Why You Don’t Need to Match Everything

I was speaking with someone who’s getting ready to send out a small flurry of cover letters and resumes in response to job descriptions she found on a company website. She’s very interested in this particular company, so she was thrilled to see so many openings in her field just as she’s looking to make a career change.

Now this is a talented, personable woman just oozing with people skills.  And she has tons of relevant experience. And she was truly excited to find so many possible jobs to apply for. But, as she stares at the job descriptions basically trying to do a mind-meld with each and every word,  she realizes just how many of the specific skills listed she doesn’t have…and starts to question whether she should even apply for these jobs.

And there we have it. Sixty to zero in no seconds flat. Any confidence she felt has been flattened by that old demon self-doubt. And while she’s absolutely right to carefully check job descriptions and see whether she’s a good candidate, she’s missing a very important point for any job seeker:

Not all words of a job description have equal weight.

I’ve helped prepare job descriptions. And while we try our best to include skills we’d like to have, we don’t really expect to find every single thing we list. More importantly, we sometimes found candidates that had skills we hadn’t even thought of that were totally in sync with what we really needed for the job.

But of course there are some basic skills that the job description and title will help clue you into – and if you have those and can show some real added strengths you bring to the job (targeted resumes and cover letters are great for this), then you have a good chance of getting to show them your stuff in person. And that’s where the less-critical details of the description can melt away, especially if they get a good feeling that you would fit in well and add something special to the company.

As long as you have a good deal of the skills they’re looking for (remember your transferable skills) and can show an aptitude for picking up new skills quickly, your strengths and personality can override a good number of those pesky details. The more they get a sense of the real you and what you can bring to their company, the better your chances are.

And that’s where you should focus when sending out your applications.


About the author…

Ronnie Ann, founder of Work Coach Cafe, bases her real-world advice on her many years as an organizational consultant where she helped interview and hire people, added to a certificate from NYU in Career Planning & Development and her own adventures as a serial job seeker. She can also be found on her new blog, and on Google+.


  1. You’re absolutely right, Ronnie Ann. I once applied for an advertising job with a direct marketing agency, even though I had little direct marketing experience, having mainly a general advertising background. My interviewers noted that, but said they could teach me how to do direct, but what they couldn’t teach is how to be creative, and I obviously already knew that. I got the job.

  2. Thanks Terry!

    Really appreciate your personal story and the point it makes. Those underlying factors can’t be fudged. But often it takes a smart employer to be able to connect the dots.

  3. Ronnie Ann,

    I have a question that has elements that would fit under pretty much every “issue” that you address in your blog. I get really and truly “shrivel up like a prune” (somebody humorously but so accurately described in one of your other posts) when I interview for what seems to be my “dream job.” I go to such extremes to research the company, tailor my resume and try and create THE PERFECT cover letter that I possibly can. I majored in English in college and truly wish I could walk around writing my feelings, thoughts, opinions, etc instead of verbalized them. I’ve developed significant anxiety issues the older I’ve gotten too. Part of these stem from personal, ahem, “issues. Multiple personal traumas since childhood has psychologically incapacitated me at times in my life.

    My point in writing is not to don sympathy but to ask for insight as to how I can expect to work in a job that I love when any “evaluation” situations absolutely paralyze me. I have practiced in the mirror, with friends, in front of my fur kids, etc. I am a very strong and determined individual. I am also very passionate but don’t really care for normal “social” situations that most folks enjoy. The concept of camaraderie is a loaded one for me.

    I realize that my deeper issues need addressing with a counselor, which I’ve pursued off and on in the past. My question, however, is that my personality is pretty set at age 41. I am at peace with who I am. I know I have skills and talents that could truly benefit this world, but in order to land a job where I can utilize these things, I have to get past the necessary task of being evaluated/interviewed. It’s become almost a phobia to me since having such difficulty “these days” finding employment.

    Sorry to be so lengthy in my post. Thank you for this blog. It is so validating and so comforting read about other folks accounts of their job search experiences.

    Good Luck to All!

  4. Hi StevieGirl!

    I am not sure what to say that might be helpful. You seem to have a great grasp of the situation and reality.

    I was once told by a wonderful healer that you’re not going to stop these feelings from coming up, it’s all about how you handle them when they do – and also about learning not to feed them. Things like daily meditation (for centering and staying in the now), taking an improv class (you are forced to perform and be evaluated all the time – but a good improv teacher helps you learn to be ok with it), or even Toastmaster’s (they have groups all over the country and help you get used to being observed and evaluated) might be helpful.

    As someone who has social phobias to some extent I get why Toastmaster’s or even improv classes might be hard, but for me all the more reason to channel your strong and determined self. Don’t get stuck in all the reasons you can’t…find and focus on the ways you can.

    Oh…and one more trick I use. To keep my mind from filling itself with fear pictures, I find comforting ones like “my dentist knows what he is doing” and “I will handle things beautifully as he fills my cavity and emerge with a smile”. 😉 I just used those the other day and it worked, so it came to mind. When we replace the fear thoughts – letting then know you recognize they are there and also recognize they are not the only thoughts you can have – you start to take their power away.

    Remember…these thoughts are a part of you, but not all of you nor as powerful as you are when you don’t feed them. It really is ok to tell them stop and then replace them immediately with some lovely thoughts you’ve prepared ahead of time. Perhaps in your case the thought that you are talented and deserve a great job – and that you WILL find a way to make it work for you. Hope that makes sense. It’s a technique I’ve used successfully many times.

    I hope there’s at least something here that rings a bell for you. You are so not alone! At the very least, know that I am rooting for you. I wish you much luck!

    Peace out and in. ~ Ronnie Ann

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