All too often, job seekers unduly limit their options. They see a job description that looks amazing…but they don’t have all the necessary qualifications. So, they write it off as impossible and don’t even bother applying.
In truth, job descriptions are like “wish lists.” They usually identify all the qualities an ideal candidate would have. But the organization also knows they’re unlikely to find someone who has everything they want. Most employers are willing to train the right candidate on at least some aspects of the role.
Therefore, if you’re interested in a role for which you only have 60 to 80% of the necessary qualifications, it may still be worth your time to apply.
Sure, this would be a stretch position. But that doesn’t mean it’s out of the realm of possibility.
When applying for such roles, consider the following strategies to better position yourself for success.
A warm introduction from someone in your network will go a long way in helping prospective employers overlook missing qualifications. Before submitting your resume, check to see if you know someone (or someone who knows someone) inside the company. With an advocate on your side, your resume is more likely to get some attention, and your chances of having a real conversation with someone will increase dramatically.
Emphasize Soft Skills
Most employers understand that hard skills can be learned much quicker on-the-job than soft skills. It’s easier to train a new employee how to use a certain software than it is to teach them emotional intelligence or communication skills.
Consequently, many recruiters and hiring managers weigh attitude and aptitude heavier than they do specific experience. They look for people who have a demonstrated pattern of performing at high levels and the ability to learn quickly. These traits are often harder to come by. Many organizations are willing to accept qualification gaps for a strong candidate who has proven their ability to thrive in stretch roles in the past.
Connect the Dots
When applying for stretch roles, your resume needs to clearly define how your past experience has prepared you for this next step. For example, even if you’ve never held a management role before, you have likely demonstrated managerial skills in other roles. Identify the things you’ve done and clearly articulate how they relate to the things you’d do in this role. If you truly have never utilized a certain required skill, cite a similar one and explain how it correlates. Again, emphasize your ability to learn quickly and consistently perform at peak levels.
Go for It (Confidently)
Confidence can go a long way in this process. Don’t discount your abilities or focus on what’s missing. Instead, demonstrate your enthusiasm and speak assertively about your past experience. Acknowledge gaps while simultaneously explaining why you’re confident that they won’t hinder your ability to be successful. Reference previous stretch assignments and discuss exactly what you did to overcome the obstacles you faced.
Few applicants are likely to be 100% matches for any role. Most people will be deficient in one area or another. If you possess the right personal characteristics, your qualification gaps might not be a problem. But you’ll never know if you don’t take a chance. Remember: Nothing ventured, nothing gained.