Applying for Jobs for Which You are Unqualified

I recently read Jill Lepore’s book, If Then: How the Simulmatics Corporation Invented the Future. It provided much food for thought (and a few ideas for articles!).

Years ago I attended a seminar. I don’t remember the subject but I remember how the presenter began. He asked everyone who was in “Sales” to raise their hand. Then he asked everyone to lower their hands and for those who had not raised their hand to stand up.

Personally, I do not appreciate speakers who embarrass their audience. In any event, he said to the people who were standing, “You don’t understand your companies. You don’t understand your role. You don’t understand business. Everyone is in Sales.”

Of course, he was right; everyone is in Sales. He was just wrong in the way he went about making his point. You might not actually sell the product or service offered by your company, but you do impact Customer Service. And if you do not do your job well, the customer, or client, will seek another provider. That is why we are all in Sales.

Which brings me to Lepore’s book. In it she notes that between 1950 and 1955, due to the manufacturing sector, the advertising industry grew from $6 billion to $9 billion. She quoted one manufacturer as saying, “We don’t sell lipstick. We buy customers.”

The same is true for job seekers. They don’t just have to have the attitude and perspective that they are selling themselves, as I have written multiple times previously, but also that they are buying employers, which I am now writing about for the first time.

Many career counseling clients come to me, frustrated, because they are not getting the interviews they want, meaning interviews for their dream jobs. When we review the job descriptions for those dream jobs for which they applied, it becomes clear that they are unqualified for the positions. They may want the jobs, they may honestly believe they can excel at the jobs, but the employers do not want them! If you will, they have not “bought” the employer, they have only sent them Spam, slid a flyer under their door, or mailed them an advertisement postcard!

How do companies buy us? How do they buy you? Why do you purchase their products or services and not those of their competitors’?

Employers, in our present example, do not want you. They don’t consider you qualified. You are not the soap that, as far as they are concerned, is going to clean their hands. So they go with the brand they trust. And why do they trust it? Because on some level – an impactful commercial or ad, a referral from a trusted source – they have established a personal relationship with the brand, product or company. They think they know them. They are comfortable buying them. And, ironically, because you are comfortable buying what they are selling, they have bought you!

When you apply for a job for which you are unqualified, the employer does not know you, trust you or like you. In fact, they are probably asking themselves, “Can’t this idiot read English? The job description clearly states that candidates must have X, and they don’t. And what’s this rubbish in their cover letter about ‘transferrable skills?’ I don’t want “transferrable” skills, I want actual skills!”

And, it’s true. You don’t have what they want. But you have the potential. Problem is, they don’t know that. You are trying to sell yourself when you should be trying to buy them, the employer.

There are three ways. The first is to do what we are doing right now. (I’m writing; you’re reading.) Write on LinkedIn. Don’t be political; be professional. Let potential employers learn about how you think and how well you know your business/industry/profession. Let them see how good you right and prufreed. (Beware: While politics will always be catastrophic, humor can sometimes be dangerous! Test question: Name the 3 errors. The first to respond in the Comment section below wins absolutely nothing! Void where prohibited.) Share your articles in the relevant groups. But not just on LinkedIn, also on Facebook. And share a link to the articles on all your social media platforms. (That is what I do and how I have now built a social media following of 45,000 people!) That way, you will not be “the best kept secret in town.” Employers will know about you and they will run after you, which is much better than the alternative, you running after them!

Second, network. Attend networking meetings. Meet new people. Have “one-on-one”s with them so you can get to know each other. In other words, build a relationship with them. Maybe they will hire you, or, maybe, and this is the third way to buy an employer, they will recommend you to an employer who is looking to fill a position. Put differently, they will become your ad agency.

Through writings, meetings, and recommendations, employers will not care that you have not done everything that they require per the job description, they will care about your potential. And that is the key word for being considered for a job for which you are technically unqualified. By being able to have your potential considered, you change the conversation from what you have done (the safe conversation) to what you can do (the unsafe conversation because it takes the employer outside their comfort zone and necessitates their having to defend to staff why they are even talking to you). Then you will buy the employer, just as the ad agency has bought you for the soap manufacturer.