A degree qualified applicant with limited work experience CAN still be a good candidate for local jobs.
Job applicants with formal qualifications and no work experience are often overlooked by potential employers, however there are several steps you can take to get your resumé noticed and improve your chances of being hired.
Some skills and attributes are considered essential to a role, whereas others may be on the ‘nice to have’ list. Other skills require demonstrable competency, for example, certification in a software program or proven experience in handling complaints.
With this in mind, we’re going to examine a typical job ad for a Customer Service and Office Administration role and compare it to a sample resumé from an international student. We’ll then identify the skill gaps that are preventing this application from progressing further, and what can be done to align your resumé more closely with the employer’s expectations.
The Job Ad
Provided an employer has given a concise description of the role and the required skills, it’s possible to see at a glance which traits they rate most highly.
The role description focuses more on the mechanics of the job and the day to day tasks.
From the above role description we can take away the following key points:
- They need someone urgently.
- Although listed primarily as an administrative role, this position is also the first point of contact for customers and sales enquiries.
- Being a small business, they want somebody who is flexible and willing to jump in and help where needed.
- They’ve mentioned “document” several times so it seems that they want someone who can develop and document their systems – potentially for future employees as the business grows
Desired attributes and skills
The ‘Desired attributes and skills’ category focuses more on soft skills.
Soft skills relate to how you work. They include interpersonal skills, communication skills, time management, problem solving and critical thinking abilities.
Some employers will include a list of application questions in their job ad. If you see them, pay close attention.
Do you see the reference to ‘experience using Xero’? This wasn’t mentioned anywhere in the ad itself. Perhaps this skill is less of a priority to the employer, however they clearly want somebody with a knowledge of basic accounting and bookkeeping principles.
Although not a critical requirement, if the employer was deciding between a candidate with Xero certification and one without, who do you think will get the job?
Your focus should be on matching the keywords in your resumé to the requirements in the job ad. Many larger companies use an Application Tracking System (ATS) to scan applications and match keywords that are specific to the role and job requirements. Successful candidates are then progressed to the next stage.
Smaller businesses may not use software to screen their job applications, however keywords are just as important. A human eye will still be scanning your resumé for the words and phrases that match the requirements of the role, and that’s the person you need to impress!
In the sample resumé below we can see that there are several matches with the above job ad, including:
- Microsoft Office
- Team player
- Excellent communication
- Customer service
But is this resumé good enough to qualify the applicant for an interview?
Although our candidate has formal qualifications and some limited experience in office administration, they don’t have experience with the following:
- Xero accounting software
- Internal systems – scheduling of technicians, ordering parts
- Development of reporting systems
Some of this training would be included on the job, but the employer would expect the new hire to be trained in Xero.
Our candidate’s resumé contains some impressive soft skills that indicate an ability to communicate effectively and deliver good customer service, however there is nothing that distinguishes this application from the others.
Furthermore, and although not explicitly stated, it could be assumed that sales experience would be highly valued in this position. Go back to the job ad and look at the 4th item on the ‘About the role’ list:
“Liaising with clients both new and existing. Discussing their requirements and what we can offer.”
Our candidate has not once mentioned sales on their resumé but due to their experience in hospitality, they may be very confident in handling customer enquiries, answering questions, resolving problems and following up sales leads.
Similarly, employers will want to know how you perform under pressure and handle conflict. If you thrive in stressful situations for example, don’t be afraid to add it to your list of attributes.
Close The Gap
Updating your resumé to match the requirements of a job means more than simply changing a few keywords in a Word document. You need to be able to demonstrate your capabilities and competencies.
The key is to leverage what you already know, then find ways to acquire the skills you don’t have.
Gaining new skills doesn’t have to be expensive or time consuming. After you have identified the skills you need to acquire, create a tasklist as follows:
Contact local accounting firms and charities and offer to do some bookkeeping work for free.
- Apply for an internship.
Some businesses prefer to hire and train their own staff. They benefit from lower labour costs initially, while improving staff retention and developing specialised skills in-house.
- Brush up on your customer service skills. Even if you’re chasing up unpaid invoices, you still need to know how to speak to people and influence positive outcomes.
- Upskill. A short course in Xero might be all you need to close the gap and qualify for the job. If your MS Office skills are a little rusty, enrol in a course that gives you advanced skills.
- Update your resumé. Tailor your application specifically for each job.
Using the above example, we added the following to our candidate’s resumé:
- Availability – immediate start
- Fast learner – able to learn new software and processes quickly.
- Extensive customer service and sales experience, with a focus on delivering solutions that meet customer requirements.
Before you submit your next job application, take some time to really understand what the employer is looking for.
At first glance you might assume that you’re not qualified for the job, but if you’re willing to supplement your existing qualifications with some further training and work experience, it will significantly tip the odds in your favour.
Want More Bookkeeping Clients? Work for FREE if you have to.
How much you charge for your services will depend on your confidence in your knowledge and experience, as well as your people and conversation skills. If you have been a small business bookkeeper or BAS Agent for five years, you will speak differently than someone who is just starting out.So—how do you get that knowledge and experience? By offering some of your services for free.
Study Success for Life Goals
Knowledge of software and workplace procedures are a good base to have when applying for jobs. There are other “soft skills” you need to know to perform well when working with other employees, contractors, clients and suppliers.