Job descriptions can be intimidating. Browse job boards, and you’ll find that an entry-level job often requires three to five years of experience. Wait . . . what? How can you get experience if all the entry-level jobs require loads of, well, experience? It really doesn’t make sense.
Don’t be intimidated. By laying out tons of requirements, employers are just trying to filter out candidates so that they don’t get swamped with applications. Even the most experienced candidates may not be the right fit for a particular organization.
More than anything, if you show that you’re willing to work hard every day, you’ll be surprised to see who’s willing to invest in you, even if you don’t have “three to five years of experience.” Here's how to get a job, even if it seems out of reach:
- Know the job description
- Tailor your résumé and cover letter
- Give great examples related to the job’s requirements
- If you don’t know something, show the initiative to learn it
- Be active — check out the company’s website and look people up on LinkedIn
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1. Study the Job Description
Knowing exactly what a job description asks of you is the first step to landing the gig. It’s best to read the description once through — then again, and again. Pay attention to details. If a requirement says that you “must have experience using Microsoft Excel,” then Excel skills will most likely be a core component of the job. Even if you don’t know the software now, try to learn as much as you can prior to the job interview.
With access to YouTube and online classes, anyone can teach themselves a skill if they commit the time to doing so. Come time for the interview, you may not be an expert, but you can at least stand out by expressing how you engaged in an online course or did some freelance work use your newfound skills. The initiative and proactivity will be enough to impress many of your interviewers.
2. Tailor Your Résumé and Cover Letter
It’s not enough to just blindly submit the same résumé to every job you see. The talent pool is too strong. You have to implement the job description and requirements in your résumé. Talent departments use application-tracking software (ATS) to scan your résumé for keywords and phrases that align with the job description. The software looks for skills and keywords to filter through candidates before a real person ever sees the application.
Given that, why wouldn’t you take the extra 10 minutes to copy and paste a few words or phrases from the job description?
And though there’s a debate over whether recruiters actually read cover letters or not, you won’t be docked for submitting one. In addition to adding elements of the job description to your résumé, show examples of how you’ve succeeded on projects in past jobs.
You haven’t held many jobs, you say? Think about the organizations you were a part of in college. Leadership positions go a long way. That experience may be more valid than a part-time job, since you were trusted to get work done. Did you play sports? Employers love athletes because they are disciplined enough to juggle the demands of a collegiate sport with schoolwork. Don’t sell these experiences short.
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3. Do Your Research
So you know what the job is asking of you, and you’ve submitted a great résumé and cover letter — both specific to the job description. Now it’s time to ace the interview. You’ve likely been emailed asking for a good time to either jump on the phone or meet in person.
If a recruiter reaches out to you, he is looking to fill the job. That person is in your corner. Show him that you’ve done the extra research by looking him up on LinkedIn. If you see that he attended the University of Florida, mention that you have a friend that went there or that you’re a big college sports fan. They’ll be flattered and remember that you took the time to look them up.
Also ask them who will be interviewing you and look up those people, as well. Your interviewers will more than likely be the hiring manager and someone you will directly report to should you get the job.
You’ve done all the work. Now it’s time to tie the knot. Express excitement. Show them that you’ve done your research. You’ve taken the time to learn exactly what the job is asking for, and though you may not be the most qualified of all the candidates, showing your willingness to go the extra mile could get you the offer over somebody more experienced.
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4. Dress for Success
It’s a no-brainer: Dress professionally — or at the very least, in business casual. Appearances matter since first impressions mean everything. Having sloppy hair or heels that are too high could cost you the job as you walk in the