Asperger’s & NLD Career Letter, March 2018
Brian was one of my clients who fell into the “look and guess” trap when reading job posts. He would note the job title, pick out two or three keywords or phrases that matched his abilities, decide he was qualified, and respond.
Brian earned a liberal arts degree, and decided to enter the workforce with a customer service position. He had worked part-time bagging groceries while he was in school, and in the months since graduation, spent a few hours per week doing data entry at his father’s small business. Brian was frustrated that the dozens of resumes he sent had so far only resulted in two telephone screening interviews.
Together, Brian and I reviewed some of the job posts to which he had responded. One was for a customer service representative at a very large, multi-national firm. I asked Brian how he determined that he was qualified. “Well,” be began, “it is customer service, and I had to use customer service skills at the grocery store. A Bachelor’s degree is required, which I have. And it says ‘ability to pay attention to detail,’ and I am detail oriented.”
All of these observations were true however Brian missed a number of other important requirements. Among them:
* 5+ years of customer service experience in Supply Chain and/or Commercial Sales support highly desirable but not required
* Strong MS Office skills in Excel, Powerpoint, Word
* ERP/SAP knowledge desirable
Brian had never heard of supply chains or commercial sales support. Five or more years of this type of experience was described as “highly desirable.” He knew how to set up a basic spreadsheet and simple documents, but agreed that his knowledge of Microsoft Office was nowhere near “strong.” He had never heard of ERP or SAP.
When I pointed out the discrepancies between his background and what the employer required, Brian admitted that he often became overwhelmed and simply sent in his resume.
This did not mean that Brian wasn’t qualified for any customer service position. However, job title alone does not determine whether you are qualified. Scanning for a few key words or phrases won’t, either. You need to consider all of the information that is presented.
Adam’s resume was accompanies by a cover letter that expressed, in great detail, his passion for the gaming industry. Yet he did not possess critical programming skills. He believed that his enthusiasm should make up for the missing skills.
By responding to jobs that they were not qualified for, Brian and Adam were prolonging their job search, as well as increasing their frustration and discouragement.
Here are some tips for determining whether you are qualified for a job:
▪ Read job posts completely. If you do not understand most of the requirements, or do not possess the critical skills, you are not qualified. Critical skills are often indicated with phrases such as, “extensive/verifiable experience in …” or “must include … .” Negotiable skills are indicated with phrases such as “preferred …” “desired …” or “is a plus … .”
▪ Employers typically do not expect to find candidates who match 100% of the listed criteria. Job posts usually contain required and nice-to-have skills or experience. If you match most of the critical skills listed, it makes sense to send in your resume.
▪ Think about the requirements within the context of the job. Terry used social media in her personal life and at first assumed that this meant she was qualified to carry out “social media campaigns.” After completing some research on the Internet, she realized that the term referred to planning marketing programs on social media platforms.
▪ If you determined that you are not qualified for a particular job, research how to acquire the needed skills. Do not assume that you will need to earn a(nother) two- or four-year degree. There may be a certificate or certification program, or “boot camp” that will give you the necessary skills.
▪ Do not automatically disqualify yourself from jobs that require “good people skills” and the ability to multitask. The definition of these terms depends on the type of job, an industry or even a company. The people skills required for a customer service specialist are much more demanding than those required of a software programmer. Multi-tasking can mean being responsible for several different tasks, which can be performed one after another.
Making the wrong guess takes time away from pursing viable options. Spending time to clarify your qualifications will make it faster and easier to find the right job.
Copyright 2018, Barbara Bissonnette, Forward Motion Coaching