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On this page: Jeff Lipschultz helps new grads understand how to gain experience to overcome "not qualified."

Dreaded Words for New Grads: "Not Qualified"

About 16 years ago, I had a tricky hiring decision to make as a manager at Motorola.  I was filling a position on my team that required specialized skills.

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Hired: Less than Perfect Match

My best candidate was a woman who had some similar work experience, but her skill set was not a perfect match.  We discussed this in the interview, and she was able to convince me to hire her.

She shared examples about how she learned certain unique skills very quickly.  She also talked about her work ethic and team-attitude (which was confirmed with her references). 

Upon joining the team, she immediately became a valuable asset on our team.  The lesson here: 

Even if you’re not "fully qualified," you can still get the job if you have work experience you can leverage in the interview.

Overcoming Lack of Experience

For new college graduates, this is a little tougher as they are new to the workforce.  The advantage of hiring them is low impact to the corporate budget.  The disadvantage can be lack of experience.

First choice is an internship or co-op that gives you experience related to what you want to do after you graduate.  This is why internships during the summers or co-ops during the school year can be essential in a budding career.

Obviously, you’re not going to get the same “education” being a lifeguard at the beach or working at a clothing store, although if you can expand your role by asking to assist in other areas of the operation, you may find yourself being promoted to roles that look more impressive on your resume.

The value of having good jobs during college is so important, I’d suggest you consider volunteering if you can.  It’s often hard for an organization or a company to pass up an offer of free help.  They do have to invest time in training and managing you, so there is a “cost.”  Therefore, you still have to make a strong argument as to why they should hire you and what value you can bring to their organization.

Landing an Internship

Two of the keys I have found to getting good internships are to start the process early during your college years and leverage your network:

Benefits of Internships and Co-Ops:

Bottom Line

Nothing beats experience.  College education and knowledge of the latest technologies or marketing strategies is certainly nice.  But applying those skills in a real work environment is better.  When it comes time for you to interview, what experiences will you leverage to convey that you can meet the requirements of the job, even if you’re not perfectly qualified?

Oh, and by the way, one other advantage of internships--you never know who you’ll meet.  I met my future wife.


About this author...

Job-Hunt's Working with Recruiters Expert Jeff Lipschultz is a 20+ year veteran in management, hiring, and recruiting of all types of business and technical professionals. He has worked in industries ranging from telecom to transportation to dotcom. Jeff is a founding partner of A-List Solutions, a Dallas-based recruiting and employment consulting company. He is a unique recruiter with Lean Engineering experience and a Six Sigma Blackbelt. Learn more about him through his company site alistsolutions.com. Follow Jeff on Twitter (@JLipschultz) and on GooglePlus.