Job Posting: Investigate the company and the specific position further. Sometimes, additional insights or unlisted requirements can be gleaned through company websites, social media, or industry news, offering a more comprehensive understanding of what the role entails. Network on LinkedIn with current employees and start conversations about what it's like to work there, and what the company prizes in its employees.
Read Between the Lines and Prepare
Close-read the Job Description: What soft skills are listed? If the description says they want someone adaptable and quick to learn, capitalize on that to showcase times that you've adapted and learned new skills to indicate that you would be quick to pick up the skills you don't have.
Do your research:
Again, we'll highlight the power of LinkedIn. Look at other employees and see what types of backgrounds they have. You might be surprised by how diverse those backgrounds are! That might give you some confidence as you apply, and it could be something you reference during your interviews. Making comments like "I love that folks in your company have such diverse experience, like X and Y" during your interview will impress the team and also keep their minds open to your background and unique skill set.
If there are requirements you don't meet, be prepared to articulate how your other skills and experiences can still add significant value to the company. This conversation is an opportunity to highlight your unique strengths and potential contributions. When you do mention these, stay positive and unapologetic in your phrasing. Rather than saying "I don't have experience with X, but I do have experience with Y" put on your marketing hat and rephrase in a positive light: "I have extensive expertise in Y, which means I'll pick up X quickly." Remember, job descriptions are starting points, not finish lines. Understanding their purpose, focusing on your strengths, and proactively engaging with potential employers are essential strategies in your job search.
Always approach job applications with a focus on your capabilities. A job description is a wish list, not a rigid set of rules. By highlighting your strengths and demonstrating adaptability and willingness to learn, you position yourself as a valuable candidate, even if you don't meet every single criterion.