Friday, February 15, 2013

Required vs Preferred - Getting beyond the job description

I’m a little late this week but really excited to write this post as it’s a request from an old friend but also a REALLY great topic that I think people really struggle with during a job search.

The topic is how do you navigate around having all of the “required” skills an employer looks for versus stressing the skills you do have that are “preferred”.  Figuring out how to do this is the difference between getting a job...and not.  With that, here are a few ways to show off your skills to a potential employer and navigating your way through what they require or prefer.

1)  Customize your resume for the job - Right?  Honestly, why send the same resume to a hundred jobs and see what sticks.  Bad idea jeans (anyone get that reference?).  If you see a job and it looks really cool, write a customized resume that speaks to the description and greatly increases the odds you’ll get an interview.

2) Get the interview, no matter what - Here’s the deal.  Employers get hundreds (even thoughts) of resumes for most roles.  Thinking you’ll apply and magically get an interview? Probably won’t happen.  So, what you need to do is get the interview at all costs.   Find a referral?  Meet someone at a career fair?  Use LinkedIn for a connection?  Do an informational interview?  Whatever, you need to talk to someone, anyone who can help.  Getting yourself to be more than a piece of paper will allow you to get the interview and then answer person.  FTW!

3)  Focus on your skills - Ok, so you've customized your resume and have the interview.  Perfect. Now, when you get asked a question where the answer immediately seems like “no”... you've got to find a way to focus on what you've done and how it relates to the job.  Let me show you and example:

Question - “Jeff, give me an example of when you built a car and how it worked.”
Answer 1 - “Um.....I can’t even change my oil”

Not’s a better try

Answer 2 - “Well, although I've never built a car.  Last summer I did fix my lawn mower engine.  We had an issue with the fuel line and my neighbor and I took it apart and fixed the line.  I think with this experience I’ll be able to pretty quickly come up to speed on fixing cars”

Better right?  Clearly, the goal here is simple. Rather than just seize up and give a one word answer.  You want to take a deep breath and give an answer that shows you've got the core skills that the company is looking for even if you don’t have everything that’s “preferred” or “required” on the job description.

Happy hunting out there this week, ping me if you need any advice and I’ll get back ASAP