How To Land the Job, Even If You’re Not a Perfect Fit

A member of our Dice Community asks:

I’m not a perfect fit for the job based upon the posting. How do I convince them to hire me anyway?

Job OfferLet’s start by assuming your skills and interests basically fit with the role, even if you don’t have all of the requirements it calls for. Although most managers won’t hire a total novice for a complex technical role, they may select candidates who best fit their company’s environment, since a poor cultural match often leads to someone quitting – or being let go – before much time has passed. To prevail, you need to emphasize your strengths and environmental fit while minimizing the skills you lack. Here’s how to do it.

Start by customizing your resume and cover letter toward the environment and the manager’s needs. Using language similar to that of the job posting and offering a customized value proposition will make you seem like an insider, and give you an edge over more qualified candidates.

Next, go out of your way to bond with everyone you meet during interviews and propose a plan to overcome your shortcomings. For instance, say something like, “I’m willing to work nights and weekends to improve my C++ skills. I didn’t know Python when I started my last job. Yet, I was writing pretty clean code within a few weeks.”

Then be ready to summarize your strengths and quantify your value. The manager may be willing to take a chance if the plusses on your balance sheet outweigh the minuses.

If the manager’s still reluctant, reduce the risk by providing additional proof of your strengths, things like coding samples or references. Or, you could offer to start out on a contract basis. Most managers would rather hire a sharp, trainable candidate with a great attitude. Don’t under-estimate the persuasive power of positive vibes.

Have you landed a job where you didn’t quite fit? Tell us about it in the comments below.

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4 Responses to “How To Land the Job, Even If You’re Not a Perfect Fit”

  1. VantagePt

    The advice sounds logical, unfortunately it’s often difficult to charm the computer that screens most applicants prior to speaking or meeting anyone with a heart beat. I’ve heard of programs that are sensitive to the usage of key words and may discriminate automatically. The usage of various resumes may also be cumbersome to maintain as many apply to many positions over the time they are searching to attain their next position. I’m not sure if there’s a “magic bullet” resume format that will improve your odds at that elusive interview. I think for many it’s more the ability to get past the computer to get to that one-on-one that’s the biggest challenge. Many job seekers would love the opportunity to be able to physically present their credentials beyond a digital document that’s more a summary then the whole story as to why they should be chosen.

  2. All good advice. At the end of the day, if the employer wants you, they will be in touch quickly and get you in as fast as they can, and if they don’t it is best to move on until you find the employer that is interested in you. Sometimes it takes a while and that’s just the way it goes out there on the road less traveled…

  3. I don’t think this approach to hiring is common in typical corporate America. My own experience and the comments section of this article back that up. The author requested comments from people that landed a job for which they didn’t quite fit. However, this article has been online for twenty months so far, and nobody has provided such comments. In theory, the article has some good ideas, but they rarely ever work in practice. I think a lot of hiring managers (and especially recruiters) need to see a resume that perfectly matches the skillset required for the job so they can ‘cover themselves’ in the event the candidate doesn’t work out.

    I do have one example of where I was hired for a job that my experience didn’t fit. Early in my career, shortly after obtaining my Masters degree, I landed a job in healthcare IT as a business systems analyst. I had previously worked as a quality engineer and a systems administrator, but had never worked with patient management and patient accounting systems. I was clearly not a perfect fit (if my experience was compared to the actual duties of the position). In my resume, I was very straightforward with my education and experience. I didn’t do anything special or clever with my resume to suddenly open the eyes of a hiring manager. The key to getting hired in this case was the intelligence of the hiring manager, their ability to trust their judgment, and the support of their upper management in using that approach. Both the hiring manager and his immediate manager were exactly the kind of people that “would rather hire a sharp, trainable candidate with the right attitude” – in fact, they almost used those exact words. In that case, a candidate with the right attitude meant that I would bring a sense of urgency and eagerness that could *change* the culture of the team of analysts I was about to join – not that I would fit in perfectly with the existing culture.

    That happened fifteen years ago, and it hasn’t happened to me since then. I have held three jobs since then and have been looking for another job for six weeks now.

    Bottom line, I think there is very little a candidate can do if they’re not a perfect fit for all of the requirements, it’s really more about the hiring manager.