Looking to land a new job, but freaking out that you don’t have the required experience? Don’t sweat it. Even with record numbers of unemployed workers, as well as first-time job-seekers whose internships were canned, there are still ways to shine.
Whatever you do, don’t lie, either in a resume or face to face.
“It’s important in the interview process that there is honesty,” said Michael Solomon, co-author, “Game Changer: How To Be 10x in the Talent Economy” (HarperCollins Leadership). “College grads can stretch and bend the truth, but they should never break it. If they lie about their experience, it kills the relationship with that company permanently.”
Speaking to relevant experience that’s comparable is important, as well as explaining plans that were canceled by the pandemic.
Do your homework
“When employers ask for one to three years of experience, they’re looking for someone who they aren’t going to have to hand-hold through the most basic tasks,” said Kara Goldin, CEO of beverage company Hint and author of “Undaunted: Overcoming Doubts & Doubters” (HarperCollins Leadership). “You don’t want to pretend you know how to do something specific that you don’t actually know how to do. Research the industry and the role you are trying to land.”
She suggests getting schooled in your chosen job by conducting informational interviews with alums from your alma mater who work in similar roles. Then, during job interviews, you should say that while you don’t have previous experience in that role, you’ve learned something about it.
“Be specific about what you learned,” she said. And, if you’ve had the experience of jumping into something new, “be prepared to talk about it.”
Be eager to learn
Art Markman, professor of psychology and marketing at the University of Texas at Austin and author of “Bring Your Brain to Work: Using Cognitive Science To Get a Job, Do It Well, and Advance Your Career” (Harvard Business Review Press), said, “Demonstrate yourself as quickly as possible to be someone who is eager to learn from everybody around you. That has to happen no matter what level you’re at in an organization.
If you move to a new firm, you don’t know their culture yet and how they do things. [Ask] a lot of questions, [such as,] ‘Who can I be matched up with?,’ and ‘What structures are there to create those relationships?’ You’re saying, ‘I have a certain set of skills, but I know there’s a lot that I don’t know, and I want to know that; how does that happen here?’ ”
Inquire about taking classes to get up to speed. Also, ask about the company’s further education benefits along with their internal opportunities to find a mentor.
Show, don’t tell
You may be tempted to say things like, “I’m a self-starter” or “I’m a problem-solver,” but you need to illustrate you’re a roll-up-your-sleeves type of worker by explaining how you’ll ramp up.
“You’ve already done the analysis. You’ve figured out where some of the gaps are and you’re making a plan to try to fix those,” said Markman. “Even if you’re a little off-base, you’re demonstrating you’re a kind of person who knows how to solve a problem without having to say, ‘I’m the type of person who figures out how to solve a problem.’ ”
Highlight soft skills
When you don’t have specific experience, emphasize soft skills by highlighting them on your LinkedIn profile and within a summary at the top of your resume.
Billie Moliere, a district president for global specialized staffing firm Robert Half Legal in Midtown, said, “Soft skills like adaptability, flexibility, communication, empathy, a positive attitude, being solutions-oriented in today’s environment are especially relevant.”
Focus on your cultural fit
To crush an interview when you lack relevant experience, Solomon said it’s important to keep two interviewing questions in mind.
“Whenever someone is interviewed for a job, the person who is evaluating them is essentially focusing on two primary questions: Do they have the requisite skills and experience to do the task in front of them? And are they the kind of person who fits well with our team and with whom we want to have around?”
When you can nail both answers, you’re in the best position, but if you fall short on one, compensate by emphasizing the other.
“I certainly might hire somebody with less experience if they have all the other right attributes,” said Solomon. “I would almost never hire someone who has fantastic experience, but a personality that doesn’t fit our culture.”
Think outside the box
Skills and experiences that you possess outside traditional work environments count, too.
“Accomplishments don’t have to be work-related,” said Moliere. “Accomplishments in the community might be really impactful.”
Apply to jobs that are in demand
For jobs in loan processing, customer service, IT and financial review positions, hiring managers may be more lax on requirements.
“It’s hard to find specific talent in in-demand positions right now, so some employers are more open to looking at entry-level if it’s the right personality culture fit,” said Moliere.
Be upfront and answer anticipated questions when you apply online. Also, polish your social-media profiles to fill out your profile.
“Solve any mysteries,” said Moliere. “If you don’t have any internships, what happened between your graduation and now? Highlight it on your LinkedIn profile. If you’re submitting a resume, put it in your cover letter: Internship was postponed, you spent the summer volunteering with XYZ organization.”
Mind the gap
For jobseekers pursuing entry-level positions without an internship, highlight what you’ve been doing during the pandemic. “Were they involved with the community? Did they contribute in a certain way? What did you do to fill up your time?” said Moliere. “ I’d highlight what I did to fill my time today on my resume, particularly if it’s something purposeful and thoughtful.”
Additionally, get testimonials from former bosses, professors and leaders you’ve worked with. Secure certifications you may have earned in the process. Ramp up your social media and join online groups based on industries you’re pursuing to show you’re looking to gain more knowledge.
Moliere suggests finding “people you are connected to socially who can say, ‘This person is a quick learner, has a great attitude, this person is a supernetworker’ — these things are actually valuable in terms of what you look for in a future employee.”