This is a popular question that my clients ask me: how can I market myself as a good candidate if I know that I’m under-qualified in comparison to other candidates? The easy way out would be to say that you should try to come across as passionate about the role as possible. It’s true, passion can catch a potential employer’s attention, but the reality is that you’re just not going to make the cut if they perceive that you’re under-qualified.
Luckily, there’s an easy way to avoid this. My top tip is to make sure that you brand yourself in a way that is appealing to your potential employers. This means critically reviewing your experience from the perspective of a hiring manager and identifying what may concern or stand out to them. Once you’re clear on this, you’ll be able to address your weaknesses while leveraging your strengths. Here’s how you can do it:
1. Recognize what core skills are important to your potential employer.
It’s time to do your due diligence! Take a look at job postings in your industry with a focus on roles that you’re interested in. This will help you pick up on industry jargon that you can use in your resume. By rewording your experience in terms that are relevant to your employer, it will be easier for them to understand your career and why you’re not under-qualified for the role. You’ll also become a master on which aspects of your experience will appeal most to a potential employer.
2. Connect the dots between the experience you have and the expertise they need.
I once applied to LinkedIn to join the team in a sales and client relationship management role. The problem was, I didn’t have a sales background. To prevent the hiring managers from assuming that I was under-qualified, I assessed my experience to see if I could re-position some of my expertise as a recruiter. I realized that when I was recruiting for an Executive MBA program, I was essentially selling a $90,000 product to senior level executives. By re-positioning my sales experience where I generated over $10M for the program, I was able to communicate that I had the expertise the position required. I ended up being offered the role, and it was because I had the foresight to identify weaknesses in my own application and come up with ways to put a positive spin on my experience! So ask yourself, how can you re-position your experience to communicate your transferable skills and experience effectively?
3. Condense your message down to 2-3 clear points so that you can make an impact.
The best way to make a great impression even though you may be under-qualified is to have a clear, concise, and compelling message that will make you a memorable candidate. For example, if you are a natural leader, highly analytical, and have a knack for optimizing processes, incorporate these three descriptors into your brand. Come up with examples that support them and tie back to them often during the interview. This will make it easier for interviewers to take notes and connect with what you have to say. It will also help employers immediately recognize the value you bring to the table and how it matches with the position you’re applying to.
Have you ever gone into a potential new opportunity knowing that you were under-qualified? What steps did you take to overcome this?