Fake It 'Til You Make It?

by Cathy Vandewater | November 30, 2012

You know the job description--you've seen it a million times. An entry level position with a 5-year experience requirement. Or an internship citing "MUST HAVE" working knowledge of 3 kinds of software.

Maybe it's a series of soft skills that's required, that you're not sure you have. Are you really detail oriented? Self starting? Good at multitasking?

It can be tempting to skip applying altogether. It's a lost cause unless you're a perfect match, right?

Not so fast.

If you're 80% qualified (or 70% qualified, with a taste for danger), there's hope.  Believe it or not, you can safely fake (or fudge, or quickly familiarize yourself with) enough to get through to the first round of hiring.

Here's what's negotiable and what's not when it comes to demanding job posts:

1.  Fake: Working knowledge

There's a few ways you can work around not having been familiar with a certain software program or application. The first and most obvious is Google it. You'll be able to learn enough about what the software does and how to get you through the interview. And, if the program isn't 100% central to the  job, chances are that YouTube tutorials can get you through the basics.

Another option: Look at the qualifications a little more generally. Don't know inDesign, but used something similar? Feel free to say you've got experience with design software. If you get questions about it during your interview, simply detail how you applied the tools for various projects. Employers likely care less about the exact program you used and more about your comfort with relevant technology. 

Don't Fake: Expertise

True, the word "expert" can help your resume pop. But it also begs a lot of questions you're not prepared to answer if you haven't really earned the title. File this one under "Just don't. Ever."

2. Fake: Soft skills

Unsure if you fit the personality type the company's looking for? Don't worry about it. If you're excited about the work and qualified for the job, chances are you'll be just fine, even if you're not "self starting" (whatever that means).

But as for making a case for yourself, do some digging. Read over your resume and look for "evidence" that you're exactly what the company's asking for. Did you ever proofread documents for your old boss? You're detail oriented! Answer the phone or deal with clients? You've got people skills! And don't be afraid to look as far back as your first internship or waitressing gig, especially if you can squeeze a funny anecdote out of it. Employers mostly make demands about certain personality types because of bad hiring experiences—but win them over, and they'll forget all about your lack of "self direction."

Don't Fake: Your personality

Confidence is always good. So is a pleasant attitude and air of competence. But acting aggressive if you're naturally shy, or bookish and serious if you're friendly and easy going is pointless. If you're so afraid of rejection that you fake who you are, well, chances are it's not the right place for you anyway. Be professional, but let your true self shine through. That's the best way to get hired—and yes, even rejected.

3. Fake: Having done this job before

Maybe you didn't exactly spend 3-5 years in this particular role. But have you spent 2 solid years in the industry, and 1.5 in the job title? Feel free to apply anyway.

Sometimes, companies shoot themselves in the foot with too-stringent, overly cautious stipulations. Funnily enough, someone who's slightly underqualified is more likely to stay on and flourish. Room to grow is a good thing! Now go wow them in the interview and help them forget your oh-so-slight experience shortfalls.

Don't Fake: Literally having done this job before

Don't say you've done a job you haven't, or for longer than you actually did. The fallout from possibly getting a reputation as a liar far outweighs any advantages.

A good rule of thumb: if you know in your heart of hearts that you can grow into a role and be amazing at it, apply, and make your case.

But facts? Don't mess with those.

--Cathy Vandewater, Vault.com

Read More:
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3 Traits for Successful Case Interviews
Home for the Holidays? 4 Ways NOT Working Can Boost Your Career

Filed Under: Interviewing | Job Search | Networking | Resumes & Cover Letters


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