How to Get a Job with No Experience

By Zipline Career Team • August 12, 2019

We’ve all been there. You find the perfect job that you didn’t even know existed. You hear harps in the background, you laugh with excitement, and then you come crashing down to earth when you realize your skills and experience don’t match what the company is asking for.

Do you give up?

Unfortunately, for most people the answer is “Yes”, and it can lead to numerous missed professional opportunities and personal growth prospects just because the job posting made you flinch. 

Follow these tried and true tips for giving yourself the best brand to employers.

  1. Show You’ve Got the Skills for a Job.

At some point in an interview or application you’ll get asked some form of the following question, “Do you have x amount of experience for the job or position.”

The most honest among us would probably respond with a “no” or a “kind of.” But really, who has the perfect amount of experience for every job?

So, your answer should always be “Yes!” even if you don’t quite have the exact matching skills or experience. To tactfully dance around this awkward moment, emphasize related tasks you’ve worked on, no matter how small. For example, say you’re applying to be the manager of a warehouse, which requires 3 years of supervisory experience. Even if you haven’t managed employees for 3 years, look to other areas where you’ve organized and lead teams. Maybe you’ve overseen a volunteer event, community activity or local meetup group that you can point to in order to demonstrate your skills.

Bonus – Be memorable: Tell an interesting short story about the way you have learned or led operations the employer is looking for.

  1. How Far Back Should a Resume Go? 

Is a job application asking for 4 years of experience using Excel? In the case of online applications, see what you can get away with. If you haven’t used the program for 4 years total in a specific job but have used it for 2 years in one job and 2 years in your personal life (say, for a personal budget), then feel free to say “Yes.” If there is a text box asking you to describe your skills with Excel then you should point out how good you are using the program e.g. PivotTables, complex analysis and so on.

There are also 2 other important tips to keep in mind when filling out buttons and forms in applications. First, most “Yes/No” answers on online job applications will often reject your application completely if you answer “No” to a particular skills question or set of experience questions (“Do you have 4 years of experience with Excel?”). Keep this in mind and make the answer “Yes” anywhere you can even if you have to be a little creative with how you got to reach their required numbers. Second, carefully listing keywords and phrases related to the job posting is essential to beating applicant tracking systems. So, use a search engine and find terms related to your industry and enter them wherever possible on an online application.

  1. Show You Know How to Learn Quickly

Even if you get asked about a qualification you don’t really have mastered, and you know an interviewer or application wants to know why, pivot towards discussing your ability to learn new things quickly and thoroughly. It doesn’t have to be that you built a spaceship to Mars, just mention something that is memorable that you can demonstrate in detail. 

Put yourself in the employer’s shoes, lots of times they probably prefer a talented person who is flexible and interested than someone who technically meets the requirements of the job but doesn’t really care about the outcome or goals of the company. It can never hurt you to demonstrate your ability to pick up new software, social skills or industry knowledge, especially when there is a sea of applicants that don’t put passion into their work.

While there’s no perfect way to dance around every interview or application, you can get an edge on many situations by just following these simple steps.

If you’re looking for help nailing down other ways to beat complicated job applications, or answer the, “Why should we hire you?” question, send us a message and we’ll find the best strengths in your profile.   

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