A younger friend of mine spotted his dream corporate role being advertised recently, within weeks of graduating from his business degree at university. Based on his existing industry knowledge, understanding of the company itself, part time work experience and academic qualifications, he made the perfect candidate. However, admitting defeat early, he told me he hadn’t applied. Why? Because he hadn’t held a corporate role before or actually been responsible for the tasks outlined in the job description. Wow, I thought. What a shame.
His story really got me thinking. His insecurities, while totally understandable, were also largely unnecessary. Let me explain – young job hunters listen in.
If you read a job description and believe you could do what they’re asking for if given the chance to prove yourself, don’t just walk away because you feel you’re inexperienced. Every graduate has to start somewhere – everyone needs to get their foot in the door somehow! Not having the exact mirror-image experience they seem to want is totally okay – there are ways around that. (Employers tend to include ‘nice to haves’ in their ‘must haves’ section anyway- as you move through your career you’ll learn that job descriptions tend to lie about a lot of things!)
If you’re up for the challenge, you’re going to need to transform your CV into a golden ticket to an interview. How will you do that? By selling the skills and experience you do have and showing the selection panel you’re more than capable of being a successful suitor for the role. Think ‘transferable skills’.
Step 1: Don’t work yourself up
Before you start dwelling heavily on the negatives surrounding your lack of nail-on-the-head experience, it’s worth acknowledging that all of the most ambitious candidates will have to overcome a stretch in skills at some point when they apply for a new or higher level position. Employers want to hire people who like to challenge themselves, not people who only make lateral moves that don’t foster personal growth. After all, a CV is basically just a document that says, “hey potential employer, look at all the things I have done to date, I think I could adapt and apply my skills to add value to your business”. That’s the equivalent of transferring skills, no?
Step 2: Print out that job description
Now you know you’re not alone, you need to start working on tailoring your CV. Get it up on your computer screen and print a hard copy of the job description, so you can easily refer to both at once. Read through it with a fine tooth comb and be sure you understand:
- Who they want to hire
- What the main responsibilities of the role will be
- What prior experience they’d like the person to have
- What abilities / skills the new person needs to be able to showcase
- What characteristics the successful person will need to demonstrate
Be sure to underline or highlight specific systems or points that stand out as being really important to them.
Step 3: Build a CV that sells you well
If you’re stuck with where to start, try honing in on transferable skills to get you thinking about your experience. Think back through your academic and professional experience (internships / part time jobs) and identify ways and times you’ve practiced the following:
- Verbal communication
- Written communication
- Data analysis
- Organisation & time management
- Team work
- Systems & technology
Step 4: Use examples
Now, you cannot simply list a number of transferable skills and personal attributes on the CV in the hopes that the selection panel will take your word for it, join the dots for you and assume you’re capable of tackling what’s been outlined in the job description. You need to describe how your experiences to date have set you up for being successful in picking up the responsibilities of the new role.
For example, if the job description says:
“Experience using System M”
Your CV should include something like:
“Proven ability to quickly learn and master new systems, such as System X, Y and Z”
Forget esoteric jargon that only people who studied your university degree or worked with you in that part time role would understand. Try to contextualise your statements and back them up. If one of the responsibilities of the new role is “analyse data and create reports on X”, clearly identify where you’ve successfully completed a similar task in the past, even if it was on a totally different topic or within a totally different environment.
When you think you’re done, check out this article to make sure your CV is completely up to scratch!
Step 5: Nail your the bio at the top of your CV
Recruiters and / or the selection panel tend not to spend too long on individual applications, due to the sheer volume. Including a bio at the top of your CV is awesome way of selling yourself instantly – think of it like an elevator pitch. It should only be a few lines, but address:
- Who you are
- What have you been doing / working on / studying recently
- What sort of background do you have – previous employment / industries
- Your major strengths
- What are you looking for and why
Step 6: Write a cover letter & hit APPLY!
For more details on cover letters, check this article out.
Good luck and happy job hunting!