Think about how many times you’ve seen a job opportunity that you know you could absolutely rock; yet that voice in your head is saying, “If only I had an MBA, a few more years of experience, and knowledge of that industry…THEN, I’d definitely have a chance.”
It was a study conducted by Hewlett Packard, in an effort to figure out how to get more women into top leadership positions. They found that women applied for a promotion only when they believed they met 100% of the qualifications listed for the job. Men on the other hand, applied when they had just 60% of the qualifications. Since then, study after study has confirmed that underqualified men don’t think twice about putting a hat in the ring, whereas overqualified women still hold back.
So, should you stand still, or just go for it?
You should go for it!
I challenge you to incorporate these road tested tips, and throw your hat in the ring.
1. Be a Detective
Once you apply through the online portal, where your application goes into this deep black hole, it’s critical to follow up with a real person. Typically, a job description will have a phrase that says something like, “This position reports to the Chief Marketing Officer.” If it doesn’t, dig a little deeper and try to figure out what the organizational chart looks like by searching the website and/or Linkedin.
If you can’t find the person who the position reports to, do your best to identify someone in the organization who may have a stake in the hiring process. Find connections that may be able to introduce you to someone in the company – any “in” you can get is important to explore.
Once you find an “in,” reach out…no epic emails, just simply reiterate your interest and share enough about your experience to peak their curiosity.
2. Craft a Parallel Experience Sheet
While you may not have direct experience, so many skills are transferable across industries. Pull out the most important bullet points in the job description, and counter them with your related experience. Format it in a professional way, and describe its purpose at the top.
For example, you could use a statement like this:
Purpose: To highlight the parallels between the responsibilities necessary to be successful in the Director of Business Development position at Citigroup, and my experience as Director of Brand Marketing at The Hilton.
This is a great addition to your resume, and lets the hiring manager know that you are invested in the position, and truly do have transferable skills.
3. Compile Irresistible Testimonials
Letters of recommendation and references are both useful to some extent, but when you get down to it, letters take too long to read and the name and phone number of a reference does little good if the hiring manager doesn’t call him/her. The solution? Ask clients, former colleagues and supervisors to write a testimonial of your work – keep it to two to four sentences. Include the testimonial, along with the person’s job title and contact information. If you already have strong recommendations on your Linkedin profile, that’s a great place to start. Compile them in a professional way, and include the document along with your parallel experience sheet, cover letter and resume.
4. Request an Informational Interview
Sometimes there’s not a visible opportunity, but instead, a company that is doing interesting work, where you think you may be a good fit. First, see if anyone in your network has a connection in the company. If they do, reach out to your contact and explain why you are interested in learning more about the company and ask if he/she is comfortable making an introduction.
When your contact offers to make the introduction, keep in mind his/her reputation is also on the line, so you want to be prepared. Make your contact look like a rock star for introducing you to the company. For example, highlight a recent transaction or project the company worked on which you’re interested in. This makes it obvious that you are invested in the company and you’ve spent time researching on your own.
If you don’t have a connection with the company, use the same strategy — ask specific questions and highlight your background, but be careful to keep it brief. Decide whether requesting a phone call or meeting is appropriate.
5. Get Ready for your First Six Months
Once you get the interview, go in with ideas and solutions, as if you are already hired. Be careful to preface your solutions with qualifiers like, “have you considered” because remember, you don’t have a lay of the land yet. Before your interview, listen to podcasts, read industry news and know the buzz words…speak their language. Watching interviews online with industry experts is a great way to learn the jargon and research the field.
6. Share Compelling Stories
We’ve all had times in our career where we completely knocked it out of the park, and it’s important to be able to articulate these stories. Before the interview, identify a few key “wins”, and practice sharing those. Think about how you will insert your stories into the questions they may ask.
Ready to shift the way you look at new career opportunities? Instead of thinking about all of the reasons why you aren’t qualified, focus on your own competitive advantage and just act. Each time you take the leap, it’ll get easier. At the risk of sounding cliché, you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take, so take a shot at the “long shot” job — I bet you’ll be surprised at what happens next.