The Truth About Position Requirements

In this week’s Ask Victoria, our reader wants to know whether to avoid applying to positions in which he is missing one of the requirements. In addition, he wants to know how to convince nonprofits to interview him. If you’ve been having these same concerns, read on!


Hi Victoria,

Many of the job descriptions I’ve looked at in my search would seem to be good matches for me. I’ve gained skills in communication, organizing and coordinating, and collaboration in a career as a customer service program/project manager.  Yet the positions require some experience in fundraising, even what appear to be entry-level positions.  I do volunteer, but more as a “doer” than a fundraiser.  Should I look for positions that don’t involve fundraising in order to get a foot in the door?

How do I convince nonprofits to at least give me an interview so we could discuss fit?  It seems to me that if I fit 90% of their requirements, I could learn the other 10%. Or am I being naïve?

Sammy

Hi Sammy,

Guess what? Over the last few weeks, I’ve been interviewing HR professionals and hiring managers (I’ll be featuring these interviews in upcoming articles) and they have said that in most cases, passion trumps skills at their organizations. The skills, as you mentioned, can be learned, but the passion has to be there in order for you to maintain your momentum and your desire to do well in your role.

If you’re truly meeting 90% of the other qualifications for most of the jobs you’re interested in, you can (and should!) apply for them- unless of course the 10% that you’re missing is an integral part of the job. Assess the full list of requirements and how essential they are for the job. Be sure to highlight your strengths- you are not expected to point out the skills that you lack on your application, so lead with your abilities.

As I’m sure you know, you can certainly use your volunteer experience to your advantage. Demonstrate your passion for the cause, and whenever applicable, show how your volunteer experience relates to the job that you’re applying for.

While you mentioned that you haven’t done any fundraising, there are a couple of things you can do to supplement your experience. First, educate yourself on the skills needed to be successful in this area. For example, having customer service skills can apply to fundraising when you think in terms of building and managing relationships.

Which of the necessary skills do you already possess? These are the ones you should showcase on your resume. In your cover letter, write how you can use those skills effectively in fundraising.

This is a quick fix, so over the long term, try this: look at the organization where you are currently volunteering. See if you can get involved in the fundraising efforts that are already in place there. If there is no opportunity in the organization’s current efforts, why not broach the topic of working on a fundraising project of your own creation? Perhaps you can coordinate a fundraising event or survey potential donors on behalf of the organization. This would not only help you gain the experience you’re looking for, but it will express your initiative and drive.

Next, I’ll address your question about interviewing. One of the keys to landing an interview is to make a solid match between your skills and experience, and the needs of the organization. So let’s backtrack a little bit.  Take a look at the resume you’ve been sending and the listings for the jobs you’ve already applied for. How well do they match?

You’ll be less likely to be called for interviews if the synergy between the skills you’ve outlined on your resume and the job requirements is lacking. If your transferable skills– particularly those of most interest to the hiring organization- are not evident, make sure to address this in your applications going forward. Take the time to tailor your resume to your job applications. Remember to put your focus on quality rather than quantity. The number of jobs you apply to is not what matters- what’s important is that you apply to the ones that are likely to hire you. You can start uncovering which ones those are by making stronger matches between your skills and the organization’s needs, before you even send your application.

Please keep us posted on any improvements you see once you adopt this new approach!

To your success,

Victoria

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I became acquainted with Idealist in late 2000 while working in the career development office at a private liberal arts college in NYC. I used it almost daily to help students and alumni find meaningful careers. After a 12-year stint in higher education, I worked as a career coach for professionals in various industries (and still used Idealist). During one of those many searches, a listing really caught my eye- the one for the newly-created position, Careers Program Coordinator. So... I jumped at the opportunity. Since then, I took on the role of Manager of Career Content for Idealist Careers, creating career content for job seekers, leaders, and other nonprofit professionals. Understanding the roles that a positive outlook and holistic self-care play in career success, I've shared with our readers time-honored methods for improving confidence and productivity. Now, as Manager of College and Professional Development, my focus is on lifting the advice from Idealist Careers "off the page". Drawing from my experience in career development, I propel job seekers and career changers towards taking control of their searches with confidence and removing fear, uncertainty, and other blocks to success via in-person workshops and seminars, webinars, and conference programming. My great loves are cooking (preferably without a recipe, otherwise I doctor it up), dancing, live cultural performances, identifying the tasting notes in a good cup of coffee, exploring neighborhoods for hidden gems, and anything else that sparks the senses and allows me to experience all the beauty, dynamism, and intrigue that vivaciously living in a remarkable world offers.
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Comments

  1. Hi Victoria – My Career Coach recommended something that I’m finding helpful when trying to match my skills with the job requirements. I make a quick table with 2 columns: Requirements/Skills Listed On Resume. I scan the job posting and pull their requirements, one-by-one, and list them in column One. Next, I read through my basic resume and find my experience – paid or volunteer – that matches up with each requirement. This helps because sometimes I need to craft a better description of my lived experience in order to highlight a particular skill. It also helps me evaluate if I’m really a good fit. Hope that helps other job seekers!

    ps I love your blog!

    1. Thank you for sharing, Ruanne! This is a great idea that your career coach suggested! We have used a similar approach for one of the exercises in our online Reboot Your Resume course. Glad this has been working for you and thank you for sharing it with our readers.

  2. Pingback: Ask Victoria: What if I Don't Meet the Education Requirement? - Idealist Careers

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