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When Your Skills Aren't a Perfect Match

Do's and Don'ts
Kate Lorenz, CareerBuilder.com Editor

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In the course of a job search, it's very common for job seekers to locate openings that closely match their skills and experience but are not a perfect fit. So what do you do when the description fits you to a tee but your skills fall just a little short? Overwhelmingly, experts say that you should not be discouraged and should apply for the job. Consider these dos and don'ts for getting noticed for the skills you do have instead of those you lack.

DO use a functional resume. A functional resume emphasizes experience. It can be tailored around the specific job you are trying to land by highlighting the credentials that most qualify you for the position. Experts suggest that you strategically order your qualifications based on the order they appear in the job description. Typically, the most important job duties are listed at the beginning of the job ad and the less important ones at the end.

DO insert job skill categories into your resume to highlight the specific experience and unique qualities you possess and how they relate to the job requirements. This is a highly-effective way to grab the hiring manager's attention. Depending on the type of job you are applying for, categories might include "sales management," "customer service," "account management," or "copywriting."

DON'T over-inflate your qualifications to land an interview. There's nothing worse than exaggerating your experience and being called on it during the interview. It's better to be truthful about the skills and experience you do possess rather than face this embarrassing situation in the interview.

DO write a compelling cover letter to accompany your resume. Cover letters should be no more than one page in length and should convince the reader that you have something valuable to contribute to their company. It should address the job requirements and how your experience applies. If you possess four of the required five - six skills the company is seeking, your letter should emphasize these four and ignore the skills you lack. A good cover letter should show the reader that you have researched their company and that it will be worth their time to interview you.

DON'T be tempted to re-use a standard cover letter. A cover letter is your first chance to make a positive impression. Don't blow it by using an uninspired message. Customize your letter for the specific job. Hiring managers can see right through generic ones and may sort them right into the circular file.

DO ask yourself the following question: "If I were the hiring manager, why would I hire this person over the others who applied?" Use the answer as your inspiration when writing your cover letter.

DON'T neglect your interpersonal skills. The ability to work well with others, maintain a positive attitude, and handle confidential information are crucial qualities that all employers seek in their candidates. You should emphasize these attributes in your cover letter and resume.

DO show that you are willing and able to learn new skills. If you lack a required skill, but are a good match otherwise, consider signing up for a course on the topic and mention this in your cover letter. If experience is the best teacher for a required skill, show how you have learned other desirable skills in your present job to demonstrate your ability to learn while you work.

DON'T limit your experience to paid jobs. Many skills are learned through volunteer work, hobbies, school, church and community activities. Be sure to include these life-learned skills in your communication to potential employers. For instance, if the job posting requires budget management skills, show how your role as treasurer for the PTA taught you how to manage multiple projects and budgets and report spending.

Bottom line, no matter how you handle these near-perfect matches, remember to always emphasize the positive.

Last Updated: 24/09/2007 - 3:50 PM


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