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Square peg, round hole - 5 tips to land the job that seems just out of reach

by Stephen Montague

5 tips to land the job that seems just out of reach

How many times have you called a recruiter who simply doesn’t understand the breadth of your experience, or only hears what they want to because they are trying to coerce you towards the only role that they are recruiting?  It can be a frustrating battle with recruitment consultancies and one that will only be won with careful preparation.

If you are looking to take a different direction in your career, be mindful of the fact that if you apply to a role, most consultants will want to fit a round peg into a round hole. These tips will help you persuade the recruiter that your skills and experience are transferable:

  • Make sure that your expression of interest relates specifically to the role that you have applied for and ask questions related to that position.
  • Be open minded to hear about other opportunities, but ask the consultant specifically, “why is my experience not relevant to the role that I have applied for”? This gives you the opportunity to push back if the consultant has misunderstood your experience.
  • Be clear with the consultant about the role that you’re looking for. Phrases like career progression and good culture are hard to conceptualise and subjective. Be specific about what career progression means to you, and what you consider to be good culture.
  • Tailor your CV highlighting the most relevant experience to the role you have applied for. Recruiters will read a CV before they read your cover letter (if at all).  It is important that you highlight the most relevant experience under your roles, not in the summary section of your resume. Make important experience explicitly clear in the first 2-3 points under each of your jobs.
  • Provide examples of work that you have done that fits the brief.  It is okay to acknowledge that your experience may be broad and not a complete fit, but draw on specific examples that are unique to you.  Terms like fast learner, enthusiastic and ambitious are very generic and overused.

In all of these instances, the client may have specific requirements that are essential at first and then the brief may open out.  The longer a role is advertised, the more open a client will be to a more left of field fit.