Define 'experience' - what to do when you don't have the work experience they're looking for
March 3, 2011 9:01 PM   Subscribe

I found the perfect job! Only problem - I don't have the experience they want.

Hello everyone. Last night, while browsing Blogs Related to Industry I Want to Work In, I came across a job that looks great with an agency I'm very interested in, as (a) I'm familiar with, and really like, their work and (b) several people in Industry I Want to Work In commented that, with my weird background and personality, I'd be a great fit there. In a burst of enthusiasm, I sent a chirpy email to the contact asking if they're still accepting applications. They said sure, send a CV through. Only problem: they're asking for 2-3 years of agency experience, and experience with production that I just don't have yet.

I recently finished a PhD, and I've done a lot of freelance writing/photography, primarily on the web, and I've been making websites and writing online since before we called them 'blogs'. That said, I don't want my first contact with this agency to be a boneheaded application for a position I'm not totally ready for yet.

I'm looking for feedback on what is the better plan: to attempt to massage my CV to make it look like I'm perfect for this role, or to email back frankly and explain that, on second thoughts, I'm keen as mustard but still under-experienced, and perhaps make a case for an unpaid internship (idea came from this post!5720706/how-do-i-get-a-job-when-i-have-no-relevant-experience).

Thanks, hivemind!
posted by nerdfish to Work & Money (17 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
A lot of job openings are flexible about required experience. I've been 'underqualified' for every job I've ever had (jobs that 'require' 4 year degrees, or x years experience, etc). If you think that you can do the job, apply, explain with whatever experience you have why you think you can do the job, and forget about the requirements in the job listing.
posted by empath at 9:16 PM on March 3, 2011 [2 favorites]

i don't know what's the best thing to do in this situation, but i got my current job even though i didn't meet the requirements advertised. i emailed the company and acknowledged that i didn't meet the requirements, but explained that i wanted the job really badly and that i knew i'd be good at it. i included my resume (proofread about six hundred times) and hoped for the best.

lucky for me, they decided to give me an interview since i seemed motivated, and we hit it off during the interview. i beat out the other (qualified) candidates because i was genuinely interested in the job and interviewed well. (i am still thrilled to go to work every morning, so i'm glad i went for it!)

best of luck!
posted by gursky at 9:19 PM on March 3, 2011 [2 favorites]

Unless this is the sort of position where PhD's are a dime a dozen, I'm pretty sure that they'll accept that as equivalent experience.

My experience has been that the "years of experience" factor always leaves quite a lot of wiggle room.

Hell, in postings for tech jobs, something is seriously awry, or you are vastly overqualified if you meet every single bullet point to the letter. Generally, recruiters take the "shotgun" approach and put the kitchen sink on the requirements list.

The posting for my current job deliberately had a lot of extra crap thrown into the posting to disguise who the client I'd be working for was (and of course, the set of skills that they were most interested of in my interview turned out to be completely irrelevant once my actual job was underway -- fortunately, I'm still qualified, but it goes to show that you can never really tell what they're looking for vs. what they actually need).
posted by schmod at 9:20 PM on March 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

i'm with the above posters: put your best face forward and apply. if it fizzles, then see about interning.
posted by Rube R. Nekker at 9:23 PM on March 3, 2011

I'm confused. Why would you offer to work for free?
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 9:54 PM on March 3, 2011

Apply. Explain in a cover letter why you are the best candidate for the job. Don't do THEIR job for them by rejecting yourself. You miss 100% if you don't swing. Go! just do it.
posted by curiousZ at 10:03 PM on March 3, 2011 [5 favorites]

Why would you offer to work for free?

Because it's a common trope in career advice columns and it sounds good on its face. For all I know, this may work in some work environments, but not in any where I've ever worked. So, unless the OP knows for a fact that employers s/he's interested in take on unpaid interns, I think a request like that can come off as extremely peculiar rather than showing motivation.
posted by Nomyte at 10:03 PM on March 3, 2011 [2 favorites]

Agreeing with all those above. The "minimum experience" is to weed out those who are clearly under-prepared. That's not you. Give them your best shot, and follow up with HR to let them know how enthusiastic you are about the position.
posted by Gilbert at 10:33 PM on March 3, 2011

The years of experience thing is a guide to applicants and a legal CYA so you don't have to interview everyone who applies to avoid getting sued. If they want to interview you they will.
posted by fshgrl at 11:08 PM on March 3, 2011

Thanks for your responses, guys. I feel really encouraged!

As for the question of why I'd work for free, (a) as Nomyte said, I'd read about that in career advice columns, and (b) I have a vestigial grad-student aptitude for self exploitation that I need to work on. Did I tell you about the time I was paid for two weeks' worth of labour-intensive guest lectures with a box of supermarket chocolates? Yeah.

Thanks again!
posted by nerdfish at 2:35 AM on March 4, 2011

Don't do THEIR job for them by rejecting yourself.

This. Apply, tell them why you are great and meet all the major requirements for the job, and how you have equivalent experience for the rest. For all you know, there is an internal candidate who will get the job no matter what, or you may be the only even marginally qualified applicant -- there's no point in finding reasons for them to say no.

As someone who has been sitting on the other side of the hiring table recently, I can say with some certainty that those long lists of requirements are mostly wish lists, with a few iron-clad "must-haves" mixed in. There is no way to look at a position description and tell for certain which are which, so the smart thing to do is apply.

I've also watched a few great people, who we would love to have hired, psych themselves out of applying for the kind of reason you describe. That's just plain foolishness. Don't do that.
posted by Forktine at 6:10 AM on March 4, 2011

Everyone else has given solid advice. I just wanted to say - good luck!
posted by jlunar at 7:06 AM on March 4, 2011

Seconding jlunar, and let us know how it goes. We're all rootin' for ya!
posted by marsha56 at 9:40 AM on March 4, 2011

So I sent a detailed cover letter and CV on Friday and I'm hoping for the best. Thanks again for all the encouragement!
posted by nerdfish at 2:45 AM on March 6, 2011

please keep us posted! i've got my fingers crossed for you.
posted by gursky at 9:13 PM on March 8, 2011

I sent through an application, and was turned down literally the next day for my lack of experience. The (by now thoroughly depressing) job hunt continues...
posted by nerdfish at 2:24 AM on March 14, 2011

i'm sorry to hear that, nerdfish. i hope you find something awesome!
posted by gursky at 10:36 PM on March 15, 2011

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