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The "almost perfect" job candidate...

Career Exploration The Hiring Process The Local Job Market Success on the Job

Question: I found a lead for a great job. The only problem is that they want a few minor qualifications that I just don’t have. Should I apply anyway? Answer: It depends. (You’ll find this is the answer to most job search questions, by the way.) First, do you have most of the qualifications? And do you have all the ones listed under “Required”? If so, keep reading. Look at yourself, as it were, from the employer’s point of view. The employer may be concerned that it will require a lot of time and effort to train you before you’ll be a fully functioning member of the team. If there is another candidate who already has all the qualifications, you can understand why the employer would prefer him over you. He needs help now; in fact, he has probably needed that help for some time already. You’ll have to demonstrate that you can do the essential functions of the job. Talk about your transferable skills. What problems have you solved that are similar to the ones this company is working on? (Be sure to do your research so you know their problems.) Don’t be humble about your accomplishments. Have you done something similar as a volunteer? That counts too. Demonstrate to the interviewer that you are a quick learner. Tell a story about a similar task you performed, a related success from your past. Explain why this success makes you the best candidate; he may not make the connection on his own. Don’t just say it; prove it. If you’re close to having at least the basic requirements (e.g., they ask for three years of experience, and you have two), it may be worth your trouble to apply. Or if you have more experience than they require in one area, but you’re a little short in another, it’s probably worth a try. Focus on your accomplishments: how you saved time and/or money for a previous employer, your best relevant skills, how you make a difference in the world. (And you do!) You might want to address any discrepancies in your cover letter. You could remind them that they can train you in the way they find most beneficial; you don’t have as much to un-learn as someone with a different background. Be sure to emphasize all the reasons you are right for the job. Show the reasons you like them, and the reasons they’ll like you. Emphasize the strengths you possess that are relevant to the work they want done. Don’t lie, but do stress all the good things you bring to the table. If you are absolutely sure that you could succeed in this job, given the chance, you could offer them a free trial. Say you’ll work on a temporary basis, or even for free for a few days, to prove yourself. If all goes well, they’ll hire you. But even if it doesn’t, you come away with tremendous benefits: some experience in your field, detailed knowledge about a new company, and lots of networking contacts who will be able to comment on your work.