28 August 2019

Your Career: Is Experience Really the Most Important Thing When Applying for a Job?

Having relevant experience to the job you’re applying for is important, but is it essential? Which is better, having done the exact same job, or having a great attitude and a character that is compatible with the business? In my own experience, I’ve found that the latter has a lot more weight when applying for a role.

You can learn how to do a job, what can’t be taught is how to be a team player, how to have an optimistic go-getter attitude.

These are the qualities that really set the successful candidate above the rest.

I didn’t have any financial services experience when I got my job at TSB. I’ve never worked in the automotive industry when I got my first job at Jaguar & LandRover. What I did have however is a real drive and hunger. I showed up for each interview confident and bursting with enthusiasm. I tend to be quite open about my own work history so I am always the first one to bring up my lack of experience. I phrase it like this:

‘I’ve noticed in the ad, you mention that the ideal candidate would have previous experience in a similar role. I don’t have that however I am a quick learner and would be happy to pick up the basics on the go. I am thrilled at this opportunity and I am confident that with some basic training I will be able to quickly make up for the lack of experience. I also strongly believe that my other skills such as x, y and z would help me get the hang of the job quite quickly’

If you’re the right candidate for a role, when you can feel it in your bones that this is really the thing you want to do, then there’s no stopping you.

I read somewhere that when applying for jobs, women would only feel confident to apply if they match 80% of the required criteria whereas men generally apply if they match as little as 60% of the criteria. What does that tell you? Not that women are less capable, but that we need to work on our confidence.

Ladies, you don’t need to meet every qualification to apply for a job.

Most business expect people who are new to a role (and particularly people who are new to a company) to grow into the position through some trial and error. It is expected and even encouraged that new hires ask a lot of questions, seek out mentoring, and even make a few mistakes as they get acclimated to a role. This is all normal stuff. It is unrealistic to think that you have to match every single criteria when applying for a role and that once into a new role you’ll ace it from day one. That’s just not how it works!

So regardless of what your resume says, I can promise you that the single most important thing you can bring to an interview is a good attitude. Too many of us focus on all the skills and experiences we don’t have which puts us in the wrong state of mind.

Instead shift your focus on what you can bring to the table. What makes you the right person for the role.

Think about it, the employer is already sold on your skills. That is why you made it through to the interview stage. Most interviews are more of a chemistry exercise than a meeting to go through your list of skills. Interviews are about the hiring manager gauging whether or not you’re the right person to join their team. Having the right attitude is way more important than having the right skills.

This is not to say that if you apply for a job that has nothing to do with what you’ve been doing to date, you’ll get it. The point here is that you can make up for shortfalls in experience if you simply present yourself as the person who’s hungry for the job, who wants to be part of the team. Don’t be afraid to say ‘I really want this’. If you do, there should be nothing stopping you from getting it.

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