You are talented, successful, and have amazing talents, skills, and experience, yet you find yourself looking at job postings and saying to yourself, “Oh, I don’t have the experience they are looking for. I’m not qualified for this job. I shouldn’t even bother to go after it. I’d never get hired for this job anyway.” Would it be safe to say that you are trying to get hired for jobs you’re qualified for but that feels really uninspiring? You want to make a career transition but all you’re doing is going after the same thing you've already done before…because it’s safe and there’s less chance of rejection? I want to relieve you of the fear of going after jobs you don't think you have a snowball's chance in hell of getting but you know you'd be amazing at. What I am about to say may be controversial or even shock you.
I believe that roughly 70% of job descriptions are terribly written, don’t actually have that much to do with the job someone will be hired for in the long run, and are simply a best guess at what the hiring manger/company wants or needs at that moment. They really think they know what they want but that’s rarely true. After all, they haven’t met you yet nor heard your take on how you’d approach the position.
I believe that job seekers shouldn’t get so hung up on job descriptions because it is simply a suggestion of what the job could be and a stab at describing the ideal candidate. I can confidently say, based on many years of experience in recruiting, that 8 out of 10 times, the candidate hired for the job isn’t an exact match.
This may not be true of entry-level and mid-level positions in which hoards of people need to be hired into one company for the same position or in which very specific hard skills are required (e.g. software engineer, accountant, lawyer) but it is absolutely true for the majority of one-off hires needed at the mid, senior, and executive levels.
Hiring managers want to be inspired by a candidate who has a vision for the role. They want someone who has room to grow within the role, not already 100% qualified. After all, do you think they’ll be able to promote their new hire in 6 months when they are bored and have outgrown the job already? No way! The true ideal candidate is someone who is about 70% qualified for the job and will fit in well with the culture and team.
Learning how to read a job description and evaluate whether it is something you would like to be considered for is an important part of the job seeking process. Most people don’t know how to do this and miss out on being considered for jobs that could be fantastic for them. Here’s how to do it:
Focus on the first three responsibilities
The first three responsibilities listed on the job description are typically the most important aspects of the role. If they inspire you and you would like them to be the main focus of your next job, then strongly consider throwing your hat in the ring.
Evaluate the requirements
Some job descriptions have a ridiculously long list of requirements. Think of it like dating. The requirements section is similar to a description of the ideal mate and the hiring manager knows they won’t actually find some who has all of these qualities but it sure would be nice. At the end of the day, it’s going to be about chemistry. Like responsibilities, pay attention to the first 3 requirements, as they are the most telling about what they want in their ideal candidate. The rest are typically “icing on the cake.” If you’re a close fit on the first 3, then go for it.
Take an inventory of your natural talents
When your skills, knowledge, or background aren’t an exact fit for the role, it’s important to know what your natural gifts are so you can determine if they would be major assets in performing the job. Your innate talents are your abilities that come easily and naturally to you, something you can’t be taught. One way to unearth some of them is to take the Strengths Finder 2.0 online assessment (you need to buy the book first so you can get the online code). You may also want to ask people who know you well to describe what they consider your natural talents. Skills and knowledge can be obtained but you can’t learn a gift or talent. By highlighting your talents as much as possible, it will separate you from the herd. Self-aware, confident candidates stand out the most!
Tell a clear story on your resume
Most people take the “kitchen sink” approach to resume writing – they include everything they’ve ever done and hope that a hiring manager or recruiter will see something that’s a match for the open position. WRONG! Your resume should clearly demonstrate what your innate talents are and the skills and knowledge you’ve obtained that you want to apply again in the future. Your resume should be a clear listing of your greatest strengths and the ways in which you made a positive impact. It should NOT include skills you really don’t want to use again or areas in which your work was only mediocre. Will you perform at your highest level in your next position if you’re hired to do things you’re mediocre at? Nope…so don’t put them on your resume.
I want to give you permission to stop underestimating yourself and remind you that you have tremendous gifts, talents, skills, and experience. It’s your job to remember that, help others understand what’s unique and amazing about you, and why you’re worth taking a chance on for a job that you haven’t exactly done before. Once you’ve got that resume locked and loaded, you’re ready to get out there and start networking your way into an interview. You can do this! You’re amazing new job is just around the corner. Believe in yourself.
What do you think of my controversial statement? Leave a comment and share your thoughts. What keeps you from going after the jobs that excite you the most?