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What to do if you’re an imperfect candidate

You just read an employment ad for what you think would be the perfect job. The problem is, your skills and experience aren’t a perfect fit for the role. There’s really no point in sending in a résumé, right?

 Before letting discouragement or doubt get the best of you, take a moment to assess whether submitting an application really would be a waste of time. If your qualifications diverge sharply from what the employer requests — for example, if the firm asks for five years of experience in a certain specialty, and you have just one — it isn’t worth your time or the employer’s.

 But if your skills and experience are close to what the organization seeks, it may very well be worth tossing your hat into the ring. Many companies are now realizing that being too exacting during the recruitment process can lead to missed opportunities to hire talented professionals with strong potential.

 You need to consider yourself from a hiring manager’s perspective and build a case that shows why you’re the best person for the position. Here’s some advice:

 Underscore your results

If you already know you can’t fulfill a potential employer’s checklist for the ideal candidate, keep the focus on what you can offer. The same goes for instances where you exceed the outlined qualifications.

 Turn the spotlight on accomplishments that will catch a hiring manager’s eye, especially efforts that demonstrate a track record of saving previous employers time or money. For instance, maybe you identified a major problem with a new computer installation based on a pattern of customer complaints, and your quick action to resolve the issue not only kept the project moving forward, but also allowed the company to beat its deadline for implementation.

 Be honest

Acknowledge your shortcomings, but also emphasize how your strength in a particular area — such as project management — could make up for weaknesses in another — your lack of supervisory experience, for instance.

 And when you sense you’re a bit overqualified for a position, use your cover letter to explain sincerely why the job appeals to you. For instance, perhaps the employer is a company you’ve always admired and feel you are already in sync with its business culture.

 Just remember, no matter how much you want a job, never stretch the truth in an attempt to improve the odds of getting an interview. Your misrepresentation could easily be uncovered during the hiring process and damage your reputation.

 Find an inside connection

If you’re a near fit for a job, a referral from someone who can speak to the hiring manager on your behalf could be invaluable. Ask those in your network if they — or someone they know — can put in a good word for you.

 Social networking sites can be especially helpful in uncovering individuals who may have an in at your target firm. Just be thoughtful when requesting assistance. You should have established trust and credibility with anyone you ask to go to bat for you.

 It may take some work, but if you can demonstrate you have the potential to succeed in a role that seems slightly out of reach on paper — or that may not be exactly in line with positions you’ve held in the past — a hiring manager may decide to take a chance on you.


By Robert Half Technology

With more than 100 locations worldwide, Robert Half Technology is a leading provider of technology professionals for initiatives ranging from web development and multiplatform systems integration to network security and technical support. Robert Half Technology offers online job search services at Follow Robert Half Technology on Twitter at

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