How to nail your next interview—even if you’re not qualified for the job
When it comes to interview preparation, it’s not about “fake it ’til you make it.” It’s about reframing the job skills you do have.
We’re all familiar with the feeling of reading a listing for your dream job. You can vividly picture yourself brilliantly answering the interview questions and cruising toward your new life, one where you’ll rise each day to the smell of fresh-baked donuts (in this fantasy you’re the manager of a popular donut shop), tackling new responsibilities you’ll actually enjoy and wearing the same expression of insane cheerfulness as people in stock photos.
And then, the inevitable sad trombone. This job requires five to seven years of donut shop experience. You don't have enough work experience, and your heart sinks. The fantasy begins to flicker away. And you slowly close the screen of your laptop, vowing to never eat another French cruller again.
Wait. Are you serious right now? Upload that resume! Just because you think you're not qualified doesn’t mean you should give up on a job before you’ve even applied for it. We know: You’re probably imagining some mean-eyed HR person, possibly wearing a monocle, crushing your resume in his hand and crying, “Dream? How dare she?!”
So, okay—you send in your application, wait anxiously for a response, think about stalking the hiring manager, actually stalk the hiring manager, but don’t end up emailing her, wait some more, and finally wake up one morning to a message asking you to come in for an interview at a mutually convenient time.
YES! It’s happening. But wait: What about those five to seven years of work experience? You didn’t somehow acquire those in the six days since you sent in your resume, did you? Seems like a stretch.
Our advice? Don’t stress about it. In Monster's Grads to Candidates virtual career panel, Andrew Caravella, VP of global partnerships for Sprout Social, made it a point to remind viewers that companies are well aware that entry-level candidates aren't hired to be whiz kids. “We know you don't have the breadth and the depth and the years of experience because you're at a more recent stage of getting into the workforce,” he says.
If you managed to score an interview, there’s a good chance that monocle-clad HR rep already recognizes your skills gap but sees something else in your resume that could make up for it. Pep? Resourcefulness? Good old spunk? Whatever it is, we’ve got some tips on how to nail the interview when you think you're underqualified.
Reframe your skills
In the days leading up to the interview, go over the job listing with a fine-tooth comb (or a regular comb, that’ll work too) and identify each individual skill or qualification being requested. We already know you’re missing a few, and that’s fine. Just write them down. Seriously, go do it.
Done? Okay. Now, make a list of the skills you already have. Maybe some of them come from your current or previous job. Maybe some of them come from your part-time gig as a volunteer at a shelter for over-active corgis. It doesn’t matter: Just write them down. Seriously, go do it.
Are you beginning to see where this is going? Even if you don’t have every single skill mentioned in the job listing, some aspects of your experience are most likely adaptable—and can be referenced in a job interview. So, when someone asks, “How accustomed are you dealing with a chaotic work environment?” you're ready with an answer even if your last job was at an aqua therapy spa. You can lean on the experience you’ve gathered corralling those crazy corgis, providing an answer that’s honest and also bridges the gap between your current skill set and the one they’re looking for.
Pick up the skills you lack
Of course, we’re not saying you should presume you’ll always be able to float by on your corgi-wrestling experience. While you may only have a few days to prepare (sometimes less), don’t overlook the value of a little professional development. Applying for a job that requires some light coding abilities? There are literally dozens of online tutorials that walk you through most of the basics, and many of them are free. The same goes for public speaking, social media, and many of the other in-vogue skills you’ll come across in job descriptions.
In Monster's Grads to Candidates panel, Wesley Perry, SVP and chief talent officer for Leader Bank, expressed interest in candidates who wanted to learn. “It's about having the right attitude," he says. "I want someone with a can-do attitude. Especially when you're entry-level, you're not going to come in with all the skills. So I want you to come in and learn and contribute."
Use the scrappiness factor
For most people, your job doesn’t boil down to any single task. Especially when you’re early in your career, you’re bound to wear a lot of different hats. If you’re a video production assistant, for example, you might end up hauling equipment, fulfilling lunch orders, working with video editors, and coordinating schedules—all within the span of an hour.
During Monster's virtual career panel, Katie Shea, director of talent acquisition at C Space, emphasized the willingness to do whatever it takes to make a team function. "Given the current situation and dynamic with COVID-19, being adaptable and nimble is so important right now," she says. "In business, people are leaning in and doing roles that weren't exactly in their job description. It's about rolling up your sleeves and being open minded."
Reach back through your experience one more time. Can you think of any occasions where you had to learn a new set of skills on the job, maybe even on the fly? This isn’t “fake it ’til you make it.” This is scrappiness, and it’s a great quality to have. If you can show your interviewers you’ve been in a similar situation before—one where you had to learn by doing—and totally killed it, they’ll see your inner resourcefulness that will serve you well in the job at hand.
Let your resume open more doors
There are plenty of ways you can position yourself for a job you're not completely and totally qualified for. One way to get invited to more interviews is to make sure your resume highlights transferable skills and applies your existing strengths to the job you're interested in. Not sure your resume is doing that currently? Get a free resume evaluation today from the experts at Monster's Resume Writing Service. You'll get detailed feedback in two business days, including a review of your resume's appearance and content, and a prediction of a recruiter's first impression. Making a smart, strong first impression is a great way to get the message across to hiring managers that you're worth taking a chance on.