If there’s something more frustrating than searching for the right job, it’s waiting on the phone for that job offer. Unfortunately, this is a common experience for many job seekers. According to a 2014 job seeker study, the process of searching for employment is now considered a 24/7 gig. A staggering 45 percent of people are still on the hunt for their dream job, even though they’re already employed. Meanwhile, 38 percent look for open positions during their commute, and 18 percent hunt for work in the bathroom.
The job search landscape is fierce and competitive, and it can be especially challenging if you’re applying for employment for which you’re clearly unqualified. Companies are looking for qualified candidates, so if you lack the necessary experience, you may find yourself rejected before you even get an interview.
But don’t despair, there are ways to showcase your potential and increase your chances of landing your dream job. Here are four practical tips to help you snag that job – even when you’re somewhat unqualified.
1. List Relevant Skills/Passions
To avoid the common frustration of getting rejected without even meeting the hiring manager, focus on building up your resume AND cover letter. Whether you’re a new graduate or a career shifter, you will have gained some “experience” during your lifetime that you could tie into the job you want.
Let’s say you’re an accountant, but you want to shift into social work. Your target organization prefers someone with at least a year of experience in the field. You can highlight relevant skills you’ve acquired through your current position that would come in handy for your future job, such as organization, communication, and critical thinking. When you write your summary, be concise yet highlight these aspects first. This should present a reasonable enough argument as to why you should be considered for the opening.
2. Consider Related Side Jobs/Projects
“Experience” doesn’t necessarily mean paid work. In fact, it could mean different things to hiring managers. Volunteer work, side hustles, projects for friends or family, extra-curricular activities, etc., could all be considered valuable experience.
After graduation, you may have worked for a few years as a restaurant manager, but what you really want to become is a financial adviser. Focus on other aspects such as your graduation with a finance-related degree, money-related projects on the side, or any other activities that you feel might be suited for the job you’re after. List these on your resume under the experience section. Be very specific when citing what you did; don’t be vague, or the hiring manager may reconsider asking you for an interview.
3. Don’t Forget Soft Skills
Although experts advise job seekers to go for work that they fit into, they definitely don’t dissuade applicants from pursuing a position that they don’t have experience in. Hiring managers typically hire for attitude – NOT skills. If you’re creative, optimistic, have a high sense of honor, and consider yourself friendly and coachable, then you might have an edge over those who are more qualified than you in terms of skill.
Recruiters are looking mostly for passion, enthusiasm, and presence. Show that you want this job more than others. Despite the lack of skill, you have something that other applicants lack: your excitement at coming to work every day. Focus on your interest in the job, your willingness to stick with it even though the going may be tough, and your ability to connect with people.
4. Connect the Dots
Besides your interview, the cover letter gives you a chance to really sell yourself and your relevant skills. Whether you have a gap in your employment history or you’re about to shift careers, your cover letter allows you to connect the dots and make a compelling argument for the hiring manager.
Begin by highlighting your relevant skills that align with the job requirements, and end with WHY you’re the best person for the job. Turn your cover letter into a story that emphasizes your passion and commitment to the job.
Pick words that you would use in daily conversation; don’t use generic buzzwords. Hiring managers can read between the lines and get a “feel” for words. If you’re confident with the skills you presented, odds are recruiters will feel the same way too.
BONUS: Have a Plan B
Realistically, even if you are qualified for the job, there are other reasons why you may not be hired. That’s why every job seeker needs a backup plan.
Consider using the “bait and switch” technique, which involves enticing the recruiter to get an interview even if you lack certain credentials. Let’s say you’ve worked for years as a caregiver, but you want to enter the healthcare sector as a medical secretary. “Lure” the recruiter by emphasizing related skills such as a warm, welcoming demeanor. Indicate a willingness to start at a lower position, such as a medical receptionist, with the expectation that you will hone your talents and progress toward your ideal job.
With a little bit of resourcefulness, a sprinkle of wit, and a lot of determination, you can land your dream job even when you don’t have all the experience required. Creative problem-solving, combined with quality communication with the hiring manager, will put you in the running for the job.