You’ve found the job of your dreams at an incredible company. You scroll through the job description, nodding confidently as you realise that they must have written this position for you. There’s no other explanation as to why it suits you so perfectly.
You gulp. They want experience – two whole years of it. And certification in a bunch of fields you’ve never been an expert in. You’ve only just graduated, or you’re looking for a career change. How are you supposed to have all this professional experience?
Despite this minor setback, you know you could ace this position, if only they’d give you a chance. But how do you convey your competence on paper, let alone in an interview? How do you convince the hiring manager that you are worthy of consideration for a job you seem underqualified for? Here are a few steps you can take to position your candidacy as competitive in a scenario where you might be the underdog.
Step One: Is this role really for you?
The first question you must ask yourself is if the role is really, truly appropriate for you. Concluding that it is not will save you a lot of time, energy and potential disappointment in the future. However, if you genuinely believe that you could succeed in this position and will not be satisfied unless you give the application process a shot, then absolutely go for it.
It’s acceptable to take the years of experience companies require with a pinch of salt, although you should consider them to be a guide. If you’re looking for an entry-level position, ‘2+ years of experience’ is a more surmountable barrier than ‘10+ years of experience.’ We’ll get into this more later, but take some time to reflect on non-professional experiences you have that could feasibly count towards the 2+ years this company is looking for. If you have proven interest and experience at university or transferrable skills in a related area, you can definitely use these to strengthen the credibility of your application. Furthermore, a company looking for candidates with an MBA may consider a candidate with a Bachelors if they can demonstrate their exceptionalism in other ways.
If the role requires a specific qualification that you do not have, this could also be a potential immediate disqualifier. If you’re repeatedly seeing jobs advertised that look right for you but all require a certification in Google Analytics, perhaps consider going on a course to fill your knowledge gap. Sites that offer great online learning and development opportunities for a range of prices include Coursera, Khan Academy and Codecademy.
Step Two: Research, research, research
So, you’ve taken the plunge and you’re going to apply to a job you think you’re underqualified for. Now you need to ensure you understand the job as well as anyone with years of experience in that role would. You can do this through reading online, but the most effective way to gain understanding of a profession is to speak to someone who works in that field. Mobilise your contact base and set up coffee or informational interviews with people who can help you understand the specifics of the job you’re pitching yourself as the perfect fit for.
Networking could also be a great way to secure an introduction to the company before you even apply, flagging your name with them. You never know who has a connection at the company of your dreams, so be sure to reach out far and wide. It’s no secret that personal referrals make all the difference when applying for a job.
Step Three: Put it all down on paper
The only way you’re going to be able to compete against more experienced candidates is by doing significantly more homework than they do. You’ve already (hopefully) researched the company to within an inch of its life – now ensure that your passion for their brand/product/service shines through in your covering letter. Demonstrate your knowledge about the business by making specific references in your explanation as to why you want the role – this can definitely help assuage any doubts they have about your experience level.
Employers will often take unpaid experiences as evidence of professional experience, such as internships, involvement in clubs and societies and volunteering. Be sure to examine all of your achievements through the lens of what they could bring to the role, as you may be pleasantly surprised to find you already possess proven experience in areas you thought you lacked, simply because these activities took place in your free time or holidays. Combine your transferrable skills with your qualifications to highlight your suitability for the role.
Skills to highlight might be:
- Event planning
- People skills
You’ve spent time thinking about how great that role would be great for you – perhaps also consider why you would be great for the role. What interesting insight could you bring to the company? Do you have a unique perspective or angle that would add value to the team? Make your individuality shine throughout your CV and cover letter.
Step Four: Nail the interview
Congratulations! Your gorgeously tailored CV and rivetingly specific cover letter have landed you an interview with the hiring manager. They’re interested in you, despite the fact you may not be a conventional candidate for the position. They’re willing to take a chance on you…for now.
So how do you continue to exude confidence and experience in a face-to-face interaction with a company representative?
Firstly, and hopefully obviously, prepare. You’re entering the room with the disadvantage of not being able to rely on personal experience of the role to support your answers. Therefore, you’ll need to consolidate your knowledge of the company and job description, as well as how your own experiences tie into what they’re looking for. Practise answers to the guaranteed interview questions you’ll likely face and be ready to defend your lack of qualification for the role, if needed.
Remember to never phrase a response as a negative – always focus on the positive. For example, never begin an answer with “I know I lack experience in X, but…” or “I know I don’t have Y qualification, but…”. Instead, you should highlight your abilities and apply them to the task in question. “My tenure as the chairperson of my college’s Business and Enterprise Society enabled me to practise my leadership and project management skills in a way which is applicable to Z task in these ways…” for instance.
While it’s important to bend the truth to your advantage, you must never lie. The interviewer may then push you on it and you could slip up under pressure. No employer wants to hire a dishonest worker, and such a mistake may result in your name being blacklisted for future opportunities. Furthermore, if a lie got you into the job and then you found you were unable to complete the tasks assigned to you as a result, you could lose your job and evoke serious bad feeling from a company you may have to encounter again in the future. Honesty is the best policy – just be shrewd in how you phrase your answers.
To conclude, you are likely more qualified than you think for the job of your dreams. All it takes is a little bit of research, tailoring and careful phrasing to upgrade your position from that of an outsider to a competitive candidate. Even if you don’t land the role using these steps, you will have learned a huge amount about an area you previously may not have been overly familiar with. Your research will certainly be applicable to future job applications and may even inspire you to pursue a line of work you had previously not considered. You’ve got nothing to lose – what are you waiting for?
Posted by Susannah Hunt on 19 June 2019
Trends in Engineering Recruitment (Video)
Trends in Engineering Recruitment (Video)
Marcel and Emma from Sigmar Recruitment chat about trends within the Irish Engineering recruitment market as well as on talent attraction and retention. What are skills and qualifications are currently in the highest demand and how did COVID 19 impact the industry? If you are looking for a job in engineering or medical devices email your CV to Emma Ward - firstname.lastname@example.org
Working From Home Hub
Working From Home Hub
Visit our Working from Home Hub to check out content we have put together to support remote workers and Managers now working from home - blogs, video content, training modules, podcasts and other resources. The hub has lots of great info and supports for: Working form home, Managing staff remotely, Wellness at Home Talent Summit Series on working in this new normal Access to free online courses to upskill Netflix recommendations Check it out at https://www.workingfromhomehub.com
Sigmar Announces “COVID Ready” Learning Partnership with Alison to Upskill Newly Unemployed
Sigmar Announces “COVID Ready” Learning Partnership with Alison to Upskill Newly Unemployed
Sigmar Recruitment and Alison today announce a COVID ready learning partnership as part of the emergency jobs initiative www.covidresponsejobs.com. The initiative is an online platform set up by Sigmar Recruitment to help connect the displaced workforce with current frontline job opportunities, and to upskill the restricted workforce to enhance career prospects and enable a faster economic recovery. Alison, one of the largest learning websites worldwide, is now offering access to all of its courses free and unencumbered through www.covidresponsejobs.com. The learning content being offered through the platform has been hand curated to reflect in-demand, recession-proof skills across an array of business and IT disciplines, including; data science project management customer service accounting web development computer networking e-commerce The core learning has been paired with lifestyle courses covering mental health, stress management and practical content on parenting while working from home for example aimed to support those working remote throughout the crisis period and beyond. The learning pathways have also been designed with jobseekers in mind with content on public speaking, job hunting, personal development supported by jobseeker advice on how to compete in the current marketplace, including tips on video interviewing, digital collaboration, remote onboarding and much more. Commenting on the partnership, founder of the initiative and Sigmar CCO Robert Mac Giolla Phádraig says: “As one of the world’s largest free learning platforms, Alison presents an excellent opportunity for newly unemployed in Ireland to upskill. The learning content has been COVID curated for maximum impact encompassing business skills, IT skills, mental health and personal development. We also aim to support the restricted workforce by providing upskilling opportunities during the downtime, to better equip our workforce to rebound from the crisis in the medium term.” Speaking at the announcement, Alison Founder & CEO, Mike Feerick stated that the gesture is one Alison is happy to make. “While being a global learning business, most of our team live and work in Ireland and know personally people whose employment has been jeopardised by the coronavirus pandemic crisis. Alison has over 1,500 free certificate and diploma courses, in subjects from project management, languages, IT, to health & safety, elderly caregiving, MS Excel and free courses on GDPR. “If you have been laid off, it is an opportunity to build up and strengthen your workplace skills to enhance your chances for employment in the months and years ahead. We are delighted to partner with Sigmar on the COVID Jobs Initiative.” www.covidresponsejobs.com is a for purpose “Team Ireland” initiative created by Sigmar Recruitment, supported by Alison, Candidate Manager, The Irish Times and Communicorp, established to mobilise the Irish Workforce.
Working From Home Guide
Working From Home Guide
As many of us have been plunged into working from home for the first time without warning, we may be struggling with where to start. Our normal routine has changed entirely leaving a lot of us wondering how you keep yourself motivated and productive. Read on for our top tips on making the most of working from home. 1. Working Space When it comes to setting up your working from home environment there is no one size fits all approach. While some people prefer one dedicated desk area that resembles an office work station, others prefer to change their environment throughout the day whether it be to sit at a desk space/their kitchen table for work that requires focus and concentration, their patio area for business calls/team meetings or their couch for catching up on emails. This is one of the key benefits of working from home - you get to decide on your ideal office set-up. However, while it can be tempting to lie in bed on your laptop all day, you are likely to tire of this and hurt your neck or back. What you want is a dedicated space that allows you to work productively with minimum distraction. Having a dedicated space also signals to your brain that you’re “at work” and puts you in the mind-frame of being productive. If working from home is a temporary measure for coronavirus, you probably don’t have that much equipment beyond a laptop. Laptops have bad ergonomics so it might be an idea to rise it on a pile of books and get a USB keyboard and mouse and treat it as a desktop. Or if you are enjoying working from home and see yourself continuing to work from home beyond coronavirus perhaps invest in a docking station and a second monitor. Stand-up desks are another popular option. A bar table or even a wide and tall surface in your home may be suitable for a couple hours a day. Switching your desk may energise you and increase your productivity for certain tasks. Finally, don’t forget to check your tech! Ensuring good connectivity at all times is fairly important for most online workers. Be prepared for an outage by having a back-up such as a mobile plan with extra data or a mobile router. After that make sure you have all the technology and tools you need to work effectively. From email and video conference software to collaboration tools - some of these may be new to you so take the time to get to grips with the basics. 2. Routine As mentioned, our normal routine has been changed, we’re no longer commuting, grabbing a coffee at the café around the corner from the office, chatting to colleagues in the canteen, attending meetings, visiting clients etc. Therefore, you will need to make a new routine to work from home. Triggers It’s important to identify “triggers” for yourself that signal to your brain that you are in work mode. Every article you read will tell you to make sure you get up and get dressed, while it is tempting to stay in your pyjamas for an hour, that hour can easily slip into a full day. After this incorporate the parts of your old routine that you benefitted from. Perhaps you enjoyed walking to work in the morning as it woke you up, if so, get outside for a walk first thing. Have a coffee in your garden/on your balcony to replace the one you had in your local café. Do an at home workout if you used to go to the gym in the morning. Set reminders to get away from your desk for five minutes every so often to mimic the breaks you took in the office to grab a coffee in the kitchen. Structure You are your own personal manager when working from home. Without things like in-person meetings to break your day, it can be easy to lose focus. Also your motivation naturally ebbs and flows throughout the day, so set yourself a schedule. List what you’ll do and then block times on your calendar as to when you will work on them. For me personally I like to block the first 2 hours of every morning for writing tasks as I find that’s when I am at my most creative. I then try to schedule video calls and meetings for the afternoon when I find my productivity is waning. Make sure to set fixed working hours for yourself. It can be tempting to stay logged on long past when you said you will finish but it is best to set up a consistent schedule with yourself so that you can make a clean break between “work” and “home”. Kill distractions Working from home and particularly at the moment it can be easy to let yourself be consumed by the news and social media. To counteract this, remove social networks from your internet browser bookmarks and log out of every account. Or create a work bookmark list and a personal bookmark list. Your work bookmark list will only consist of the bookmarks you need for your job and the personal list can include your social networks. You can hide your personal bookmark list during your working day to remove the impulse to click into social networks. 3. Stay Connected Naturally, given the anxiety surrounding the coronavirus pandemic and being unexpectedly thrown into working from home, it is natural to feel isolated. Instant messaging and video conferencing tools can make it easy to check in with your colleagues so make sure to schedule in some “non-work” related chats with your colleagues. Here in Sigmar, we schedule virtual coffee breaks with our colleagues, a ten-minute call to check in with each other and to have a chit-chat. This helps maintain team bonds and provides some light relief throughout your day. 4. Give Yourself a Break Being thrown into working from home, employees can often be harder on themselves about their productivity levels as they forget about the amount of distractions that come with working in an office environment. You might not have scheduled your coffee breaks when you worked in the office but regular breaks are important for maintaining focus and productivity so don’t be afraid to include them in your schedule. It could be a simple 10-minute break for a coffee or a snack or a few minutes to read an interesting article. Ideally, you should try to get some outdoor time during your lunch break too, so you don’t go stir crazy. Ultimately, what works best will vary from person to person so don’t be afraid to try things out over the next few weeks until you find your ideal set-up and structure. The most important thing is to find what helps you stay focused, while maintain a work life balance.