One of the goals of writing a cover letter is to address your qualifications for the job opening. In addition, this cover document entices human resources professionals and hiring managers to read your attached resume. Personnel who do screening and selecting might have a short amount of time to determine if applicants are a potential good fit for the advertised opportunity. If you feel underqualified for an opportunity, you can still use your writing and communication skills in the cover letter to make the case for moving your application forward for further consideration in the hiring process.
Highlight Some Qualifications
Write about one of two of your strongest skills in the cover letter, according to what the hiring employer needs. Poorly written job advertisements might list 10 to 20 qualifications needed to perform the duties of the position, saying that this is the ideal candidate. Don't be intimidated if you don't exactly match or possess all of the qualifications. Some hiring managers might be okay with applicants who only have a couple of the attributes. For example, a customer service representative job ad might state the following qualifications: "Knowledgeable, focused on quality, problem solver, good listener and multi-tasker." The cover letter might highlight quality assurance and active listening skills.
Deemphasize missing qualifications in the cover letter by inserting other transferable skills that could be of use to the company. Some skills aren't specific to any industry, such as teamwork, leadership and communication skills. These might follow you throughout your career. For example, some people are uncomfortable communicating and speaking in front of a group, even around long-time co-workers, so if you're good at it, say so. Alternatively, a job seeker could stress strong writing skills, such as for business letters, white papers and product manuals, which is a talent that some employers value as much as good verbal communication.
Your skills, knowledge and abilities have potential value, even if you aren't using them at the moment. Your previous work experience, as well as on-the-job learning and training, could benefit new employers in ways never imagined. For example, a small retailer might advertise in the local newspaper for a job opening for a merchandiser and retail sales associate because of an upcoming busy holiday season. An underqualified Web-guru job seeker who is interested in this opportunity notices that the store has yet to establish an online website and social-networking presence. The job seeker can state in the cover letter how he can use his e-commerce and social media knowledge to help the business sustain and even grow sales through the Internet, during busy and slow periods.
Fixing Your Shortcomings
Offer tangible solutions that will remedy your missing qualifications. For example, a job may require a bachelor's degree in a specific major before the company will even consider other qualifications. If you are enrolled in college classes, maybe part-time, state in your cover letter that you are attempting to finish up your program, but it is taking longer than the traditional four-year completion schedule. Don't just state in your cover letter that you feel you can get up to speed quickly and gain the necessary qualifications to do the job -- after being hired -- if you have nothing on your resume or in your cover letter to back up those claims.
About the Author
Damarious Page is a financial transcriptionist specializing in corporate quarterly earnings and financial results. Page holds a medical transcription certificate and has participated in an extensive career analysis and outplacement group workshop through Right Management. The West Corporation trained and certified him to handle customer support for home appliance clients.
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Most job seekers encounter the following scenario at some point in their career: you’re not the typical worker bee; you have diverse experience and have performed a variety of functions in your career. Any employer should welcome your skills, but when you apply for your next job, the company wants at least ‘10 years of direct work experience’ and couldn’t care less about your eclectic background. So you’re not even considered for the position.
It’s pointless to ask if this is fair. The burden is on you to demonstrate why you’re a good hire even if your qualifications aren’t a perfect match for the position. Here are 4 tips for getting past this hurdle and landing the job you want:
Fill in the gaps in your cover letter
Cover letters, once a staple of job applications, have become passe. With a large volume of job applicants to review in today’s online world, most human resources professionals just scan through resumes with a cookie-cutter checklist by their side.
That doesn’t mean, however, that a brief, well-crafted note won’t attract the attention of a conscientious reviewer. In fact, if you can make a succinct case for why you should be hired, you will actually make the reviewer’s job easier and differentiate yourself from the pack. It shows initiative and thoughtfulness on your part.
The key here is to tell your story and use it to demonstrate your value: how have you evolved as a professional, what specific skills have you gained from your various experiences, and how will those things add value to the company. Tell that story convincingly, and you should at least get an interview.
Be honest — you’re not perfect
Conventional wisdom encourages us to highlight the positive and stay away from the negative. That makes sense but the flip side of that coin is that if you don’t address your obvious weaknesses proactively and show an employer why they don’t matter (or how you will get around them), they will likely be held against you and eliminate you from the race altogether.
Using the above example, if a job requires 10 years of direct work experience but you only have 5, you need to acknowledge that discrepancy but explain why you believe you can do the job just as proficiently as someone who meets that criterion. Otherwise, human resources will simply throw your resume into the ‘no’ pile without a second thought.
This is yet another reason a cover note is so essential. Even most standard online applications allow you to make a personal statement in a comment box, so use that to help the reviewer understand why your track record, no matter how diverse or indirect, has honed you into the type of professional they’re looking for. If you lack some particular skill, acknowledge it and explain why it won’t be a problem (perhaps you’re taking a course at your local college).
And don’t assume that the skills you have can’t be applied in a particular job just because the description doesn’t say so.
Connect the dots for an employer
When applying for multiple jobs, it’s natural for candidates to become fatigued and start cutting corners. The temptation is to leave it to the company to figure out how valuable your skills are. That’s fine if you meet all the requirements for a job but can hurt you if your story isn’t straightforward.
Make it easy for the reviewer to follow your career trajectory, both on paper and in person. That means don’t just state facts but spell out what those facts mean. For example, if you started your career in media investment banking at Morgan Stanley, then moved to an operations role at Disney, and now want to join Google in strategy, explain how your banking experience taught you about the business aspects of media and got you the operations job at Disney, which in turn showed you how traditional media is changing in a digital age and positions you to help Google with business strategy.
Make a promise
The one quality that a resume can’t capture is motivation. Even if you lack a particular skill required for a job, promising that you will make up for the deficiency through hard work, dedication and willingness to learn will help your chances. Motivation isn’t a guarantee of success, but it’s a strong indicator. And making a sincere promise that you will do whatever it takes to excel at your job will give your potential employer comfort.
S. Kumar is a tech and business commentator. He has worked in technology, media, and telecom investment banking. Kumar does not own shares of the companies mentioned in this article.