I know I could do the job…if only they’d give me a chance!

I wish I had a dollar for every time a client made the above comment. While I have no doubt that the comment is true, we are currently in a buyer’s market—where hiring managers have lots of choices to make among candidates. While it is certainly possible for a hiring manager to pick someone based on their potential (especially for jobs above the entry level), in my view, it is unrealistic to expect hiring managers to do this. Let’s think about this for a moment…

Most job postings specify the criteria the hiring organization is looking for—whether through specialized experience and the occupational questionnaires in the federal government, or in a section in a private section posting that says something along the lines of, “The ideal candidate will have…” All applicants should carefully review the qualifications required. If the posting asks for 10 years of experience and you have 6, you are not likely well qualified. Or, if your experience is in a different area all together, while again, you may the basic qualifications (like a degree), you are not likely to have the specialized experience required.

In most job sectors, organizations receive hundreds, if not thousands of applications. The first screen is of those who do not meet even most the basic qualifications (like the 10 years’ experience mentioned above). The next screen is for those who are a match for all of the criteria. While you may match half the criteria desired, from a hiring manager’s perspective, why should they pick YOU, when they can have someone who (at least on paper) is a 100% match? And from a fairness perspective, if they considered your application with only half the qualifications, they should also consider everyone else who has only half the qualifications…

A related question I receive is along the lines of, “I did exactly what they’re looking for 15 [or 20 or more] years ago, how come I’m not been called for an interview?” While in this circumstance you may have all of the qualifications, your experience is dated. And again, from a hiring manager’s perspective, would you want to talk to someone who is doing the job now, or someone who hasn’t done it in 15 or more years?

While the private sector is typically more flexible in this regard, federal government hiring is based on hiring the best qualified, which makes it difficult to justify hiring people without all of the qualifications required and/or those whose experience is quite dated. For a successful job search, you need to be strategic about what you apply for. Do not waste your time applying for “everything;” instead, focus your efforts on those opportunities where you are a perfect (or nearly perfect) match for the stated criteria.