Applying for a SQL Server job even when you do not meet all the requirements
Very few applicants in the Information Technology world have 100% of the skills and technologies listed on a job description. This isnít necessarily a hindrance, however, that will prevent you from getting the position. Here are some recommendations and best practices to address those skills gaps when applying for jobs where you donít have the full ďwish listĒ of requirements.
Step 1: Apply for Positions Even if youíre Missing a Few of the Requirements
Many job seekers wonít apply for positions that interest them if they donít have every single requirement. Keep in mind that the majority of hiring Managers will interview and hire candidates that are missing a few things, if candidates demonstrate an interest and initiative in learning those skills. One Manager who has 25+ years of hands-on management recently said theyíd hired a mid-level candidate who only had about 50% of the requirements of the job description, but that individual communicated the desire to learn those skills and that they would invest the time and energy in doing some personal ramp up!
Step 2: Research and Prepare
Read articles, take training classes, attend user group meetings, etc. on the areas you might not be fluent in. Weíve had at least 15 candidates throughout our recruiting/staffing careers who won a competitive advantage over other applicants by doing homework to learn about the tools/technologies/versions the company was using which they didnít have experience in. Specific ways to learn about a new tool/technology:
- Take training via a reputable provider such as Pluralsight.
- Follow the manufacturer of that technology via social media and look on their website to identify free training sessions, product overviews, etc.
- Consult with someone in your network or via your local user group on resources to learn a specific technology/tool.
Step 3: Invest Personal Time
Not getting the opportunity to work with a technology/version professionally doesnít mean you canít develop a foundational knowledge base by downloading it and utilizing it personally. When you identify some key skills/technologies that clients are seeking in your area, make a list of the top 2-3 and get exposure to those on your home machine!
Step 4: Build Your Development Plan
Put some thought into how youíd develop the skills needed to be successful in the job within the first couple months. Then communicate your plan/ideas during an interview concisely and effectively! What training resources would you utilize? What networks (i.e. online communities, user groups, etc.) would you leverage? How much time would you invest prior to starting, on a weekly basis outside work hours, etc.?
Step 5: Communicate Your Experience with Similar Technologies
It can be very effective for you to say ďwhile I donít have experience with SSRS, I am extremely interested in learning and working with that tool, and Iíve used various other reporting tools, such as Crystal Reports. Would you like a quick overview on my relevant reporting experience with Crystal?Ē Donít just respond with a ďNoĒ to a question related to a technology you havenít worked with. Instead, be honest that you havenít worked with that technology, then focus on other relevant experience that could be transferrable.
Step 6: Be Transparent About Your Knowledge Base
Honesty is always the best policy, especially in an interview! Never lie or exaggerate your skill set. Be completely truthful on your background with experience and technologies.
Step 7: Remain Confident
Confidence can be a major key in your interview success, especially when it comes to addressing skills you donít have! Avoid phrases and wording like ďI think I could learnĒ or ďI donít know how.Ē Take a solution-oriented and positive approach when answering questions around experience/skills you donít have. Be honest about your experience, but focus on the confidence you have in learning that skill set.
Step 8: Demonstrate Interest and Initiative
One Manager once said ďPassion and initiative outweighs skills when Iím considering candidates.Ē While this isnít true for everyone, itís a trend weíve seen with a lot of technical managers over the years. Remember to communicate your development plan, which will be helpful in showing the preparation youíve done, and the interest, commitment, and initiative you have!
Step 9: Provide Extra Information to Reinforce Skills
If youíre very interested in a job, you should always go the extra mile to provide references, examples of your work, technical assessments youíve completed, and any other materials which would showcase your relevant skills. We provide an example of this in the ĎExample Follow Upí email below.
Step 10: Re-address During Follow-up
If youíre light in 1-2 areas of the position, reiterate your excitement about the position and your commitment level to investing time into gaining the skills needed! You can also explain your development plan for learning that skill.
Example Follow-up Email
It was a pleasure meeting with you and members of your team to learn more about the SQL Server Development role you have on your team. I was excited to learn youíll be transitioning to SQL Server 2014 in a few months, and that itís a heavy client interfacing, custom development, and SQL BI role. Again, while I donít have the SSRS experience, Iím extremely interested in learning that tool and Iíve already taken 2 courses via Pluralsight on SSRS.
I am happy to provide any professional references or other materials you see fit. You can find several recommendations that speak to my custom development and reporting skills via my LinkedIn profile, and samples of my work are available via my GitHub profile.
Thank you again for your time and I look forward to hearing back from you on next steps. Please let me know if thereís any other information I can provide that would be helpful to you while you make your hiring decision.
Keep in mind that more often than not, Managers will hire candidates who donít have all the skills on their Requirements or ďWish List.Ē If you have at least 70-80% of the required skills (Disclaimer: this is our personal rule of thumb, but it varies depending on the Manager), always apply for the opportunity!
Prior to an interview, spend extra time preparing and strategizing:
- Invest at least 1 hour of time researching and completing training for each skill/technology on the job description you donít have experience with.
- If possible, download the technology and spend time setting it up and using it.
- Think through how you will communicate your Development Plan i.e. how youíll get up to speed quickly on those skills/technologies within the first few months on the job.
- Get up to speed with these
About the author
Erica Woods has nearly a decade in the IT staffing world, an MBA, and is a member of the Professional Association of Resume Writers and Career Coaches.
Last Updated: 2016-02-15
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