How to Write a Cover Letter for a Job You Know You Can Do …
But Don’t Have the Relevant Experience to Prove It
You’ve just found your next dream job. (Or at least one that’s better than what you’re doing now.) You’re ready to finally make that leap out of your old career and into a new one, and this is the job that’s going to help you do it!
Just one problem: your career history and resume don't match their required skills or experience listings. Cue angst.
Changing careers is already a hassle, and when you’re faced with the thousand tiny things that go along with it, it can be really easy to give up on your career change — or yourself — all together.
The most frustrating thing is, you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that you can do this job. But you have absolutely no idea how to let the hiring manager know that, or how to present the experience you do have in a way that works for this job listing. Here’s what you do:
First, double check the listing.
Make sure that you really understand what they’re looking for with each requirement. A lot of times jargon will vary from industry to industry, or even company to company, so you might actually be more qualified than you think you are, or have more relevant experience than you think you do. So double check, paying special attention to anything that seems jargony or specific to a company, titles for training programs and certifications that might have changed, and country or state-specific terms.
No dice there? Then take a step back.
If you look over the listing and find out that there’s no jargon mismatch, then it’s time to take a step back and look at the macro-level requirements that the company is trying to get across with their micro-level listing.
For instance, a company may list that they want you have taken on X number of projects with Y number of people, but what they're actually looking for is that you have leadership experience, are able to lead a team, and have a track record to prove it.
If you can show them that you have these macro-level things (even if they came in a slightly different form in your career than in the job listing), they may be willing to compromise on the specifics.
Now build a bridge.
As nice as it would be for the company to magically see the connection between your experience and their criteria, it just doesn’t work that way. You need to explicitly show them how those two things work together. Spell it out as concretely as possible — use the same language that they use in their listing, and connect the two using linking phrases like, “as demonstrated by…”, “as you can see from…”, and “this is shown by…”.
The TL;DR version? Double check for jargon mismatch, take a step back to meta-skills, and build a bridge between what you have and what they need.
Suddenly it all seems a lot more achievable, right? So your next steps are to:
- Review any listings you’ve written off as not for you for jargon mismatch.
- Figure out at least one meta-skill that you have that you can match with a job listing.
- Find one way to build a bridge between a skill you have and a skill they want.
Now that you’ve got the whole cover letter covered, why not brush up your resume? Click here to get our Best Resume Tips eBook and find out how to take your resume from fail to fantastic!
Rachel Allen is the founder of Bolt from the Blue Copywriting, which helps small and brave business owners and freelancers shake up the world one industry at a time with devastatingly incisive copy and content that gets right to the heart of who you are and makes your readers’ synapses sparkle.