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Ask a Recruiter: How Can I ‘Pitch’ Myself for a Job I’m Not Qualified For?

How to frame the experience you do have as sought-after skills

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InHerSight asked Dana Hundley, cofounder of Career Cooperative, to talk about ways career-changing women can advance their careers, even if they don’t have all the skills they need for the jobs they want. These are her answers, in her own words. Are you a recruiter with job advice to share? Email our managing editor Beth Castle at beth@inhersight.com for consideration.

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What’s your elevator pitch? 

I am the cofounder of Career Cooperative, an Oakland, California–based boutique consulting firm that empowers clients to face career transitions, professional growth, and recruiting with confidence. I’ve learned a lot through the transitions in my own career and decided to combine all of that experience into what I love to do: coach candidates and companies to make connections and build their brands. It's why, with my amazing business partner, I started Career Cooperative—to connect with my community, connect job seekers and those in career transitions to an empowering “aha” moment, and connect companies to the power of employer branding and impactful recruiting and interview strategies.

Let’s talk about career changes and advancement. What if your strengths aren’t what you want or need them to be to progress in your current career or transition to a new one?

I think one of the most important lessons to learn is that you, first and foremost, are responsible for your career growth and development. If you want to develop your skills, or grow your strengths, or just explore new opportunities, you have to lead the charge. In the context of wanting to develop within a role or company, strategize a development plan and present it to your manager with the directive that you would like to work on this together. That act alone shows your dedication and drive. And in the example of wanting to expand your leadership skills, shows your ability to take the lead in your own career.

Regardless of whether you want to grow where you are or transition somewhere else, take stock of the opportunities where you are. If you are in a role, does the organization offer trainings, or a stipend toward further education/trainings; is there an opportunity to join a committee or take charge of a new project; can you get involved with a project that is cross-functional to get exposure to other departments; are there tech tools and systems used at the company you would like more exposure to? If you get stuck, check in with HR if available, for opportunities and support. 

In an interviewing setting, work to highlight the connections between the skills and strengths you do have with those you aspire to. For example, if you are interviewing for a role where you have a direct report, but you’ve never managed someone in a traditional sense, break down what you think makes a good manager and speak to how your skills and experience embody that. As a manager, you need to be able to juggle your direct report’s workload and deliverables with your own; describe ways you have balanced multiple projects or duties, and how you have strategized timelines and clear communication to ensure all were completed successfully. Think outside the box. Just because you haven’t had “manager” in your title doesn’t mean you haven’t managed projects or relationships; speak to those examples also. Last but not least, speak to your ability to grow and learn with concrete details of how you have taken on something new and how you ramped up. 

Read more: Ask a Recruiter: How Do I Change Careers?

For women seeking higher paying jobs, technical skills like coding are popular, for good reason, right now, but they’re not always attainable with women’s work and life schedules. What are some underrated and marketable soft skills women interested in shifting their careers can lean on to help them transition to sought-after roles?

“People skills” can be incredibly helpful for women interested in shifting their careers. The ability to connect with people is twofold. First, soft skills around being able to effectively work with, coach or mentor, develop, read people are marketable in most industries and most organizations. Second, people skills and more specifically the ability to connect with people is a fantastic way to connect with jobs. Sometimes the biggest barrier to entry when making a career transition is getting past the black resume hole that can’t easily translate your experience. The best way to get around that is to engage your community, or your community's community, for informational interviews or more in-depth touchpoints than a resume to get to the part where you actually connect with a person and can articulate your strengths. 

Also, if there truly is a technical skill you are interested in like coding, there are many flexible educational opportunities to look into. I would also recommend using it as an opportunity to, again, see what your company has to offer or if a manager will help support your pursuit of an additional skill set. 

Read more: Why 60% Qualified is Enough, According to a Recruiter

When women “pitch” themselves for a role, what are the key points they need to hit, especially if they’re nontraditional candidates for the position?

The best way to pitch yourself for a role is to frame your experience and strengths within the impact you can bring to the role and organization, and by aligning your values to the organization’s values.  

Make sure you understand what is valuable to the organization, or where there are holes in skills or expertise that you can fill. You can do this through research. Most companies talk openly in some form about their values, and straight from the source through informational interviews and asking pointed questions in the early stages of the interview process. 

If you are a nontraditional candidate, clearly make the connection between your transferable skills to what the role requires. Never assume that anyone understands what you do or can see how your skills and strengths are transferable—spell them out! 

This is also why it is important to understand your strengths and what you want out of work. Take the time to reflect regularly because both can change. You are better able to articulate with confidence your strengths when you understand them and their value. You are better able to pitch yourself and skills for a role when you combine that knowledge with how your value can impact that role and organization.

Read more: 8 Tech Courses We’re Taking to Level Up Our Skills

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By Beth Castle

Managing Editor, InHerSight

Beth Castle is on staff at InHerSight, where she writes about workplace rights, diversity and inclusion, allyship, and feminism. Her bylines include Fast Company, Charlotte magazine, The Charlotte Observer, SouthPark magazine, Southbound magazine, and Atlanta magazine. She holds a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia.

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