Impress an Interviewer When You Don’t Have All the Qualifications
If a job hunt uncovers an appealing position, but you’re unable to meet all the requirements, don’t think that you’ve necessarily hit a dead end. Oftentimes, the requirements in a job description are more of a wish list than a litany of must-haves.
If the requirements are just out of reach and you can make a compelling case that you have transferable experience, go ahead and apply. Know, however, that you’ll need to be especially strategic to land an interview, and then to impress your interviewer.
Make a Case for Landing the Interview
If you’re on the job hunt but finding that all the appealing positions list specific requirements you can’t meet, don’t think that you’ve necessarily hit a dead end. Hiring managers understand that they will rarely find candidates that meet every qualification.
Of course, in some cases the reach may be too great. You can’t attract notice if the skill gap is too wide — for instance if you lack necessary technical training. But if the requirements are just out of reach and you can make a compelling case that you have transferable experience, go ahead and apply.
How to Impress an Interviewer
Know, however, that you will need to be especially strategic to land an interview, and then to impress your interviewer. Here’s how to prepare:
1. Do the extra legwork
For starters, you will need to research what, exactly, the position calls for on a day-to-day basis. Engage your network to find someone in similar role — or even someone on the inside who could recommend you — and arrange an informational interview. If you’re unable to find someone to talk to, look online at industry blogs and ask for advice via chat features.
2. Align your online presence
Curate your LinkedIn profile to reflect your new direction, tailoring it to the role that you’re after. Include key words that are relevant to the position and industry you’re pursuing. Add insightful content to your social media sites that goes deeper than the information on your resume — such as commentary on something taking place in your newly chosen field.
3. Retool your cover letter and resume
In your cover letter and resume, make a strong case for how your experience and skills are relevant to the position. For example, if the job description lists five years of experience, but you have just two years, indicate the wealth of knowledge you’ve gained in those two years with a few specific examples.
If your experience comes from another industry, explain how the skills you’ve developed cross over — and even lend themselves to bringing in fresh ideas — and list one or more in your cover letter.
4. Prepare to interview via an online meeting platform
If you end up landing an interview, congratulations! These days, it’s more than likely your interview will take place online. Be sure to master the meeting platform before your interview. To make a good impression, present yourself as well-groomed and well put together (at least from the waist up). Your clothes should be pressed and spot-free. Stay away from busy, distracting patterns.
5. Set Up Your Interview Space
- Be sure to stage your background — and this doesn’t mean a faux background enabled by the video conferencing platform.
- Make it authentic, while ensuring your workspace looks clean and uncluttered. Be sure that you don’t sit in front of a bright window that will shroud you in darkness.
- Place a light in front of your computer if possible. Then practice with a friend to perfect the platform’s features and your lighting.
6. Refine your answers
To make a winning impression, you’ll need to answer each question with poise and passion. Practicing first will really help. Anticipate all possible questions, from the generic “tell me a little about yourself,” to the softball lob “what can you bring to this position.” Prepare several examples that describe your transferable skills.
Refrain from pointing out where your qualifications fall short, but if the interviewer mentions the shortfall, be honest while veering into the professional skills you will bring. For example, if you’re interviewing for an event-planner position, highlight your organizational skills and attention to detail with a short but telling anecdote:
“My senior year in college, I organized a camping trip with five friends who were novice campers. I arranged everything from gear lists to menus to directions to the campsite. I’m known as the ‘uber planner’ in my friend group.”
7. Strive to have a genuine conversation
If you go into an interview with equal measures confidence, curiosity and composure, you’ll get the most out of the back-and-forth exchange. Think of the interview as a chance to get to know more about the organization and how you might fit in.
Your interviewer will steer the conversation by asking most of the questions, but be ready to take the conversational lead when the occasion calls for it. The most successful interviews are those where you feel that you conveyed everything you wanted the employer to know about you, but where you also had a surprisingly interesting (and hopefully, memorable) conversation.
Let the conversation determine how much, how little or in what direction you take your response. Smile often to show an upbeat attitude; and at the end, express appreciation for the interviewer’s time and interest.
7. Stay on the job-hunting campaign until you land the job
Trust your gut. The flavor of the interview will give an indication of whether your interviewer was impressed or underwhelmed with your qualifications and fit for the position. Yet don’t back down until you know definitively if the offer comes to you or that you’ve been turned down.
Be sure to email a heartfelt thank you to the person who granted you the interview. Instead of a generic note, use the opportunity to make a further point or remark on something the interviewer said that you found helpful or insightful. If the days tick by without any word, casually make contact by forwarding an interesting industry news item or even a follow up on a topic you discussed in the interview.
It’s hard, but not impossible, to gain notice if your job history casts you as underqualified. Take the opportunity through the application process to learn more and then, if the first attempt doesn’t work out, build on the experience with the next one.