I was speaking with someone who’s getting ready to send out a small flurry of cover letters and resumes in response to job descriptions she found on a company website. She’s very interested in this particular company, so she was thrilled to see so many openings in her field just as she’s looking to make a career change.
Now this is a talented, personable woman just oozing with people skills. And she has tons of relevant experience. And she was truly excited to find so many possible jobs to apply for. But, as she stares at the job descriptions basically trying to do a mind-meld with each and every word, she realizes just how many of the specific skills listed she doesn’t have…and starts to question whether she should even apply for these jobs.
And there we have it. Sixty to zero in no seconds flat. Any confidence she felt has been flattened by that old demon self-doubt. And while she’s absolutely right to carefully check job descriptions and see whether she’s a good candidate, she’s missing a very important point for any job seeker:
Not all words of a job description have equal weight.
I’ve helped prepare job descriptions. And while we try our best to include skills we’d like to have, we don’t really expect to find every single thing we list. More importantly, we sometimes found candidates that had skills we hadn’t even thought of that were totally in sync with what we really needed for the job.
But of course there are some basic skills that the job description and title will help clue you into – and if you have those and can show some real added strengths you bring to the job (targeted resumes and cover letters are great for this), then you have a good chance of getting to show them your stuff in person. And that’s where the less-critical details of the description can melt away, especially if they get a good feeling that you would fit in well and add something special to the company.
As long as you have a good deal of the skills they’re looking for (remember your transferable skills) and can show an aptitude for picking up new skills quickly, your strengths and personality can override a good number of those pesky details. The more they get a sense of the real you and what you can bring to their company, the better your chances are.
And that’s where you should focus when sending out your applications.