The Job Search: Ignore Qualifications

In this post, we’ll talk about potential vs. competency and what that means for your job search.

6705099437_f6a11120c0_mA job’s required qualifications are not always what they seem, by which I mean, even the required qualifications are not always required. Okay, that sounds pretty confusing. Why don’t we take a break and talk about basketball…

I only started watching basketball for a few years now, but in that time I’ve gone from a casual fan, to a interested observer, to an all-out hoops nerd. And not just during the season, either. Come summer, I’m reading about trades, free agent pickups, and, most importantly, the incoming draft class.

Every year, when they’re talking about the new rookies, there’ll be a lot of talk about “upside” and “potential.” Why? Because most of these guys aren’t as good as they’re going to get. They’re still growing, physically and mentally. Look at the numbers from Kevin Garnett’s or Dirk Nowitzki’s rookie season; it takes time to develop special players, but when they hit their prime, they’ll be just that: special. A few bumpy seasons are worth it if you end up with a hall-of-famer.

Employers approach hiring with a similar prospective. Okay, well, maybe not exactly the same; if they’re looking for an office assistant to help with filing, they’re not going to hire someone who doesn’t know the alphabet. But if one graphic designer is competent but dull and another is rough around the edges but sharp and creative, the employer would be smart to hire the latter. Why? Because the first designer will lay out the website more efficiently now, whereas second designer might help guide the business in a whole new direction some day.

What does this mean for you? It means that when a job lists their qualifications take them with a grain of salt, even the ones that are “required.” Sure, if they say you should know German, then you should probably know German, and no, I wouldn’t recommend going out and applying to be the new CEO of a billion dollar corporation fresh out of college. But really, you’re main concern should be, “Can I do this job?” not necessarily, “Do I meet these exact qualifications?”

Because maybe that employer doesn’t want a new employee with an old set of skills; maybe they want someone with potential.

How seriously do you take a job’s qualifications? Let us know in the comments!

(photo by Flickr user Bryan Horowitz used under a Creative Commons License.)

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