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So many times when I first speak with people who are in active executive job search mode, they feel compelled to discuss their shortcomings.
It’s a shame they’re so quick to focus on what they consider to be their negative qualities.
But they’re very concerned that they don’t have what it takes to land the kinds of jobs they want and, frankly, deserve.
From the employer’s point of view, the hiring process works better when only highly qualified people are the candidates in front of them. But according to career coach Ronnie Ann Himmel, there are a few problems with that:
- Job descriptions aren’t always written well enough to clearly attract the ideal candidate.
- Some skills can be learned by a person with aptitude.
- Softer-skills (how candidate communicates / interacts with others, problem-solving, flexibility, creativity, etc.) are often not well presented. And hard to quantify.
- Previous skills experience isn’t the same as ability to successfully undertake a new employer’s tasks within a new environment. But skills alone are what most automated resume screening and human screeners focus on to select or reject candidates.
Many people anticipating executive job search have anxiety about whether they have what it takes.
After all, executive job search is a major life event. It’s usually an overwhelming, daunting challenge to undertake.
Compound that with the fact that most job-seekers don’t really understand how today’s job search works.
It tends to make people anxious, and question their qualifications . . . It keeps them from reaching out towards opportunities that seem a little off, but could actually be the right fit.
Here are just some of the things concerning them:
- They’re lacking the number of years’ experience required.
- They don’t have an MBA, or lack specific hard skills.
- They have little to no experience at the c-suite level, but aspire to move up.
- They’ve made one or more lateral move in their careers, instead of moving up.
- They’ve worked too long at one company – a rarity these days.
I can mostly ease their worry. There are ways to diminish most issues that appear, at first, to be roadblocks.
Of course, if they’re under-qualified on several fronts, they shouldn’t waste everyone’s time by throwing their hats in the ring.
In general, their best move is to embrace targeting and personal branding, and then network their way into the hidden job market.
With the right foundation, savvy job seekers:
- Identify the companies or organizations they want to work for – instead of languishing on job boards,
- Determine what makes them a good-fit candidate for those employers, and
- Network their way into jobs there.
Why does this work – whether or not someone is a little under-qualified?
When you become at least a somewhat known entity to the employers you want to work for – not just one of the thousands of job posting respondents – you’re no longer a stranger. People usually hire people they know over complete strangers.
When your qualifications are not being compared to a job listing of theirs, and you’re at least somewhat known to them, you’re more likely to be very seriously considered.
In a Mashable article, recruiter Richard Moy confirmed this strategy.
“If you’re an awesome candidate, companies want you! And if they can tweak (or create) a position to make it possible to hire you, they will.”
That’s the bonanza of targeting, branding and networking into the hidden job market – your new employer may carve out a position specifically tailored to your unique set of qualifications.
How You May Land the Executive Job, Even If You’re Under-Qualified
Richard goes on to reveal 3 things he and hiring managers consider when a good candidate is under-qualified . . . things that could lead these candidates to be called in for interviews and possibly hired.
1. Is this person’s previous experience relevant to the role?
He quickly learned he had to be flexible if a candidate didn’t have the required number of years experience.
“The truth is that even when candidates didn’t have the amount of experience we were hoping for, many of them did tasks that were far more advanced than the number of years they worked might have otherwise suggested.”
2. Is this person motivated to keep learning?
Richard said he had a soft spot for people who were motivated to improve themselves, with a long history of seeking out learning opportunities.
“It was hard to deny that person at least a phone screen to learn more about his or her future goals. And if that person also had a track record of previous successes in relevant jobs, it was even harder not to bring him or her in to meet the rest of the team.”
3. Can we support someone who’s not senior enough?
He sometimes would be very excited about a candidate who would need more help than anticipated growing into a role.
“I can think of a handful of instances when we met someone a little too junior who we just couldn’t let back onto the open market. Sometimes we’d just create a brand new role that fit that person’s profile — and develop a plan for him or her to grow into the senior version of the gig.”
Best strategy: Lean heavily on your transferable skills
Ronnie Ann says it’s all about your transferable skills:
“You have to make the case for yourself in a wonderfully written cover letter. One where you specifically show how your skills and experience do match. And your resume has to hit as many of the stated requirements as you can possibly show.
Transferable skills can get you the job . . . but only if you clearly connect the dots for them!”
My advice if you’re worried that you’re not quite up to snuff:
Go for it even if, on paper, you may feel you fall a little short. Hiring professionals may well see beyond these shortcomings.
More About Executive Job Search
THE Personal Branding Worksheet
7 Things Successful Executive Job Seekers Know
Do Cover Letters Really Matter in Executive Job Search?
Essential LinkedIn Guide for Today’s Executive Job Search
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