Find Your Dream Job, Episode 280:
Why You Don’t Need to Meet All the Job Requirements, with Eric B. Horn
Airdate: January 27, 2021
Hi, this is Mac Prichard.
I had a cycling accident recently and broke several bones. While I recover, I need to take a short break from podcasting.
So through March 3, we’re sharing some of our most popular interviews from the last five years.
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This is Find Your Dream Job, the podcast that helps you get hired, have the career you want and make a difference in life.
I’m Mac Prichard. I’m also the founder of Mac’s list. It’s a job board in the Pacific Northwest that helps people find fulfilling careers.
Every week, I interview a career expert about the tools you need to find the work you want.
Our topic for today’s show might surprise you. Our guest says you don’t need every required skill in a job posting to get an interview or an offer.
Here to talk about this is Eric B. Horn. He’s a career strategist who serves professionals with seven or fewer years of experience.
Eric is also the author of the book, How Professional is Your Development and he’s the co-host of the C.A.R.E podcast.
He joins us today from Chicago, Illinois.
Well, Eric, we hear it all the time. If you don’t have the qualifications a job requires, you shouldn’t apply. Why is this bad advice?
Eric B. Horn:
Well, the job description is for a perfect candidate and that perfect candidate doesn’t exist. From a strategic standpoint, the person that is writing the job description, they know that there’s no perfect candidate, but they want to get as close as possible to that perfect candidate.
I tell my clients, you’re looking at a job description, 60 to 70% of what they’re asking for should match the qualifications and your experience that’s on your resume. The other 30, 40% can be delegated to someone else, it can be trained, there are other ways to catch that other 40%. And then also, if you’re in a position of being interviewed, when it comes to the job description, there are other things that you’re going to be rated on; for example, do you have the personality that fits the position? Do you fit the overall culture, or more importantly, are you a fit for the team overall?
So there’s a number of things that can still make you a great candidate and don’t be discouraged when you see the job description, and you don’t meet all the requirements.
You’re not wasting all your time, Eric, when you apply for a job when you don’t have 100% of the qualifications?
Eric B. Horn:
Exactly, this is one of the things that I coach my clients on. Just still consider applying. You know, you never can change the game unless you get in the game so don’t be intimidated by the full-fledge, all the requirements that a job description has and if you don’t have a small portion of them, you still have to have some of the qualifications. For example, if you work in IT, you want to make sure that you have some technical skills and some technical experiences but if you don’t have, maybe it’s 10 things that they’re looking for and you have seven or eight of them, still, apply. And I take a personal note based off of that because when I started to apply for my first jobs, I was very intimidated by the job description and it got to a point where my first boss, who was my mentor told me, “Do you understand the reason why I hired you?” And he said it wasn’t based off of all of the technical skills of what was on the job description.
“I hired you because you were eager. You were hungry, you’re coachable, and other attributes.” And me hearing that was a game-changer because my first job, it took me a year and a half to secure and based off of that, there were a lot of jobs that I didn’t apply for based off of the fact that I did not fill the job description to 100% so I’m telling your readers, still consider applying if you don’t 100% match everything that’s on the job description.
Why do managers ask for skills they don’t need in the end?
Eric B. Horn:
It can be for two reasons. One of the main reasons why my manager put all of those skills is to weed out individuals, and then also, I have to put myself back on the chopping block, you really don’t want anyone working for someone who’s not motivated or not willing to try, right?
So, if you have someone that’s intimidated by the job description to the point where he or she doesn’t even apply, you wouldn’t want them on your team anyway because how you show up, when it comes to the job description and how you present yourself is how you ultimately will be at the actual job. So, my boss, he told me he put all of those qualifications to weed out the individuals that wouldn’t be willing to try. And another reason behind that, my boss, he was a motivator, and he was a coach; not too many bosses in this day and age have that attribute but he knew for a fact that what I didn’t cover, he was able to train me, once he knew I was coachable, so that was one of the two main reasons.
Just to weed out individuals that wouldn’t even put the effort to actually try to apply for the job but then also, what I didn’t meet or didn’t measure up to when it came to the job description, he was able to teach and train me once again, if I was coachable, which I was,
How can you tell when you’re looking at a job posting as an applicant, which qualifications matter most?
Eric B. Horn:
A lot of people say the ones at the very top are the ones that matter the most but don’t believe that. What I tell people to do is, first and foremost, print out the job description, and then print out your resume so they’re side by side. The next step you will want to do is look at the job description in the employer’s shoes.
You want to understand what the employer is asking for, or as a small exercise, every job description line that you read, you always want to ask yourself the question, “Why do they want this?”
That’s the key thing, right? If they were looking for someone who has managerial skills, okay, why would they want someone with managerial skills? Even though it may seem simple and remedial, you want to take yourself through that process because every time that you ask yourself the question, “Why do they want this particular line in the job description?”, you move more and more into the highs of what the company is asking for and that’s the piece that most job seekers don’t consider.
They do not look at the job description from the employers perspective, they always look at it like, “Oh, God, okay, okay, I can do this job, I can do this, oh, I can’t do that.” Shift your thinking, shift your mindset to say, “Okay, this person is asking for X, Y, and Z. Why would they even ask that?” And also as a strategy, once you get to the point where you have some sort of understanding of why they’re asking for…
Well, let’s pause there, Eric, because I want to ask you about why. You’re an applicant, you, you’re asking yourself that question, how do you answer it? Because you can’t pick up the phone and call the employer can you?
Eric B. Horn:
No, you can’t pick up the phone, but you can do a couple of things and this is some of the things that I coach my clients. One, you can do research, just from a 50-foot thousand overview, you want to ask yourself, “Why is company X looking for this position?” And you can sometimes find that information by reading publications; they may want to expand into a new market, they may need to just replace someone that just found a new job, so just doing some basic research.
Okay, you may look at publications, what are other good sources that you send your clients to when they’re doing that research?
Eric B. Horn:
Another piece is they need to look at their overall network and see if someone is actually working for the, for the company and they can get a, dare I say, inside track on why they’re asking for this particular position. Or if they don’t know anyone, maybe they can ask a friend of a friend of a friend, but having someone on the inside that may have a better understanding of why the position is even available and why they’re asking for X, Y, and Z, that will give you a better understanding of transitioning and putting yourself in the employer’s shoes.
Okay, networking conversations, looking at publications, other resources you send your clients to when they’re asking that?
Eric B. Horn:
Actually, Mac, I think it’s just those two pieces. Those are based off of my experience; it’s the research or finding someone for the inside track. Those are the two pieces.
Terrific, are some skills, non-negotiable, Eric when you’re looking at that list of qualifications? Again, we talked about how to figure out what might matter most but are there some that are just deal breakers?
Eric B. Horn:
Yes, for example, and this is one piece that I go through when it comes to people trying to transfer into another industry. For example, I came from the IT space, specifically information security. Now when it comes to information security, you have to have a certain understanding of the technical side of the house, meaning servers, routers, computers, hackers, and things of that nature. That is a skill set that you must have to have that type of job.
For the simple fact is, if you don’t have those skill sets, and for example, if a breach will happen, how would you be able to resolve that issue? So, right from a technical standpoint, you have to have those hard skills. You can’t get around it, because they’re going…you’re going to be required to implement those skills in your day to day job, right?
But when it comes to certain skills, communication, and managing individuals, that is a certain skill set, but that can also be learned over time. Especially if this is your first managerial role, you’re going to make mistakes, and you’re going to always gain a better understanding of how to manage your people but when it comes to hard skills, you definitely have those.
Those are the deal-breakers. Once again, they wouldn’t make any sense if I am an IT security professional and I am trying to apply for an HR job. They’re two different worlds, they’re apples and oranges, and as a job seeker you, I’m not saying everyone does, but as a job seeker, you definitely need to know, if the job requires a technical background, you need to have that technical background and there’s no ifs, ands, or buts or other ways around it. Because if you don’t know you, you’re doing a disservice to the company.
Okay. What about different sectors? Eric, I’m thinking of government, for example. You mentioned that you encourage your clients, if they have 60 to 70% of the qualifications, to apply for a position. But do you find that sectors like government have higher or stricter standards?
Eric B. Horn:
They do. Let’s, let’s focus on government. Because when I was in college, I worked for the federal FDIC. And when it comes to government…well, first and foremost, when it comes to government, the job search process is like a turtle. I mean, the job hiring process is very slow and meticulous.
And the reason why is you want to make sure that not only if the person has the certain skillsets, but even from a security perspective, they are even able to work in the overall industry. It’s…the bar is a lot higher when it comes to industries like government, as opposed to working in information technology or retail or customer service. Because much more is required to you just based off of being in that particular sector, as opposed to other lenient sectors. And with that…
I want to take a break right there, Eric. We’ll be back in just a moment. And when we return, I’d like to talk about the gender difference between men and women, and which group is more likely to apply for a job if they don’t meet all the standards. Stay with us. When we return, we’ll continue our conversation with Eric B. Horn.
It might surprise you to learn that you don’t need to meet every qualification to get the job you want.
But Eric is right. Employers hire applicants all the time who don’t have every skill in a job posting.
But here’s another fact that Eric and I didn’t discuss.
You can also have 100% of the posted qualifications and still not get an interview, much less a job offer.
Because you made a mistake on your resume.
Find out which resume errors will send your application straight to the rejection pile.
Go to macslist.org/resumemistakes.
You’ll get our new free guide, Don’t Make These 8 Killer Resume Mistakes.
I talk to Human Resource directors every day. Because every month employers post more than 700 jobs on the Mac’s List website.
And these hiring managers tell me they see the same epic fails in resumes time after time.
Does your resume have one of these fatal flaws?
Go to macslist.org/resumemistakes.
Our free guide shows you the biggest blunders employers say they can’t forgive. And we show you how to avoid making them yourself.
Get your copy today of Don’t Make These 8 Killer Resume Mistakes.
Go to macslist.org/resumemistakes. It’s free.
Now, let’s get back to the show!
We’re back in the Mac’s List studio. I’m talking this week with Eric Horn. He’s the author of “How Professional Is Your Development?”
Eric, we’ve been talking about whether or not you should apply for a job if you don’t meet all the qualifications; there’s a gender difference here isn’t there.
Definitely. I encourage any, encourage anyone, whether they’re male or female, but we all know that there are more barriers when it comes to a woman professional. And I encourage any woman, if there’s a position that you feel just from a paper perspective that you may not be qualified for, go for it anyway. You’ll surprise yourself. I’m rooting for you.
Okay, let’s, that’s terrific. Let’s talk about how to talk about your missing qualifications with an employer in, let’s start with the application materials. Let’s say you’re, you’ve got 60 to 70% of what the employer wants you’re putting together your cover letter and your resume, how should you address that skills gap?
I would address it in a sense, I would say address it head-on.
For example, you may say that you currently do not have skill set X, Y and Z. However, you are in the process of learning these particular skill sets. Show the employer that you may not have this particular line right now but you are eager to learn it and you are motivated to do it. So, I tell people, don’t avoid it. Right. Because if you avoid it, nine times out of 10, that’s going to come up in the overall interview. So you definitely want to be prepared, based off of that.
And the best way to prepare for that is be open and honest, be upfront, but then also show the employer that you are in the process of filling these gaps, you know, you’re motivated enough to do it. And a lot of times, the employer, they may say, okay, you’re in the process of learning this, then the questions will start to segue to, “Okay, when were you going to get this certification? Or when are you going to get this particular degree?” So in their mind, they know that you’re working towards it. And then you also have a hard set date that you will receive that particular certification or you’ll learn that particular skill.
Well, how do you do that in a cover letter, Eric, and a resume or an application form because there’s a limited amount of space. And again, you’ve got that 60 to 70% of the qualifications, there’s something that you’re missing. How do the clients you work with successfully address that gap in their cover letters or in the text of their resumes or application forms?
Well, in the cover letter, I always tell them to focus on what you do have and highlight. Because if you have 70% of what they’re looking for, that means you have a lot of accomplishments, you have a lot of great things to say or to highlight based off of what you’ve done with that particular skill and how it ultimately helps the company that you’re currently at.
Moving forward, right, you always want to focus on your strengths, not your areas of improvement, so to speak. Not saying that you shouldn’t mention it at all. But when it comes to the resume, highlight the stuff that you you do have, because 9 times out of 10 what you, if you make it to the interview stage, 9 times out of 10, you can discuss what you may not have, but then also let that, let the person interviewing you know, here’s the plan that I have moving forward to fill in these fill in these gaps.
I want to talk about the interview stage. Before that. let’s address the topic that we haven’t discussed, which is sometimes jobs require a college or master’s degree. What do you recommend to your clients who might not have a college or master’s degree? If that’s listed as a requirement?
Wow, that’s a good question.
If it…once again, having a college degree, or Masters or MBA, two things you can do. One, do you have a heavy amount of relevant experience for the position? Right? Because some managers may take someone with 10 years of experience in this particular area, as opposed to having a, you know, college degree, right? Because experience, I always feel that experience will trump a degree because I’ve seen people who may have a master’s degree. And they completely fold when it comes to actually doing their work, as opposed to someone who would have the relevant experience and a significant amount of that relevant experience where they can go in and hit the ground running. Or on the flip side of that question is one of…this is the same type of piece when it comes to someone who if you’re looking for an IT security job, and you don’t have it security experience, you may not want to apply for that position.
And same goes for if someone has, if they don’t have the relevant experience, nor do they have the degree to help kind of backup what they…the job that they’re trying to get, maybe that may not be the right position for you. And that’s a harsh reality check when it comes to a job seeker. But sometimes that is a reality. You know, a lot of companies use a degree as a, not a barrier, in a sense, but a hoop that you have to get through. And sometimes that’s a deal-breaker if you don’t have a particular degree in the endeavor or the industry that they’re trying to get the job in and you may not be suitable for that job at that given moment.
How do you bring that out? Eric, I, I’m thinking of someone looking at the posting, it says BA required, they meet all the other requirements?
How do you…how should they decide whether or not to apply? And if they do apply, how should they address that gap?
I would still say, that’s kind of like a tricky question. Because if most people, if they say that they have it in their mind, where, okay, you go to college, you get a job, you work for the next, you know, 25 to 30 years, and a lot of people, they use that as a barrier to the point where they may get discouraged and not apply. And I know this kind of goes against the grain of saying why you don’t need, you know, to meet all the job requirements. But you know, like I said, at the very beginning, there are some that you need to meet; some things aren’t negotiable to the point where if you don’t have the degree, you may not get the job at that given moment. But if you really want this type of position, go get the degree, go get the certifications that you need, and then re-tackle the opportunity; it may not be the same job opportunity, but it may be a job that’s parallel to what you ultimately want.
Okay, let’s talk about the job interview, you’re in the room, you’ve made it past the screening process. Again, you’re a person with 60 to 70% of the requirements. You said earlier lead with your strengths and your application materials. What do you do when you’re in the interview room? Do you bring up your lack of qualifications? Or what do you recommend?
No, I would say do not…you want to be transparent but you don’t want to say anything that puts you out of the running for the job. You want to lead with your best foot forward. And that best foot forward is everything that you do, all the experience that you have, that does match the overall job description, you know, because you don’t want to be in a situation where you haven’t…you’re in the interview, and you’re doing a very good job of the interview and the employer considers you a strong candidate, then you open up Pandora’s box and say, “Well, I don’t have X, Y, and Z.” They didn’t ask you why…if they didn’t ask you why you didn’t have X, Y, and Z, I wouldn’t bring it to the forefront, especially if you have a lot of experience, a lot of relevant experience and a lot of skillsets that can help you move the business or the department forward. Lead with that. I wouldn’t, you know, expose any type of quote-unquote, weaknesses when it comes to a job interview. Because you don’t want to put yourself in the position where you are in, you know, in the running for it, but then you say, you expose your weaknesses, and then you kind of get knocked out the picture,
Okay, if you do get a question about the lack of a qualification, how do you recommend responding?
Well, the biggest piece, again, would be if you’ve…if they’ve identified something that you do not have, let them know the plan that’s in motion or that will be in motion to actually close that skills gap. Right? Once again, if they’re looking for someone for X, Y, and Z currently going to school or taking some online training to learn more about X, Y, and Z, because I know that this is a piece of the job description that will be utilized in the actual job once again. But just don’t say you’re not doing anything to close that overall gap, because once again, you give them him or her a plan on how you will close that skills gap based off of what you’re going to learn, that shows that you’re being proactive, that shows that you are serious about taking this quote-unquote weakness, or the piece that you don’t have, and start to go through the process of trying to acquire it.
That speaks volumes because that shows people who are motivated, they understand where they currently are in their career. But that doesn’t stop them; they’re even more driven to gain the necessary skills that they need to match that piece on the job description.
Let’s talk about confidence. Sometimes the lack of qualifications can affect a person’s confidence, especially in an interview. Could you talk about that, Eric, and how you recommend people address it?
Well, you also have to look at it from the perspective where there are, you know, millions of job seekers now. And there are certain levels when it comes to the job search process. So, if you’ve gotten to the point where you get an interview, so you went from applying online and really not knowing if the person on the other end that’s looking at your resume may be a good fit to the point where you have an interview. That’s, that’s moving in the right direction. And that should give you some confidence, at least to the say they are considering me. So you’re going from, “I don’t even know if they want me,” to, “Okay, I’m at the interview. So maybe they will consider me for this actual position.”
That’s the type of…and you use that as building blocks of confidence. So when you actually get to the actual job interview, you go in saying, “Okay, they may want me, let me put my best foot forward. Let me highlight my good attributes, really, not kind of focus on the lack of or the lack of skills that I have, doing stuff like that, it will help build your confidence, maybe not to the point where you go, your confidence level goes from zero to 500. But if it goes from zero to 25, that’s a step in the right direction. So I tell people that
Excellent advice. Eric, tell us what’s next for you.
The next piece for me is to continue to promote my book, “How Professional Is Your Development?” And at a high level, the book is a self-development guide for college graduates on how to be successful after graduating. Long story short, this book is filled with a lot of the mistakes that I made as a college graduate. And I don’t want anybody else coming out of college to go through what I’ve gone through. So, I package it in a way where they can learn from my successes and my mistakes.
I know listeners can learn more about your book and your coaching services by visiting ericbhorn.com. Now, Eric, you’ve shared a lot of great advice with us today. What’s the one thing you want a listener to remember about why you don’t need to meet all the job requirements?
The biggest piece is, do not, let me say this again, do not be discouraged based off of what you see what the job description…if there’s something that you…if there’s some qualifications that you do not fit, do not be discouraged and still consider to apply. Because you never know, you may be in the process of not knowing if you will be a good fit for the job. But if you apply, you can turn out to be the perfect person for the job.
Some skills are non-negotiable. If it’s a technical job that requires technical skills, you’ve got to have them before you send off that resume. But too many people assume that if they don’t have 100% of the skills, they’re out of the running. I liked Eric’s advice about playing to your strengths, and conveying your energy and your excitement about an opportunity and finding out what an employer needs.
If you do those three things, you’re going to be a very, very strong candidate proposition for which you may only have 60 70% of the posted qualifications.
Something else besides technical skills that’s non-negotiable, you’ve got to have an error-free resume.
If you make a mistake with your resume, chances are you’re going to go straight to the rejection pile. If you’re not sure how to create an error-free resume, we’ve got a guide that can help; it’s called Don’t Make These Eight Killer Resume Mistakes.
You can get your free copy today, go to macslist.org/resumemistakes.
It will show you the most common errors that people make that sink their applications. Again, go to macslist.org/resumemistakes.
Our hometown of Portland, Oregon has a thriving technology sector. But it also presents special challenges for job seekers, especially for candidates without tech experience.
Our guest next Wednesday is Tim Butler. He’s a recruiter at New Relic. It’s a software analytics firm. Tim is an insider in our city’s tech world, and he’ll share his best tips for getting a job with a Portland technology company. Until next time, thanks for letting us help you find your dream job.
This is Mac Prichard again. I hope you enjoyed this interview from our archives.
Please join us next week as we share through March 3 some of our most popular interviews from the last five years.
And thank you for being a listener.