Find Your Dream Job, Episode 342:
Should You Apply if You’re Not the Perfect Candidate? with Jonaed Iqbal
Airdate: April 6, 2022
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You see a job posting that interests you. But you only have some of the qualifications.
Should you send in a resume?
Jonaed Iqbal is here to talk about when you should apply for the job if you’re not the perfect candidate.
He’s the founder of NoDegree.com. It’s a career website for those without college degrees.
Jonaed also hosts the terrific show, The NoDegree Podcast.
He joins us from Queens in New York City.
Well, let’s jump right into Jonaed. Is there such a person as the perfect candidate for a job?
The perfect candidate doesn’t exist, and I think companies need to stop chasing perfect candidates. And also, people need to stop thinking about the fact they need to be perfect to get a job. Because theoretically, if you were the perfect candidate, you’d get bored on the job really quick, and you’d leave soon. So my philosophy is, and I know a lot of recruiters, aim for seventy to eighty percent of meeting the job requirement. Now, a lot of jobs will have basic requirements like minimum, and they’ll have preferred; make sure you meet the minimum requirement before you apply.
And I’ve seen way too many people who can do the job who eliminate themselves because they look at the requirement. So I would say, make sure you thoroughly look at the job description, look at the job posting, and make sure is this a job I can do? Or is this a job that I can do if I put in extra months? Because every job is a little different, every company is a little different, and use that to your advantage. Realize that you’re gonna learn on the job, so don’t eliminate yourself because you don’t meet a hundred percent of the requirements because I’m telling you, even the person doing that job right now probably doesn’t meet all those requirements.
Why do employers include preferred requirements? Why don’t they just stick to the minimum? And wouldn’t that be easier, both for the hiring manager and the candidate, to just only focus on required qualifications?
One issue is that sometimes companies purposefully put more requirements, so they get less applications. So even if they’re okay with the minimum, they kind of just ask for more because that’s the difference of getting five hundred applications versus two hundred, and it’s so much easier to filter.
The other thing is the person who posts the job may not be the one doing the job, so there’s a lot of miscommunication, misalignment. Sometimes, they take the job posting from the last job or a different department, and as you and I both know that different departments, even within organizations, can have various levels of work. I would say apply. Just make sure that you have the minimum qualifications. But don’t let that stop you because job postings are -a lot of times, they’re not always accurate either.
Why would an employer put out an inaccurate job posting, Jonaed?
There’s a lot of miscommunication when it comes to HR. Sometimes, that person posting the job is not the actual hiring manager, and I’ve seen it time and time again where it’s almost like, we don’t require that for the job. And organizations are very complex, so it goes into there’s just so many moving pieces.
Companies are getting better, but it’s just again when someone’s hiring, there’s usually so much going on, and coming up with a job description takes time. Right? There’s a lot of things that go into it, so oftentimes, they’ll just slap something together and put it together, and sometimes it’s the recruiter putting the job posting, and they may not be familiar with the role, and they may only have surface-level knowledge. That’s another big issue too.
Are there any clues that you see when you look at job postings that indicate maybe a lot of different hands have touched a posting? And what should you do when you see an advertisement like that? Should you stay away, or should you analyze it and think about whether or not to make an application?
When you see that it’s ridiculously long, and I’m talking about these are job postings that are like essays, and it’s like there’s no way that you’re gonna possibly be doing all that, that’s sometimes when a lot of people have touched it. Also, a lot of times when the language is just way too professional, or it’s way too generic, you know a lot of people have touched it.
I would not let that stop anyone from applying to the job. I would recommend looking at something like GlassDoor, talking to people who have had that role, and having informational interviews to get an idea. I would not let it stop you from applying. I would make sure that if you do happen to get the interview that, you ask them a lot of questions so that you know what you’re getting into, and that way, you’ll get an accurate assessment of what the job really requires.
Okay, so to summarize, if there are minimum qualifications, you need to have them, don’t apply for the job if you don’t. Is that correct?
In most cases, as you know, in job searching, it depends because sometimes even the minimum qualifications may not be accurate, but that’s a very good guideline to look at. If they say, hey, must have job descript knowledge, you must have that. But sometimes, if they say must have five years of job descript knowledge, and you have three, that’s okay. So again, make sure you meet seventy to eighty percent and make sure you can do the job.
Like if you don’t know the job descript and its job descript developer, don’t apply for that job. But maybe it says like, hey, you must have experience presenting in front of large groups of fifty plus, and maybe in the past you presented to thirty plus, don’t let that stop you from applying. So you kind of have to figure out, can I do this? It may be tough, but can I at least adjust to it within the first few months?
And just to clarify, when you talk about having seventy to eighty percent of the qualifications, you meet the minimum qualifications, but you’re now looking at a section called preferred qualifications; that’s where the seventy to eighty percent ratio comes in. Is that it?
It all depends how they write it because different people write job descriptions different ways, and that’s why it’s like this is a very hard question to answer. Because some people, their minimum is truly the minimum, whereas some people’s minimum is still they’re pushing for a little more. So I would kind of look at the minimum and read the job description and look at the role and make an educated guess, but I would do a seventy percent of the minimum, not preferred, because seventy percent of the preferred would most likely be the minimum.
And what about the college degree, if it’s required? Is that a dealbreaker for most employers? Should you not apply if you don’t have either an associate’s or a bachelor’s degree?
No, I would not say – you should not eliminate yourself. Let them eliminate yourself because you just don’t know. I’ve worked with many clients who have not had college degrees, and they applied for roles, and despite not having the degrees, they’ve gotten the jobs. Sometimes it’s an HR requirement, and this is something I learned from someone in HR.
Some of these jobs, if they have people within the company who are international people, who are on Visas, they cannot publicly remove the requirement because it would threaten the Visas of everyone in the organization because now the job minimum requirements have changed, so it would cause issues. So it can be a front-facing thing, but it may not be something that they actually care about when someone applies. Think again, always think back, can I do the job? Are they open to it?
Now, certain jobs, certain industries, you can’t get away with it, but if you think about sales, marketing, technology, there are other ways to prove your competencies, so I would not stop myself from applying if I didn’t meet all the requirements and not have a degree. And here’s the thing apply; if you get rejected, it’s okay. You’re in the same place you were before.
Well, let’s talk about what you should do next. You’ve looked at the posting, you’ve decided you’re gonna move ahead and submit an application, and again, you don’t have a hundred percent of the qualifications. What’s your best advice, Jonaed, about how you should talk about the qualifications that you do have both in your application materials and in your interview?
So one thing I would tell people is, focus on what you do have, just like you said. Oftentimes people think of like, hey, what does this other person have? Or I don’t meet all the requirements. And what happens is psychologically; it takes away power from you.
At the end of the day, you can’t focus on what you don’t have because the universe of what you don’t have is always bigger than what you actually have. Focus on what you do bring to the table, focus on how that adds value, focus on your attitude, focus on how you work well with a team because these are just as important. A lot of people don’t have an issue hiring when someone’s not perfectly qualified but who has a good attitude because they know they can train and coach them and get them up to speed, versus having someone who is perfect but they don’t listen, and they have a big ego.
Again, think about what you bring to the table, make sure you have your stories, make sure you’re very sharp in the interview because I’ve seen very qualified people miss out on people who have less experience because the person with less experience was just more prepared, they were more personable, they researched the company a little more, and that’s what set them apart.
We’ve been talking about professional qualifications, experience, academic training. What about experience that you get outside the workplace, particularly volunteer experience? How important is that to employers? And how do you recommend to your clients how they might present that?
I think that’s extremely important, and it adds a completely different dimension. I typically put it on the resume as a category called leadership experience and activities; show the title that you had and treat it like a job. Like, did you raise money? Did you work on projects? Did you gain more members? Did you organize events? These are all things that are helpful to the workforce. Right? These are project management, these are project coordination, these are communication, and oftentimes, volunteer positions are a great way to gain leadership skills that you are normally not able to gain in the workplace.
So, management. Right? You see, a lot of positions require, hey, X years of managing. Maybe you can manage someone in a volunteer role. Right? You can mentor people; you can coach people. So these are phenomenal ways to set yourself apart, and again, you should show initiative and leadership, and this is a different dimension. And the beauty is you’re talking about something you do on your free time. You show enthusiasm, so people realize that, hey, you don’t only put in time at work, you also put time into yourself so that you become a better employee.
Well, this is terrific. Jonaed, we’re gonna take a quick break. When we come back, Jonaed Iqbal will continue to share his advice on when you should apply for a job if you’re not the perfect candidate. So stay with us.
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Now, let’s get back to the show.
We’re back in the Mac’s List studio. I’m talking with Jonaed Iqbal.
He’s the founder of NoDegree.com. It’s a career website for those without college degrees.
Jonaed also hosts the terrific show, “The NoDegree Podcast.”
He joins us from Queens in New York City.
Jonaed, before the break, we were talking about when you should apply for a job if you’re not the perfect candidate, and at the end of the first segment, you were talking about passion. How important is it to highlight your passion when you’re applying for jobs for which maybe you don’t have a hundred percent of the qualifications?
If you don’t have a hundred percent of the qualifications, your passion is what’s gonna set you apart. Now, it’s a little tougher to highlight passion on a resume because – just because you write passionate about this, it doesn’t mean it. Passion is something that you can really highlight during the interview.
And the most important thing is to highlight your passion during your “tell me about yourself.” A lot of people answer this question with a thirty-second pitch, like, hey, I did this, I did this, now I do this, and that’s a boring answer. I tell my people to highlight your passions and your values and answer the question, why. Like, what drives you? And if you talk about, I’m passionate about learning, I’m passionate about problem-solving, I’m passionate about building leaders, and you answer with stories about what drives you, you’re gonna go in, and it’s gonna set the whole interview apart.
Because oftentimes, people are tasked with interviews like, “Hey, Mac, you have an interview at two pm.” And you’re like, “Oh, I’ve got to fit this interview in before my meeting” and this and that, and it’s sort of like something in the middle of your day. Right? Most people are just like, ah, I gotta do another interview. I gotta go do this. Now you’ve changed the interview dynamic from a regular interview to a conversation, a two-way. Now it’s like they know who you are as a person, and they realize like your passions and your values that drive you, and they know that they’re gonna deal with this person.
Now, the other thing is when people talk about their passions, other people listen and light up, and it energizes the room. So I really encourage people to highlight their passions and to really think about like what drives them and apply to those jobs that they can utilize their passion because that’s how they set themselves apart.
You mentioned sharing stories that highlight your passion. What’s the most effective way to share those stories? What do you recommend to the people you work with?
Whenever you’re sharing a story, I would always recommend you write it down first. Especially a story that you expect to say during an interview because oftentimes, the first time you tell a story, it comes out a little different. Especially for an interview setting, it may not come out the way you want. So I highly encourage people to write it down because when you write things down, you’re not gonna say, oh, I totally forgot about this, or then this happened, but wait, I totally forgot this. When you write it down, that’s not gonna happen. It’s gonna be a little more organic.
I tell people not to memorize the words but to understand the structure, and then when you share the stories, kind of talk about – let the passion flow through you. Be authentic. How would you talk to a friend? Just utilize that. Pretend they’re a coworker. How would you share the story? And that’s how you approach the answer.
I think a lot of people get too structured and way too formal, and that sometimes hurts them during an interview.
What other mistakes do you see candidates make when they’re talking about their passion, and they’ve applied for a job for which they might not have all of the qualifications? What mistakes do you counsel the people you work with to avoid?
I think self-doubt really hurts a lot of people because they kind of think like in the back of their head like, I hope that I can get this. Just realize that if they call you for an interview, they see something in you and that you belong there, that you’re perfectly qualified because there are very few people who call back someone for an interview who’s not qualified because it’s a waste of everyone’s time. Why would I interview someone who has no shot at the job?
So just realize that if you’re in there, your goal is to really highlight that passion. Realize that you belong there and that you deserve the job. Act like it, you know, but be humble. But the right balance of humble and realizing that you belong there. So it’s finding that right balance, and that’ll set you apart.
What other tips do you have for turning an interview into a two-way conversation between the candidate and the manager? I mean, you mentioned talking about your passion, recognizing that you are indeed qualified because you’ve been invited into the room. What other ideas do you have?
Ask good questions. I think a lot of people forget that asking good questions can change the total dynamic of the interview and realize that you don’t always have to ask questions at the end. If you’re asked a question, you can follow up.
The other thing I’m gonna tell you is when you start the interview, ask them about what are you looking forward to over the weekend? Or, if it’s earlier in the week, what was the highlight of your weekend? And oftentimes, you get a different side of them, and they end up talking about something that they like, and you get a feel for them. Treat them, talk to them like they are a coworker, and that’s something that a lot of people don’t do, but it just changes the tone of the interview.
It also builds rapport, doesn’t it, Jonaed, when you start a conversation like that? Doesn’t it?
It does, and another thing I would add is, ask them questions about themselves. What were their favorite projects that they worked on? What was the best advice that they received? Who’s their favorite coworker? Who’s their best manager? What was something that they did?
Because now you have someone talking about themselves and talking about a highlight about themselves, and that’ll make them feel good, and you’re in the room with them so it’ll associate those good feelings with you, and you get a lot of good insight.
When you’re working with people who may think that because they don’t have all the qualifications for a job that, it’s not worth applying for – we talked about talking about your volunteer experience, tapping into your passion. What other strategies do you encourage people you help to consider when they’re looking at that job posting and getting ready for that interview, and they think, ah, there’s somebody who’s got a fancy degree or lots more experience than I do?
I’ll just tell them, who cares. But honestly, podcasts. I would say listen to podcasts. Like podcasts like yours and podcasts about people who are in that profession, so that way, you get a realistic idea of what people do day-to-day, and then you realize like, hey, I can do this.
The other thing is talk to other people in the field, talk to people who have that job. Oftentimes, a lot of people are not good judges of themselves, so you talk to someone who’s in the field and talk to several people, and if they say, hey, look, here’s what you have, here’s what you don’t have, you get a better assessment of where you belong.
So try to get an accurate person that you trust to kind of talk about it with you. Because I’ve seen so many people eliminate themselves, and I tell people, you focus on someone more skilled than you with the fancier degree; there’s probably someone less skilled than you with less qualifications who’s doing what you do because, again, they weren’t afraid to take the chance.
How do you recommend approaching someone like that? You identify a person who’s got the job you want or knows the field that you want to break into. What’s the best way to make that ask?
First, start with your network. If you know someone in your network and you can kind of get an intro, ask them. Be like, hey, I understand you’re really busy, this is a job I want to do in the future, and I’m currently applying. Do you mind hopping on an intro call with me for fifteen to twenty minutes? I’d really appreciate any insight you can give me. Do that. Some people will say yes. Some people will say no; if you have to, offer them a ten-dollar Starbucks gift card. I guarantee you that you’ll get way more than ten dollars worth of value.
You can even reach out to people on LinkedIn who have the ideal title of where you want to work. If they went to the same university, use that as a selling point. Make sure you do a little research on them, look at their profile and send a nice message, and just be thankful and appreciative of them.
But talking to these people, especially with the internet today, there’s so many different ways to get them. The other thing is joining online communities of that profession. There are a lot of online sales communities. There are online marketing communities. There are slack groups. There are discord. Joining these communities will really help you get intros to these people.
We’ve talked about how you should highlight your strengths, your passions, do your homework before you walk into the room, reach out to people who can give you insights into what a job requires, what matters in the field. Should you ever, in the interview, acknowledge, Jonaed, that you don’t have qualifications or experience? Or should you always focus on your strengths?
I think it’s always good to be honest if it comes up, and if they say, hey, you know, what don’t you have? What’s the weakness? Then say, hey, I’ve never managed a project with a ten million dollar budget, and for certain, a lot of roles, that’s okay because you’re not gonna manage budgets that large. But just be appreciative and just realize that, hey, if I realize that I don’t add this to the table, but here’s how I can correct it. Here’s what I’m gonna do. Here’s the books that I’m gonna read. Here are the people that I’m gonna talk to, and this is how I’m going to lean on to other people for support.
So show that even though you don’t have that experience, you may have that as a weakness, you have a way to cover that weakness, and that you have a way to make it up, and that you have a plan going forward. That will show that, hey, this person has really thought themselves through. They know what they’re good at, they know what they’re not good at, but they know how to add the most value to our organization.
Well, it’s been a terrific conversation, Jonaed. Now, tell us what’s next for you?
Just check out the NoDegree Podcast, you know. I have a lot of guests. I have a lot of people. Again, these are the people who have struggled, who have had issues, and who share their stories, and I think a lot of your listeners could kind of gain some insight from my guests.
It’s a wonderful show, and I have enjoyed a number of episodes. I do hope our listeners will check it out. I know people can also connect with you on LinkedIn, and again, that’s Jonaed Iqbal.
Jonaed, given all the useful tips you’ve shared today, what’s the one thing you want a listener to remember about when you should apply for the job if you’re not the perfect candidate?
Again, the seventy to eighty percent, and don’t reject yourself. I’ve seen way too many people reject themselves for jobs that they could’ve gotten just because they weren’t the perfect candidate.
Again, companies don’t always hire and oftentimes don’t hire the perfect candidate. Because think about it, let’s say there are perfect candidates out there. They can only have one job at a time. So there are enough jobs left for us imperfect candidates and just realize that. Don’t worry about perfection focus on the fact that you can get the job done, have that learning attitude, and have that learning mindset, and show that you can add the value to the organization.
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Next week, our guest will be Bob Gerst. He’s a human resources executive and career coach who helps job changers find jobs quicker.
Bob also hosts the podcast “People in Transition.”
Do you hate networking? You’re not alone.
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