How to Outwit Excessive Job Requirements

Many in the tech industry believe that employers often want too much from candidates, publishing job descriptions that even super-qualified pros find excessive and unreasonable.

There’s really no good justification for overwritten “specs,” but their continuing appearance on job boards and recruiters’ desks means that any tech professional who wants a job needs to find a way to deal with them.

In situations where the bar is set too high, here are some concrete steps you can take to get positive recognition during a job search.

Basic Resume Hacks

“It’s helpful to put one or two sentences to describe the industries you’re in or industries you have been in,” said Joe Kotlinski, a partner in WinterWyman’s IT search group, “because people or computers just looking at your resume don’t know what kind of work you’ve done.”

Kotlinski recommended putting a single sentence or note after the company name, e.g. “J. Robinson, Inc., an international investment firm,” which might trigger a match with a vertical market; a recruiter searching via keywords related to investment or funding is more likely to bring up a resume coded in that fashion.

Believing that whomever is reading your resume will automatically connect your job title with the entirety of your skill set is another risky assumption. A talented Windows systems administrator, for example, may have experience with Active Directory Exchange or similar software, but won’t mention that on his or her resume because he or she thinks employers already know the skills are connected. Be as precise as possible—it can only help.

Break Down the Description

“Candidates should fully read a description and the requirements, making sure not to dismiss a job too quickly if their skill sets don’t match up to everything ‘required,’” said Ester Frey, vice president of Robert Half Technology. She suggested that candidates focus their efforts on the very beginning of the requirements list, as the most relevant skills tend to be at the top of the description.

Let’s say you find a job with an excessive description, but you still feel as if you’d be a good fit because you’re proficient in a healthy percentage of the listed requirements. In that case, tailor your resume to the job. “You need to be explicit when presenting your information to a company for an opening,” Kotlinski advised. “Highlight those skills in your cover letter and in your resume.”

Tie Experience to Specific Roles

While a chronological resume is still very valuable in highlighting duties, responsibilities and technical proficiencies, it’s critical to tie in your experiences to specific roles. “Highlight the work you’ve done on cross functional and project teams, as this can often pull in the qualities a hiring manager is looking for in a role that touches on many elements,” said Jesse Wright, vice president of Recruitment and Delivery with Adecco Engineering & Technology, “and always find a way to link back to the job description and be strategic in what you include.”

Nobody’s a Perfect Fit

“If a job seeker only has some of the required skills, which is the case for the majority of candidates, they need to focus on the achievements made with the skills they have,” said Emily Schweiss, senior technical recruiter and Wright’s colleague at Adecco.

You should carefully align your talents with what the organization is trying to accomplish. Here’s an example: If an employer wants someone to build an API to interface with a very specific program, a candidate can highlight their experience with building APIs using a variety of tools. “Show what you built and how it served the company, as well as how long it took you to get up to speed if any of the technology was unfamiliar to you,” Schweiss said.

If you’re inexperienced with a particular technology, highlight your work with a competing product. If you don’t know Red Hat Linux but have worked extensively with Ubuntu, you can stress the commonalities between the job spec and your closely related experience.

Beat the Computer Genie

Let’s say your experience doesn’t exactly fit the job requirements, but you think your skill set nonetheless makes you a strong candidate. There are ways to pass the initial resume screening, which is largely based on keyword matching, without resorting to lies; for example, phrasing your experience as, “While the position calls for X, my decade of developing Y is closely applicable to the position because…”

Engage Social Networks

“Engaging with the technology professionals and leadership at companies you’re interested in through professional networking sites and social media is another good way to get around the traditional application process,” Frey suggested, “and being able to develop professional relationships with IT teams may encourage employers to consider you for open roles based on the rapport you have built.”

To make Frey’s vision of social networking a success, though, candidates must present themselves as keeping up with the evolution of technology. Check periodically to make sure your online descriptions and profiles are as up-to-date as possible.

Be a Part of a Community

“Attend user groups or even share your knowledge by speaking,” Schweiss said. “This will help you build a reputation that precedes you as someone who is knowledgeable in the field. It might help get a foot in the door.”

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23 Responses to “How to Outwit Excessive Job Requirements”

  1. College graduate

    “You should carefully align your talents with what the organization is trying to accomplish. Here’s an example: If an employer wants someone to build an API to interface with a very specific program, a candidate can highlight their experience with building APIs using a variety of tools. “Show what you built and how it served the company, as well as how long it took you to get up to speed if any of the technology was unfamiliar to you,”

    How and the h_ll are you suppose to know what APIs they want to interface with. How are you suppose to gleam that information from specifications written like this:

    “Job Requirements:

    Computer Science or equivalent degree required
    5+ years experience in developing applications in C#
    Familiar with multi-threaded programming paradigms
    Experience with designing high throughput, low latency software
    Experience with Windows Forms and WPF required
    Knowledge of data structures and algorithms
    Prior usage of unit testing for large-scale software
    Familiarity with the financial industry
    Ability to work well with others
    Excellent oral and written communication skills”

  2. Job_seeker_II

    Too many job requirements are solely for the purpose of outsourcing/offshoring. The employer can whine and cry that their impossible requirements list cannot be satisfied by any US candidates so they can either bring in H1-B into the workplace or send it to an outsource vendor.

    • Christian

      JOB_SEEKER, you are 100% correct. I have been fighting this battle for about the last five years with TATA and InfoSys people being flown in from India to take contracting positions I have been hired for and then not renewed due to this pay scale destroying activity of the I.T. and Telecommunications industries. We American workers are being sold out by this outrageously corrupt marriage between government and big business.

  3. Joe Job Seeker

    I agree with job seeker II.

    Most job requirements are over-written and over-reaching. Some companies score how many of requirements are being met then perform the weeding process.

    Offshoring has certainly become poisonous. It’s all about the money!

  4. I have been just trying to break in to the industry. It is insane. As I sit before my multitudes of tech. “Yes I don’t have any professional experience”. ” Yes I don’t have that piece of paper that supposedly says I know something”. Can I tell you what I do have. I have close 180 college credits. I hit my Financial Aid cap. I am one class away from two different Associates degrees (Computer Engineering and Aerospace Maintenance). I am 7 credits away from another (Networking w/ Cisco). I have been working toward a Bachelors in Computer Engineering because it means more. There is reason why it is set up this way and mainly is because of my time in the military and how the economy has effected peoples lives. I regularly work in everything, I am a maker. I have started to invent things because it is the only way to get experience. Going for this field was a huge mistake. I will never be able to do something I love. I should have done something I hate. But unfortunately it is too late to shift. So I will do anything that sits me in front of a computer. I can design Mobile apps, websites, network utility devices, and anything of the network of things devices on my own time. I will continue to keep up to date by building my own services and administering my own network. Maybe one day someone will take a chance. If you only knew what they didn’t teach for that four year degree that I already know. If you only knew how much cheaper I would be, and how much harder I work because of it.

    • @Chris… Well, coming on to a website where people are seeking for jobs… (Sorry for my bluntness but this is the Internet.) and crying that you can’t break in is really showing me why you can’t land a job in the industry. I am prior service, and I have aerospace engenieering credits, I am credits away from a Computer science degree, which btw your ignorance is showing my friend… Being an engineer is DOESNT mean more or less; It brings along different opertunities and maybe different pay… But to the real world it doesn’t mean more or less in the industry. What it does sound like is you’re over cocky about what you haven’t even finished yet. As someone who looks at potential new people in my company… I am 100% you wouldn’t be any where near my 50% of candidates. Your history is incomplete. So, not only do you have 0 experience… You also have an incomplete education in 3 different fields. Your aerospace maintenance has little to nothing to do with the it world at the level you want to enter into it. (Unless you’re in Colorado, then it may actually matter) because of there are few people who have exprience in the areospace community)

      I think what you should be doing, since you have nothing on paper AND NO EXPERIENCE IN THE IT FIELD, Is start looking for a desktop or helpdesk job and move forward from there. At least you can get a few years experience, finish all your degrees, then come here to complain about the job market.

      Lastly, I am sorry for your frustration trying to get into a career field, but the military is not even close to the real world it translates and exprience can be gained from it. it’s now more a very long and dull tech school.

    • Michael

      Getting that dream job is really tricky. You really have to be faster than the other candidates. But certain things help. If you can find any job in the local area, you find a room or apartment, get bank accounts set up or transferred. That makes recruiting you far easier for the employer. You can simply start next week or at their convenience.

      Sometimes employers promote from within and have an internal job vacancy list, so getting any job with that company then allows you to move toward that goal. On the other hand, some employers want “fresh talent” for senior level jobs, so then you find you have hit a glass ceiling career wise. Or all those “dream jobs” are so desirable that it’s a case of “dead man’s shoes” where a whole line of people are waiting for someone to move on so that they can get their shoes.

      That leaves the only other solution to work as a freelancer/contractor or get further qualifications. Writing articles for magazines or even a book is a way of demonstrating you have the required knowledge.

    • Chris, I have been in the IT field since 1998, and I have to agree with Kevin. What you put fourth doesn’t say much about your abilities. If you were to send a resume I would glance it over and see that you haven’t finished anything. The three fields you list are impressive however I would prefer a person with at least an associates degree and maybe some certifications over someone who bS neither. I am also a veteran and again have to agree with Kevin. Military experience and real world applications are 2 different animals all together. I would suggest starting out by applying as a level 1 help desk, although some of the companies I work with require at least the A+, Net+/CCNA certifications. Maybe you can gain experience becoming a member of the Geek Squad. It’s a start in the right direction.

  5. In response to Chris (26MAR15):

    First, and foremost, thank you for your service! Don’t get discouraged my friend as it’s a tough time for many. Logistics can make a big difference as well. Not knowing more than what you’ve posted here, please allow me to offer a few thoughts.

    You’ve indicated that you have skill sets in building apps, websites, and NUD’s. You’ve also mentioned Cisco and Computer Engineering. As “a maker,” that is to say, you have the ability to develop, consider your app skills. Perhaps you can sit down and brainstorm on tying your personal/professional/military experiences into a helpful app. Think getting on base as opposed to knocking it out the park. This would be great experience and can also generate income. Also, listen to those around you – network a bit – listen to what people are saying that they need. Especially those who love to complain. How about some apps that help military integrate with the Job market? How to apply for VA loan? Guide for military families on travel and vacation discounts (that kind of thing). Again, its the experience – ultimately, you could set a goal to develop 8 – 10 apps, build a website to promote, and form an LLC (don’t use your own name) – Find a partner who maybe in the same boat. You could use each others as references when applying for future employment.

    Next, I would consider certifications. Project Management, Cisco networking, Oracle, etc. Something that you can add to your resume that shows another formal body recognizes your credentials.

    Lastly, I would consider a “paid” internship as there is no reason to work for free. Unless, of course, it’s for NASA or another entity that could lead to full-time employment. Internships have proven to be a useful alternative to getting your foot in the door.

    Do your best to stay positive and keep pushing. One more thing – It never hurts to go and meet with management and talk. You can take the approach that you’re graduating soon and would appreciate some advice. Or, as a final project, you have to interview an industry professional – Consider meeting with an HR executive or hiring manager. You can share with them that you’re final project has to do with developing computer software to aid in the hiring process (That’ll get ‘em). Get them to share with you as to what they “don’t” like about the present method(s) they are using. The point is, HR directors & managers know what their company needs are and may tie you to that opportunity. Also, they may take an interest in you and want to help you with your resume/job search, etc.

    Best of luck Chris –

  6. William

    Working for someone is a scam – if you can condition yourself to exploit others (your workers and your customers) you win the jackpot of running the successful business and having everyone else play a rigged game you create

    that is the definition of profit

    if you care about people and ‘doing the right thing’ you will be exploited by those that don’t

  7. Sometimes excessive job requirements or references to specific makes and models of equipment are signs that the company or organization already have a specific person in mind for the job who they know has all of the talents mentioned and are trying to get by a requirement that they actually go out and look for someone on the open market. Organizations have these rules so they don’t just hire friends or friends of friends or someone’s family member.

  8. As a technician who has done a variety of work from component engineering to PLC programming to PC/Network Support to teaching to repair of RF equipment I have seen these ads before. I call them Super Tech positions. In some cases the company may say they want the multi-craft or cross-trained individual. In many cases, they simply do not want to train employees who have good skills but lack some specific ones. I’ve seen some companies ask for skills that they don’t use when you get there like work with MatLab and LabView.

    • Lex Mercatoria

      This is, unfortunately, so true.

      As I’ve noted before, in the eyes of the “C” suite mafia Dr. John von Neumann and Sanjay are identical, interchangeable cogs in the I.T. machine, both equally deserving of the same burger flipping wages.

      In the end, it’s all just “labor”, right?

    • Mister President

      With the out-of-control credentialism and skills requirements we see soon one will need a Master’s in “Janitoriology” and to be “Mop+” certified before an employer will let you push a broom.

  9. vlad polchaninoff

    Incorrect use of the object “whomever.” Don’t try to impress with grammatical nuances that you don’t understand. If I saw that in a resume, it would immediately go to the round file. As harsh and rigorous as the rules are for resume writers, they are disproportionately lax for job postings and advice forums. Lead by example!!

  10. moe barker

    there are no jobs !!

    iof there was a true need or a shortage them companies would change there toon.

    these skills requirments are a psychological game played on potential employees to BEAT DOWN THEIR wage demands.

    we need to utilize all the social media and fight back at these lies and exaggerations.
    youtube and vimeo should have thousands of name and shame productions