Focus on the strengths
“Just take a chance on me.”
It was a common line in my cover letters a few years ago, when I was desperate to make the switch out of management and into marketing—without a related degree or experience. Even so, I was so sure that if the employer just gave me a chance, he or she wouldn’t regret it.
But when an employer has a pool of fully qualified candidates, why would he or she take a chance on someone who’s on the edge of meeting the job requirements?
I’ll tell you this much: It takes more than including a pretty unconvincing pick-up line in your cover letter. Here are a few tips to get your foot in the door.
Don’t Draw Attention to Your Lack of Skills or Experience
The key to this whole process isn’t necessarily to convince the hiring manager to take a chance on you, but to get him or her to actually think you’re a good fit for the role. So the very first thing you have to do is stop apologizing for your lack of skills or experience.
Whenever you include a sentence in your cover letter such as “While I’ve never been in a marketing role before…” or “Although I don’t have any management experience…” or even “If you would just take a chance on me…” all you’re doing is telling the hiring manager you can’t do the job.
“Instead of drawing attention to your weaknesses, a better way to move on to your qualifications is to state your skills and ability to contribute directly,” recommends career counselor Lily Zhang. “Stay positive, focus on your strengths, and immediately launch into your transferable skills and infectious enthusiasm for the position.”
Showcase What Sets You Apart
No matter what you’re transitioning from or to, you do have transferable skills.
For example, while my management roles didn’t involve any true marketing, they did require me to network and form relationships with other businesses in the community, manage multiple projects at a time, and communicate effectively with our customers—all of which would be helpful in a marketing role. (Here’s a great cover letter template that can help you show off your transferable skills.)
Even more important is demonstrating your additive skills, says career expert Sara McCord. That means fully embracing your career background and finding a way to express how that background will uniquely suit you for this job.
“Think about it: If you’re slightly underqualified, there’s a reason why,” she says. “If you spent the first two years of your career in a different sector, you bring experience from that industry.”
For example, when I first wanted to write for The Muse, I had absolutely no writing experience—but I did have management experience, which made me an ideal candidate to write management content.
Take a Risk
To get a hiring manager to choose you out of a sea of other applicants, especially when you may not be as qualified as the others, you might as well take a risk to stand out. Otherwise, you may simply pass under the radar. (And let’s be honest: What do you have to lose?)
These types of applications certainly get the attention of the hiring manager, clearly conveying that the person just might have something the tips the scale in his or her favor. (Just make sure to follow these tips to make sure you’re not going too over the top.)
But maybe you don’t want (or don’t have the means) to be that bold. You can stand out in plenty of other ways, says counselor and Muse columnist Caris Thetford. For example, maybe you submit a project proposal with your application or compile your writing samples in an online profile. This can help you stand out from the other applicants just enough to show the hiring manager that you may deserve another look—and ideally, an interview.
Do Everything Else Right
You can’t afford to slip up when you think your resume might be on the bottom of the pile. That means sending every thank you note on time, following up in a timely (but not annoying) fashion, and proofreading your resume and cover letter a dozen times over to check for errors.
These may seem like small and insignificant gestures, but the smallest flaws can remove a candidate from the hiring process—and you don’t want that to be you.
By proving your worth in your application materials, you’ll have a much better chance of landing an interview—and then, you can showcase your cultural fit and passion face-to-face. Do that well, and you just may convince the hiring manager to take a chance on you.
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