Applying for jobs is hard work, especially if the positions you want don’t match your experience. Even if they are entry level jobs.
Fortunately, job postings don’t tell the whole story when it comes to landing a job that you know that you can do. The career path might not be totally clear, but you still want to jump on it.
There are a lot of ways to successfully apply for your dream job even if your resume doesn’t exactly match a job listing. And even if you are applying for a job with no experience no one is going to ding you for that, though you’ll need to go up-and-beyond to land the job. Or at least muster your confidence and sharpen your communication skills.
6 Tips for Landing the Job
We spoke to several career experts to bring you their top tips for job seekers struggling to find work with little-to-no experience and without being a college graduate. Here’s what they had to say.
1. Change How You Look at Postings
The first bit of advice we heard over and over was that job seekers should change the way they look at job postings no matter their work experience. Does this mean using different sites or methods of exploring job opportunities to get your foot in the door or even snag that assistant position?
Not exactly. According to career coach Kyle Elliott, it’s more of a change in mindset and attitude.
“Know that the job posting is a wish list,” says Elliot. “You do not have to have all of the qualifications listed in the job posting. Instead, focus on the experience, knowledge, and skills you do have that align with the job posting.”
In addition to highlighting the skills you have on your cover letter and resume, Elliot also suggests avoiding the time-old mistake he often sees as a career coach. You can still get a job with no experience but you don’t need to continually point out your lack of experience. After all, you are trying to get a job with no experience.
“Consider instead how you can strategically market your non-work experience on your resume. If you’ve started a side hustle, launched a business, or pursued relevant extracurricular activities, you may wish to include them in your career marketing collateral,” says Elliott.
2. Speak Their Language
While keeping things positive is important when it comes to job application success, you’ll also want to get in the habit of mirroring a company’s language on your application.
Are they looking for a team player with a good worth ethic? Talk about that employee of the month award or that you had zero sick days last year.
“Speak the language of your target company,” says Elliott. “Use the job posting as a recipe card to write your resume, LinkedIn profile, and other career documents.”
For example, he says, if you’re targeting a customer success role and previously worked in restaurant service, focus on how you successfully dealt with customers. Explain how you were routinely able to persuade customers to order an appetizer and A dessert to make more money for both you and the restaurant.
Practice translating the story of your previous job experience into something relatable your prospective employer can appreciate. This is even more impressive if you are going after an entry level job.
“While an experience or accomplishment may seem unrelated on the surface, nearly every story can be translated,” says Elliott about the effort to get a job.
3. Work Backwards to Show How You Fit
To expand on this last point, “working backwards” is a great strategy for writing a resume or application for a specific job, especially if it’s one you feel underqualified for. It’s important that you show the ways you will make up for this be it work ethic, education or attitude.
“Your role as a job seeker is to connect the dots between your experience and the target role,” says Elliott. “This makes the hiring manager’s job easier when they’re reviewing your job history.”
Be sure you’re capitalizing on experiences that match what your employer is looking for, but also remember to leave off anything that’s irrelevant. This will weaken your application and torpedo your chances for job interviews.
For example, if you spent a summer picking berries and this doesn’t have a strong tie to the job posting, this might be one of those things you cut. However, if you can show how you gained soft skills — communication with colleagues and maybe customers — then you make your experiences more relevant.
The same could be said for volunteer work which brings in no money but plenty of on-the-job education including problem solving skills, plus time management and team building experiences.
By selectively including experiences in your efforts to get a job, you’re not only flaunting your skills as a qualified employee, but also conveying your understanding of the role. Companies want to know they’re hiring someone who understands what they need, which is what you prove by using their posting as a blueprint for your application.
4. Highlight Motivation on Cover Letter
Another great way to get an employer siked about your application is by highlighting your motivation.
If you love the work a company is doing or their mission aligns with your values and goals, you should include this in your application.
“Convey a deeper understanding of the company and more particularly, the industry or sector it’s operating within to show your personal motivation to move into the industry,” suggests networking expert and author J. Kelly Hoey.
This is more than saying something generic about your interest, says Hoey.
“Tell the story of why you’re committed to entering the industry, as your ‘why’ reveals that you’re more than yet another applicant grasping for any job opening.”
5. Remember: Quality Over Quantity
The Internet makes it easy to get caught in the race of applying to as many jobs as you possibly can. You can copy-and-paste a slightly tweaked cover letter and resume dozens of times for dozens of postings in the span of an hour.
But somewhere in the rush, you may find the quality of your applications start to slide, or even that you’re inadvertently applying to jobs you really don’t want.
This is where it helps to keep a simple “quality over quantity” mantra in mind. “Focus on quality over quantity when applying to roles,” says Elliott. “Rather than applying to all of the open roles at a company, select a few key roles that you are well qualified for.”
Not only will being selective help you come off as a more serious candidate to employers, but it will also ensure you’re able to bring your A-game to every application.
6. Grow Your Network
The time spent searching for your next job might feel long and unproductive. But keep this in mind as you hunt for jobs and wait for the job offers to roll in: As you apply for jobs and get job interviews, you are growing a professional network. Every recruiter, hiring manager and prospective co-worker that you connect with are now part of your network.
“Have patience and make it part of your job application routine to stay in contact with every person who helps you along the way,” says Hoey. “By doing so, you’ll have mentors to turn to when you land the job, plus you’ll stay top of mind with those closest to the job market you’re seeking to enter.”
You never know when new opportunities will present themselves. Go the extra mile to have positive interactions with everyone you encounter on your job search.
Contributor Larissa Runkle specializes in finance, real estate and lifestyle topics. She is a regular contributor to The Penny Hoarder.