Understanding Job Qualifications to Get in the Door

Looking for a job is not particularly thrilling to most of us. But it’s especially demotivating when you find yourself missing the mark on job qualifications. Let’s face it, the job market during a pandemic doesn’t help to boost confidence when we know millions of people are in the exact same position. High numbers of employees are currently laid off or furloughed. There is a lot of competition when it comes to landing a new gig. But, one thing that remains unchanged since the pandemic started is strategies to get you in the door for an interview. 

Most of us generally know what our strengths and weaknesses are. We know what skills we possess. And, we know what skills we need to obtain. Regardless of the role you are seeking, it’s likely that you don’t think you have 100% of the job qualifications. Have you read through the entire job posting? What’s nonnegotiable? And what does “required” really mean? Do your due diligence and research. Know that not having 100% of the required job qualifications does not that mean you aren’t a good candidate for the role! In fact, one report shows 78% of applicants have lied about their qualifications on applications. Clearly, we are not alone in feeling inadequate.

Here’s how the skills you do have can help get you in the door:

1. Confidence is Key.

Maintaining confidence while reading a daunting job description can be tough. Give yourself the benefit of the doubt and read thoroughly. It’s hard not to skim when you’re ten+ job descriptions deep. But it’s important to look at the job as a whole. Remember that most people out there are in the same boat as you. Job qualifications represent the hiring manager’s desires. But it’s quite difficult to describe experience fully in bullet point form (you can relate from resume writing, I’m sure).  Even if you’re applying for your first professional job or making a career shift, you have something to offer. You just need to clearly express it. 

2. Focus on your skills.

Hard Skills:

Today’s workforce is interested and invested in learning new hard skills, like data mining or coding languages. But those skills will take time to learn and often still require soft skills to truly prove useful (like analytical problem solving). Sure, you can become advanced in engineering or programming. But make sure you can also communicate process clearly and concisely. You must be able express the value your projects and talents provided to the business to impress a hiring manager.

Soft Skills:

Most transferable skills tend to be soft skills. These are skills that come naturally and don’t necessarily require a degree to learn. More than ever, soft skills are as valuable as hard skills. Some of the most sought after soft skills by employers are communication, creativity, persuasion, collaboration, adaptability, and my personal favorite, emotional intelligence. Regardless of the phase of your career or job search, you certainly have at least one of those skills (even if you don’t realize it). If you’re completely stumped, ask friends or family what attributes of yours stand out to them. Remember that both life and career experiences provide you with a unique skill set. Once you are confident in your existing skill set and know your value, figure out how your talents relate to the job you want. 

3. Research and learn.

You’re already off to a good start by reading this blog. You’ve discovered that there are staffing agencies, recruiters and a wealth of knowledge on the web. It’s important to realize you don’t have to go it alone. There are a great deal of resources like this one and others available to help. Seek information about the role you want and the industries you’re targeting to make sure you are well-versed in the job qualifications and job function itself. Utilize sites like LinkedIn and Glassdoor to find out what people are saying about the company, the interview process, and the corporate culture.

If there’s a qualification you don’t have that you know is definitely non-negotiable, utilize the myriad of free learning resources out there to start learning that skill. Coursera, Skillcrush, Harvard Extension School, Khan Academy, General Assembly and Hubspot are highly reviewed. Ask your network if they’ve had a good learning experience recently and if so, find out what they recommend.  After all, people are your greatest resource.   

4. Network, network, network

Who do you know?

We’ve all heard it before. Networking advice exists within every social media application. It’s an extremely powerful tool. And we hear it all the time at work. Job seekers should leverage their network. There are many ways to go about networking, but the easiest way to get the ball rolling is to start conversations with the people in your social circle.

Those conversations shouldn’t sound like, “Hey, I’m looking for a job and know you work at at X company. Can you get me an interview?” No one wants to feel used. Be genuine and open to learning about their experience. Ask questions about the culture, career development opportunities. You can also ask if there is an employee referral program. Sometimes employers pay more attention to candidates referred by current employees. If not, they may have other advice as to the best process for submitting your resume. Friends and acquaintances can be helpful in letting you know when a job becomes available as long as they know you’re looking. Engaging conversations tend to stick with people for longer periods of time, so try to connect in a way that leaves a lasting impact.

Who would you like to know?

While chatting with someone you know is more likely to yield an interview opportunity, that’s not always possible. If you don’t know anyone in your industry or at a company you’re applying to, try searching the company on LinkedIn. You may find a second or third connection that works for that company. Or you can try establishing a new connection with those employed by the company. Ensure they are in a relevant role and be honest about your intentions within an introduction message. Say something like “I’m interested in an Office Coordinator role at your company and wanted to connect to learn more about your experience as an Operations Administrator.” If conversation ensues, they may be willing to share some tips for job qualifications or other advice that gets you in the door. Perhaps they can even introduce you to a recruiter at the company.   

The process of networking, researching, learning and applying to get an interview is no easy feat. We are all learning, and you are valuable. Take a break when you’re feeling discouraged. Chat with friends and neighbors to gain perspective. Acknowledge successes no matter how small and try not to dwell on disappointments. The good news is the job market is changing. And we get to be pioneers of tomorrow’s workforce!