How to come across as qualified with minimal work experience

Guide-minimal-work-experience

Want to apply for a job position, but you don’t have all the required work experience? Don’t worry! There are still several ways to come across as qualified without having the right amount of experience. We talked to career coach Tessa Knijnenburg about what to do when you are applying for a job with less experience than required.

The first thing you need to know is that the requirements stated in a job position usually describe ‘the perfect candidate’. Employers often don’t expect to find applicants who match all requirements. Do you meet some of them? Great! Then get ready to start your application process with the help of these tips. 

There are a couple of different situations in which you might talk about your  work experience. In your CV, cover letter, or during an interview. Of course, there are numerous ways in which you can come across qualified in either of these situations.

Adapting your CV or writing your cover letter

Your work experience doesn’t have to be the first things on your CV or in your cover letter. If you don’t have the required work experience, a good alternative is to start with personal experiences or courses in university that relate to the job position. 

Let’s say you’re applying for a marketing position. Did you take a class in university that had anything to do with marketing? If yes, specify that and maybe also include the grade you got for the course. 

Also try to think of situations in the past few months where you showed true dedication or commitment to an assignment or project you worked really hard on. Showing that you are dedicated is important to employers, and easy to think of based on your personal experiences. 

You should always adapt your CV to the specific job position. Focus on academic elements, work or volunteering experiences, and personal stories  that match your (potential) responsibilities at this job. Less relevant elements can be mentioned on your CV, but don’t have to be explained in detail.


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Before or during an interview 

Getting invited for an interview is great. This means that the recruiter has reviewed your application and decided that you are qualified enough for a first meeting. In other words, they know you have minimal experience and still see potential. 

Preparing for an interview is key. Especially when there are some topics you’d rather not cover during the interview, like your minimal work experience. For example:  you’re applying for a Junior Digital Marketing position, but have no work experience with marketing at all. To still come across as a qualified applicant, research relevant topics about marketing before going to your interview. Make sure to focus on specific skills and characteristics that successful digital marketers possess. 

Do digital marketers need to be creative? Then make sure to write down some personal examples that show your creativity. Are strategic thinking and an analytic perspective essential? Try to think of moments in the last one or two years where you succeeded in strategic or analytical thinking. 

Finding personal examples of these kinds of skills or characteristics increases your chances of coming across as qualified for the job position. Lacking formal work experience does not have to mean that you don’t possess the relevant knowledge or skills. The interview is there for you to prove that you are right for the job. Make sure to take this chance and show that you want this. 

If you have no academic background or work experience related to your desired job, then focus on what got you interested in this job position in the first place. Did you speak to someone at an event who is in the industry? Did you watch a documentary that sparked your interest? Find out where the motivation for this job position came from, and talk about this during the interview.

Be open and honest

When you’re applying for an entry-level job position, the person who is interviewing you already knows about your minimal experience. During your interview you might be asked why this is the case. When you get asked to explain why you have minimal or no experience at all, be open and honest about it, but give it a little twist. 

Perhaps you did not have enough time to get relevant work experience, as you mainly wanted to focus on your studies. A Bachelor or Master degree can take up a lot of time and effort, taking into consideration the amount of hours you are expected to devote to your studies. If this is the reason why you don’t have a lot of work experience yet, be open about this. It shows that you decided to fully focus on your studies and stay dedicated towards that. 

Maybe you have been living abroad for the past few years, which made gaining work experience impossible. Explain this and elaborate on how living abroad has given you more intercultural experiences and skills. Focus on the positive things that you have learned from living abroad.

What not to do

Whether it’s in your cover letter or during an interview; never start with “I know I don’t have the right work experience, but.”. You want to avoid the entire topic of your minimal work experience. Rather, focus on highlighting the experience or characteristics you do have that match the job position. Look for some of the requirements you do meet and elaborate on those in your application. 

If you do have work experience, don’t mention all of it in your cover letter or during an interview. Having worked as a cashier at a supermarket isn’t going to help you get that digital marketing position. Briefly mention side jobs you had when you were younger in one sentence on your CV. This still shows that you know what it is like to work for someone else, but don’t make it stand out. Instead, highlight the fact that maybe you read a book on digital marketing that you really loved. 

Lastly, if you are applying to different kinds of jobs, don’t send out the exact same CV or cover letter. Make sure to adapt your CV to the various job positions and only include the elements that are truly relevant for the position.

Conclusion

These tips will help you come across as qualified even when you have minimal or no work experience. If you apply for a certain job, there must have have good arguments for why you are the person they should hire.  What truly counts is your motivation and drive for wanting to take on the job Passion, curiosity and motivation are sometimes better indicators of success than education or work experience. 

If you have the right motivation, and your character fits the company culture, consider yourself a qualified candidate.