How to spin your experience to land a job that you're not exactly qualified for on paper
Financial services employers are pickier than ever in the current down market. While bankers want to move into a role that can develop them professionally and propel their career forward, those doing the hiring only want a perfect match for the job they’re looking to fill.
With most banks cutting jobs, how can you spin your resume and cover letter to ensure that you’re at least considered for a role that may be a stretch for the experience you have?
1. Remember, the job description is a wishlist
Employers are digging their heels in and demanding perfect candidates, but this doesn’t mean you have to have everything in the job description. Employers are taking advantage of the current job market and asking for skills and experience above and beyond what they actually need in order to attract some top talent.
“Employers always put their wish list in the role, everything but the kitchen sink,” says Caroline Ceniza-Levine, a career expert and the founder of SixFigureStart. “What candidates need to do is go line-by-line through the job, have specific examples and quantifiable results ready where they do match the job.
“Then where they don’t match – say the job requires extensive discounted cash flow analysis and you haven’t done that – you talk about what other types of modeling you’ve done,” she said. “You can also point to coursework that matches – if you don’t have an exact match, approximate.”
2. Highlight skills over experience in your resume
Brand names matter, and your previous employer can be nearly important for getting the attention of recruiters as the skills you possess. Few recruiters would recommend purely functional resumes, but spinning it to prominently display your skills over experience is a good tactic.
“A list of core competencies at the beginning of the resume that may be broader, or slightly off target, is a good way to show skills and breadth,” says Jane Cranston, the president of Executive Career Coach.
3. Focus on expertise over job title
Investment banks may have fairly standard job titles, but in financial services it’s possible that the roles you’ve had don’t reflect the skills you can bring to the table. Anything unusual or unconventional can rule you out when recruiters are deluged with resumes and spending a couple of minutes reviewing each application.
“Include the actual job title, but elaborate on that next to it with a hyphen, for example, and say ‘Manager for X employees,’ or whatever it is that would more accurately reflect your level of expertise,” said Hallie Crawford, the founder of HallieCrawford.com Career Coaching.
4. Never draw attention to your short-falls
There’s never a perfect candidate. While you may be missing some elements of what the recruiter is looking for, the chances are that other applicants will also have gaps in their experience. Drawing attention to this by claiming to be, say, a “quick-learner” merely highlights your short-comings. You may wish to grow into the role, but employers want someone who can slot in immediately.
“Employers don’t want to train you on their dime,” Ceniza-Levine said. “They want someone who brings something to the table.”
5. Make personal connections
It’s obvious that networking helps open doors to organisations when you’re not entirely suited to a job. The ‘spray and pray’ approach simply doesn’t work when you’re trying to stretch yourself, so you should seize any opportunity to make personal connections.
“I recommend candidates join local networking groups, industry-related Twitter chats and other social media engagement, and email, write or call leaders directly,” says Laura Mazzullo, founder of recruiters East Side Staffing.
6. Bend on your salary expectations
If you’re changing your career path, or aiming for something higher than you’re currently qualified for, you need to be willing to accept less compensation than you would in another scenario.
“Employers are willing to pay a higher premium for a candidate bringing previous experience – less training for them, less ramp-up time for a new employee,” Mazzullo says. “Almost every hiring manager I talk to says ‘We want to hire someone who can hit the ground running from day one’ and they will pay more for that luxury.”
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