by Miriam Salpeter
Does not having enough real-world experience prevent job seekers from landing opportunities? Not necessarily. While employers prefer to hire candidates who have the exact credentials they seek (often listed in a detailed and lengthy job description), college students and new grads without long lists of qualifications should not despair if their experiences do not exactly measure up.
There are two steps that these job seekers can take to overcome the experience gap:
- Learn how to analyze and accurately interpret job descriptions.
- Write a resume that lists other relevant information targeted to the employer-including skills honed through internships, volunteer work, and school projects.
Using these strategies, any job seeker can land a new job opportunity.
Analyze and Interpret the Job Description
Employers don’t write job descriptions for fun; they really hope to hire someone who has all of the necessary qualifications they’re looking for. Job seekers who hope to convince employers to take a chance with a less experienced candidate should study job descriptions carefully, in order to identify the underlying skills and accomplishments needed. For example, if the position requires two years of marketing experience, but the description focuses on creativity, self-starting, and achieving results, a job seeker with strong credentials in these areas from internships, volunteer work, and school projects can make a great case that he or she is qualified-even without the two years of marketing background.
Job seekers should review job descriptions and underline every skill and accomplishment mentioned in the write-ups. Then, they should highlight the underlined key phrases that describe them. If most or all of the underlined terms are highlighted, the job seeker should move forward to the resume writing stage. If most of the underlined words are not highlighted, that is a good sign that it is time to move on to a different job listing.
Write a Targeted Resume
Employers appreciate applicants who take the time to target their resume content. No hiring manager wants to read a resume that does not immediately and clearly make a case for why the applicant should get the job. Using a resume-building tool, such as Job and Career Accelerator’s Resume Builder, is a great way to ensure that an applicant presents the strongest resume possible.
For the best chance at landing an interview, job seekers should review the underlined and highlighted job description and build a resume that clearly proves that they have the skills required. Instead of apologizing for experience they do not have, applicants must show how they have the skills needed to succeed on the job. For each skill, they should incorporate answers to the following questions in their resumes:
- Where, when, and how did I use this skill?
- What was the end result (what impact did I have)?
Again, it is perfectly acceptable to draw on internship experiences, volunteer work, and other unpaid jobs to explain how they are a good match for the position. The important thing is to provide details to support any claims.
Candidates have many resume design options, but one that works well for both entry-level and experienced job seekers includes headlines and highlights of accomplishments in the top third of the resume. This format helps to make connections between an applicant’s skill set and an employer’s needs. For example, if applying for a job as a marketing representative that requires alliance building, analytical skills, problem solving, multitasking, and exceeding targets, the following would be a strong headline:
The job seeker must use the body of their resume to convince the reader that these assertions are true. Hiring managers want to know where and when applicants acquired and honed the skills they describe, and they usually want to see information listed by date and experience. For example:
This sample bullet point clearly outlines how the candidate used some of their key skills, and also explains the results. Even if this job seeker does not have the requisite two years of experience, a complete resume with similar bullet points will get noticed.
It takes extra effort to draw connections between a job description and a job seeker’s qualifications, but it is a crucial step, especially for entry-level candidates reaching for opportunities that request more experience than they have.
To read more practical, expert, and up-to-date advice about everything related to the job search, visit www.keppiecareers.com, by Miriam Salpeter, who is recognized by industry leaders and national media (including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, CNN, and others) as a go-to source for job hunting information.