The Kardashians get a lot of flak for being famous for, well, being famous. Critics say they don’t have any real skills, and yet they have built an empire upon reality TV shows, clothing lines, beauty products, novels, socks, apps…the list goes on and on. They, may not have the exact qualifications to run these businesses, but they used their other talents (taking selfies is a skill, right?) to help them be massively successful.
Yes, there is a lesson in this. It’s that even if on paper your education and background don’t exactly match up with qualifications for your dream job, that doesn’t mean you’re out of the running. You can still be a top contender if you just know how to sell the skills you do have to prove why you’re the right person for the job. Here’s how:
Do your research
Employers want to hire people who show that they are interested in the company, not just the job, so make sure you’re well-versed on the company’s history and headlines.
“One area that job seekers overlook is preparation and research on the company,” says Beth Hendler-Grunt, president of Next Great Step, who advises college students and recent graduates on how to achieve career success. “Being extremely prepared on the company, its competition and the key issues the business faces can set a candidate apart from the rest. Showing your understanding [of] the business challenges and where they have exceled reinforces your knowledge and research skills to understand their priorities.” Mention something you learned about the company in your cover letter, and tie it back to your own values, goals or background.
Get others to advocate for you
Roy Cohen, career coach and author of “The Wall Street Professional’s Survival Guide,” suggests finding influential people in your network to recommend you for the job, which can help diminish any skepticism the interviewer has about your credentials and ability to do the job. “These are people who may have a connection to the company or the interviewer or who have stature and credibility in the industry. If they endorse your ability to take on challenging assignments, you are in a better position to be taken seriously as a candidate.”
Focus on your transferable skills
“Often, you have the skills needed; it’s just termed something different from your previous employment,” says Sara Collins, director of communications for Charlotte Works, the workforce development board for Charlotte and Mecklenburg County in Charlotte, N.C. “Try not to focus on any perceived deficits – such as lack of a skill or certification – but rather focus on your strengths and ability to quickly learn and adapt to new and changing responsibilities.”
For instance, if you work in public relations, but want a job in sales, speak to how you use sales skills to sell reporters on writing about your company or your client’s company.
Know your value
“A candidate brings a set of skills and benefits that have real value to a company,” Hendler-Grunt says. “The ability to quantify your value and show how you can solve ‘their’ problems is key. The goal is to have the benefit you bring outweigh the cost or risk to hire you.” She gives this example: “‘I see that you are looking to increase revenues with new sales people. Based on my background of proven sales and understanding your business priorities, I can increase the number of new customers by 5 percent and therefore bring $20,000 of new revenue to the business each month.'” While you can’t outright prove this in an interview, it does show that you’re thinking like the employer, which sets you apart from other candidates.
Be prepared in the interview
If you get an interview, this is your chance to show that while you may not be an exact fit on paper, you are a fit in person. That means coming prepared with answers to questions about why you are the right person for the job, even without the right experience. “When you anticipate the inevitable ‘why’ questions, then the interviewer will focus less on discovery and more on your commitment and qualifications,” Cohen says. “These are the questions that typically look to rule you out – like proving that you are missing important experience. When you frame your response in advance you are more likely to create a richer, more thoughtful, and convincing explanation.”
Unsure about how to explain gaps in employment? Check out this video on addressing resume gaps.