When are you really underqualified for a job?

April 7, 2010 at 2:30 am Leave a comment

When you’re just starting out or making a career transition, you may come to dread reading job descriptions. Often, they sound so specific and technical that you wonder if anyone is qualified to perform that job! And you may be right — often HR folks or hiring managers pile qualification upon qualification into a description in an attempt to “weed out” those who really aren’t interested, recognizing that no one candidate likely will have all those skills.

So how can you tell if you are truly underqualified for a job, or when you should give it a shot — even if it’s somewhat of a long shot? This is the flip side of the issue of being viewed as overqualified for a position (See Feb. 22 post, “The curse of being overqualified”) where hiring managers worry that you’ll be too expensive and leave this position as soon as “something better” comes up. The underqualified label is often given to recent graduates or those making career shifts, and is code for employers worried about having to provide too much training or that they’ll put some effort into helping them and the employee may decide they want to do another kind of work — essentially, they are unproven in this kind of job.

Yet there are ways to combat the “underqualified” stigma and even ways to turn this perception on its head in a hiring situation. Here are some tips:

*Sell your strengths. Even if you’re worried that you may not have all of the attributes being desired, if you have several, play those up. For recent graduates,  flexibility, willingness to embrace change in the workplace and society, penchant for innovation, ease with multimedia and technology (though don’t overplay this card, especially with a much older hiring manager) and frankly, a relatively low salary expectation and ability to start right away (as you don’t have to give a former employer notice) can erase some worries about your lack of experience and depth of knowledge in a particular field. For mid-career professionals seeking to make a career transition, explain how you developed some of the skills being sought for this position in your previous jobs — even if you handled them in a different way. Be specific, as always, you want the hiring manager to be able to “see” you in this new role. Get your references to amplify these specific points.

*Seek out positions that you really think, with some “basic training,” you could perform well. When just starting out or transitioning, it’s not the time for big reaches. Inventory your talents, skills and workplace strengths and then go after a job that you believe would be a good fit for these attributes. Use the interview process (and this is where informational interviews are especially helpful) to let those in a position to hire know of your capabilities, both broadly and specifically. Be willing — and even suggest it if they don’t — to take hiring tests, go through a tryout or take on a free-lance or temporary assignment to show them what you’ve got.

*Don’t obsess over the job description. As noted above, often these are so detailed and rigorous that even people who have been in the job for years may not have all the qualifications! If you see a description for a job that you think you could do and you’d like, go through the regular networking steps to try to get your resume on the hiring manager’s desk and your foot in the door. Think broadly about what you can do and maybe they will as well. Though be honest about where you lack skills but let them know why you think you’d still be successful in this position.

*Look to the future. If given the sense the hiring manager believes you don’t have the necessary qualifications for a position, ask them what you can do to BECOME qualified. Ask, if they were in your shoes, what type of experience they would get or skills they would develop to be ready the next time this opening comes up. Try to get them to be specific. And then do those things and stay in touch with this hiring manager. They’ll likely be impressed you took their advice and also that you really seem to want this job to go to all this trouble. You may well get the position the next time.

*Some good news on the hiring front, from actual economists, via marketwatch.com:

Job gains exceed losses for second time in two years

More people got a job in February than left one for just the second month since the recession began more than two years ago, according to detailed data on gross job flows released Tuesday by the Labor Department.
See Economic Report.

*And here’s a variety of leads to consider or pass along to others:

*The Corporate Executive Board in Arlington has an opening for a writer-editor:

Director, Business Writer/Editor
Corporate Executive Board – Arlington, VA
CEB brand. The Writer/Editor will work on a variety… communications writing. Collaborate with Learning & Development to adapt the marketing communications
From Corporate Executive Board

*TARGUSInfo in Vienna, Va., is looking for a marketing communications director:
Marketing Communications Director – Vienna, VA
TARGUSinfo – Vienna, VA
Communications Director March 2, 2010 Location: Vienna, VA  Description The Marketing Communications… overall marketing communications department budget…
From TARGUSinfo

*The Aspen Institute in D.C. has an opening for a director of development operations:

Director of Development Operations
The Aspen Institute – Washington, DC
curricula. Coordinates and works with the Communications Department on e-mail blasts for the entire… Development and Communications team, senior staff;…
From The Aspen Institute

*With a hat tip to journalismjobs.com (for these next several leads), the Connecticut News Project is looking for a D.C.-based reporter:

Company: Connecticut News Project
Washington reporter
Washington, District of Columbia
Job Status: Not Specified
Salary: Not Specified
Ad Expires:
May 10, 2010
Job ID: 1161478
Website: http://www.ctmirror.org

The Connecticut News Project, a non-profit online news organization covering government, politics and public policy affecting the state and its residents, is looking for a reporter based in Washington, DC to cover Connecticut’s Congressional delegation and key issues including health and health care reform; human services; education; the environment and land use; and energy and transportation. Applicants should have at least five years experience as a reporter, including three years in Washington, with a demonstrated ability to develop sources, find stories and write a mix of enterprise and breaking news stories. A background of writing for a metro daily or news service is preferred. Good writing skills and the ability to present information clearly and accurately are critical. Experience with on-line journalism is a plus. Send resume and clips to jobs@ctmirror.org; please put “Washington” in the subject line.

*Thomson Reuters has an opening for an associate economist/journalist in its D.C. office:

Company: Thomson Reuters
Washington, District of Columbia
Job Status: Not Specified
Salary: Not Specified
Ad Expires:
May 6, 2010
Job ID: 1142726

NEW00001117 — Associate Economist/Journalist

Thomson Reuters International IFR markets, a provider of real-time market commentary and analysis of fixed income, foreign exchange and related markets is looking for an Associate Economist for immediate posting to our Washington,DC office. The ideal candidate will have two or more years of economic analysis experience in a financial markets setting. The primary responsibility of this position is to deliver compelling economic commentary and analysis on an intra-day basis in a fast-paced market environment. Input economic data into algorithm database. Provide economic commentary for Sales & Trading market-based clients. Strong verbal communication and writing skills are essential. A successful candidate would have understanding of Federal Reserve monetary policy and Treasury debt borrowing functions.

Proficiency in MS Word, MS Excel Background in economics / finance preferred Familiarity with bond math a plus Some knowledge of the Treasury and financial markets preferred though not essential Excellent written and oral communication skills BS or BA in Economics with 2 to 4 years experience.

Please apply online at: https://toc.taleo.net/careersection/2/jobdetail.ftl? lang=en&job=NEW00001117

*And to wrap up today’s leads, The Hill newspaper in D.C. has several reporting and editing openings, including the following:

Company: The Hill newspaper
Experienced writer/editor
Washington, District of Columbia
Job Status: Full-time
Salary: Negotiable
Ad Expires:
May 4, 2010
Job ID: 1160229
Website: http://www.thehill.com

The Hill wishes to hire an experienced writer/editor to contribute to its coverage of the politics of financial and economic issues. Applicants should have done at least five years of full-time newsroom experience, including both editing and reporting. Preferably, some of their work will have been on Capitol Hill, but they should certainly have a thorough knowledge of the way Congress and its committee’s work. The ability to write accurate, fast-paced, interesting copy on a tight deadline is essential. So is the ability to take raw copy from others and shape it and polish it quickly for publication.

Please send a resume, writing samples and cover letter to the editor in chief or managing editor at The Hill, 1625 K Street, NW, Suite 900, Washington DC 20006. No phone calls please.

Happy hunting!



Entry filed under: Uncategorized.

Signs that a company is worth joining What to do when an interviewer won’t shut up

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