Getting your first job or migrating from one position to another often requires the alignment of stars. I’ve been witnessing this ordeal among friends, who were struggling to land a single interview, and recently through my wife’s experience as an HR administrator, inhabiting the other end of this match-making business.
The question, obvious enough, writes itself down – what do you do when you lack an impressive CV? Short of credentials, a meaningful job experience, and someone to vouch for you, how is stepping pass the first stage even possible?
Luckily enough, we live in a world different from the one of our fathers. With the digital revolution, opportunities came aplenty. The techniques I’m about to share, both of them simple enough to implement right away, can turn things in your favor, regardless of education, job experience, and professional networks.
Based on a principle of showcasing your competence, now it is easier to “sell yourself” than ever. So let’s get specific right away.
What you need to understand before applying these techniques
A carpenter who understands the fundamentals of building a house will always outshine the one who carries a fancy toolbox. To follow this logic, is to admit on the necessity of first principles.
What do businesses look for when hiring employees?
Everybody can answer this question – they look for competence. They look for someone who can get the job done. Male, female, young or old, with education or without – as long as you can complete every task and do so with consistency, you are qualified for the position.
Other metrics like the ability to learn, having high emotional intelligence, being presentable, and easy to communicate with are also important, but only if they serve the main objective, which is to get the job done.
If this is true, however, why on Earth does anybody have to fill in a list of requirements? Why do you need to check a box on a specific educational background, or point to a career of certain length?
Well, in order to save time and energy considering the scope of the labor force, all businesses need to discriminate. They need to build specific stereotypes hoping to attract only the right people for the job.
How much does education matter?
Having a college degree can communicate a lot of things. It can vouch on behalf of your persistence, your intellectual capacity, and a certain skillset without the need for verification. And this is especially true if you happen to get a degree in the field associated with the job position.
But do you think that education alone is of any importance to a business? I’ve been a witness, time and again, where recruiters don’t even ask for background other than what pertains to competence.
How about experience?
While a steady record of holding a job, especially a related one, can communicate a lot of information to an employer, it is once again in the service of showcasing competence.
Show me that you know how to handle the problem I’m willing to outsource, and I won’t care whether you’ve been working in the field for 3, 10 or 20 years.
Two ways to impress recruiters and land a job interview
Having the fundamentals covered, I’m now going to share two extremely useful techniques for landing a job interview.
The first is often used by designers and programmers, but can very well apply in other verticals beyond the digital domain. Let’s unpack that one before sharing the other.
1. Have a showcase portfolio
Regardless of your skill, past achievements can be always documented in a well-presentable spreadsheet, flyer, poster, webpage, or any form of document.
You can use online design tools like Canva, or website builders like Wix, and make a compelling case for your competence.
The common objection, however, comes from people who never held a job. What are they going to show?
Well, you got to start from somewhere, so volunteering, making side projects, and even mock-up projects can help. All of these can find a place in your showcase portfolio.
A friend of mine, who is currently working at Google, started her career by creating mock-up projects on Behance. She showed them when applying for a job, and recruiters fell in love right away.
Another friend of mine, who is currently holding a senior developer position, landed the job thanks to a side project of ours. Created with excellence, it proved his competence far better than any educational background, experience, or credentials.
But how does this apply to more traditional jobs roles?
Well, what do you have in mind?
Carpenters can take pictures of completed projects; HR administrators can create a mock-up program for a garden variety of companies; Writers can publish on Medium; Teachers can give and record free lectures in neighborhood communities; Chefs can create their own menus, host a tasting event and gather reviews from locals…
Whatever your trade, you can show and document your skills!
It takes a bit of resourcefulness, and persistence to build your case, but going down this road communicates competence.
If you don’t practice your skills, often without financial compensation, how can you convince me that you are passionate enough about a certain position?
2. Take on the job before you apply for it
Here is a secret about this website. We’ve never accepted unsolicited writing proposals, but there are 3 super long articles written by people who e-mailed us with such. Not only was the proposal interesting enough in all of these cases, but they’ve already sent the finished article within the e-mail.
And what can an editor do when he receives a super relevant, interesting and skillfully written exercise review. They’ve “solved a problem” and it was only natural to invite them on board.
The same strategy can be applied to any job position on the market. Want to become a software developer in a specific company? Well, find out what they do, and send them a completed project specific to their field of work.
I use this method as part of my business model. How can a stranger trust me enough to buy my fitness platform otherwise? I start by sharing lengthy advice on weight loss, for free, showcasing my competence and ingenuity. Some of the readers love it, and they search for more content, ultimately appreciating my product.
So, what are some of the examples?
Well, do you want to be a designed for another company? Do some mock-up designs and send them within the application e-mail.
Want to be hired in marketing? Find out what’s the product of a specific company, where they struggle the most, and create a decent campaign before you even apply for the job.
Want to work in sales? Find a single company and gather e-mail addresses, or names and phone numbers as leads. Then, just send an e-mail telling the recruiters that you are interested in the job, along with the list of leads.
Here is why this is such a powerful technique:
- You have already proven that you can do the job. The gap of uncertainty is closed with a bridge that is indicating competence.
- You have demonstrated your calculated risk taking capabilities, and surprised the employer. Employers want you to follow their guidelines, but love it even more when you improvise and take risks that work. Nothing else can demonstrate competence better than this.
- You have solved the problem for free. Imagine what you’ll do for compensation. If this is the amount of dedication and persistence that you employ even without a salary, it is very indicative to what will happen when you are actually hired.
- The job interview goes in your favor. You will be able to discuss about the task completed, and create a relationship that is similar to that of an employer-employee. They will know what working with you is like, and make the call right there and then.
- You will learn a lot about the company as well. If your efforts land on deaf ears is that really the place you want to be working at? Do you want to spend your time in an environment where effort is not noticed, yet alone rewarded?
If you are less skilled in selling yourself and your craft, allow your work to perform the selling in your name. Introvert or extrovert, these two techniques are some of the more reliable methods for getting your skills noticed and appreciated – regardless of your educational background and regardless of your previous job experience. All it takes is for you to complete your homework, do some research, and apply your skills.