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No shame in trying

by Douglas E. Welch

February 18, 2000

© 2000, Douglas E. Welch

As you have probably discovered, many of the "help wanted" advertisements you read today look more like a shopping list than a want ad. Some can seem almost ludicrous in their list of "requirements." Such ads make it more and more difficult for high-tech workers to know which positions are right for them.

Companies that place ads such as these will be hard pressed to find anyone who even comes close to their stated needs. In fact, they are doing themselves a disservice. These ads only attract the highest-priced talent available while actively discouraging everyone else. Companies would be better served by more realistic ads that offer realistic requirements and attract a wider selection of possible candidates.

Until this happens it is up to you to be more pragmatic in the advertisements you answer. In some cases, this can mean ignoring the laundry list of requirements and demonstrating the unique combination of skills you can bring to the job.

More than half

Over the years I have developed an admittedly arbitrary guideline for applying for any computer position. If I can fulfill more than half of the stated requirements I think it is worth it to send in my resume. Although this might seem like a cheat I believe that both you and the company can benefit.

When you apply for a job you are actually applying for any position the company might have open in the near future. Hopefully, even if you don't match the qualifications for this position exactly your resume will be passed on to someone else at the company. In some cases, you might find that you can get an interview for a job that has gone unfilled for a long time or hasn't even been advertised yet. Even if you don't get the first job you applied for you have entered your resume into the process. This increases your chances of finding a position with the company.

Companies also benefit by seeing your resume. From personal experience I know that many jobs can go unfilled for a variety of reasons. Perhaps the hiring manager is engrossed in another project and doesn't have the time to look for candidates or the right candidate couldn't be found at the time so the search was slowly abandoned. In any case, the serendipitous arrival of a good resume could solve their problem quickly.

Obviously, you don't want to submit your resume if you are totally unqualified for the position. This leaves a bad taste in everyone's mouth and may doom any future chances of getting hired by the company. Make sure that your application presents a win-win proposition for both you and the company.

Right place, right time

If your resume is sitting on the desk of someone in a particular company you might just find yourself in an enviable position. Whenever you see an ad that is overly-specific you can be reasonably assured that eventually the company will have to come to some sort of compromise. Perhaps they will create multiple positions instead of trying to find one person who can do it all. Maybe they will reduce the requirements by waiving the need for certain certifications such as MSCE if the candidate can demonstrate the skills they need. In some cases they might just need a body to fill the position due to project requirements. While it might not feel very good to get the employment version of a consolation prize, if you are trying to get into a certain company most of us will be happy to get a foot in the door.

If your resume is well written it can help a company to decide where to divide the position according to the skills you offer. Make sure you layout your skills according to the areas they encompass. For example, group your network management experience, your programming experience and your technical support experience so that those scanning the resume can get a quick overview of what you are offering.

What do you think?

Finally, I would be interested in hearing your comments on the following idea. Is it a viable option to apply for a job in coordination with a friend or peer that has complimentary skills to your own? It is my thinking that by presenting your combination of skills you might show the company a way of breaking the position into 2 or more positions as I mentioned above. This would be a large change in the way you apply for a job and I am wondering how companies would respond to such a gambit. The changing job market often calls for new ideas. Is this a good one? You can forward your comments directly to me at or via the Career-Op mailing list You can join the Career-Op mailing list by visiting http://www.welchwrite.comdewelch/ce/

Douglas E. Welch is a freelance writer and computer consultant in Van Nuys, California. Readers can discuss career issues with other readers by joining the Career Opportunities Discussion on Douglas' web page at:

He can reached via email at

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