How to land your dream job without checking every box

September 12, 2023 | 7 minute read
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Picture this: You’re looking for a job and come across a posting that excites you. The role aligns with your interests and career goals, and the company seems like a great fit. There’s just one catch—you don’t meet all the requirements listed in the description. Do you move on, or do you take a leap of faith?

The dilemma is all too familiar for job seekers and leaves many talented people hesitant to submit applications at all. But what if we told you that your aspirations don’t have to be limited by checkboxes? Read on to learn how you can showcase your potential to employers and land your dream role, even if you don’t fit the “perfect” mold.

The truth about job descriptions

Sarah Bradley, Oracle Campus Recruiter
Sarah Bradley
Oracle Campus Recruiter

Finding a job can be a laborious process. Researching open positions, filling out applications, and preparing for interviews require time and energy, and it’s only natural to be discerning about which opportunities are worth pursuing. 

That’s why job descriptions—and the way you look at them—can make a huge difference in your job search. This is especially true for people entering the workforce for the first time. Many entry-level roles ask for experience that early career professionals haven’t yet had the opportunity to build. Fortunately, hiring requirements aren’t necessarily written in stone. 

“Of course, there are people who are a very strong fit, but more often, not every box is going to be checked off,” says Sarah Bradley, one of our campus recruiters.

Software Development Senior Manager Faride Landeros adds, “I’ve seen many success cases where candidates didn’t match 100% of the criteria but showed great attitude and potential, which is preferable to having a candidate that meets all the criteria but doesn’t seem to be a good team player or isn’t willing to learn new things.”

Rather than solely relying on hiring criteria to guide your job search, take your strengths, passions, and goals into account as well. Applying for a new job is all about keeping an open mind and selling what you bring to the table. 

Tailoring your resume

When it comes to the application process, your resume is one of your most powerful assets. It’s the hiring team’s first window into who you are and what makes you special. 

According to Sarah, recruiters and hiring managers typically look out for four factors when evaluating a resume: education, location, technical skills and experience, and soft skills. Education and location are used to determine eligibility for internships and full-time positions. 

Technical skills and experience are fully dependent on the specific team and line of business. Consider the expertise you’ve built and showcase how you’ve applied it. A prior internship demonstrates that you’ve exercised skills learned in the classroom, but don’t be discouraged if you haven’t had the opportunity to do one. Highlighting your projects can speak volumes about your skills and experience.

“Projects count as experience,” Sarah assures. “You may not have gotten a paycheck and had set hours, but you worked on your skills, applied them, and had major takeaways.”

Personal projects, in particular, show your dedication to learning even in your free time. They exemplify your passion and drive—two major soft skills that hiring teams value.

“A genuine love for what you do leads to a desire to grow your skill set and be developed, always looking for the next challenge. These qualities are crucial, especially early in your career, when you are most impressionable.”

What about cover letters?

While your resume should be the star of your application, including a cover letter can emphasize why you’re the best fit for the job and the company.

“When I see a well-written cover letter on a candidate’s application, my immediate first impression is that they are highly interested in Oracle,” Sarah tells us.

Elaine Garza, Oracle Director Technical Campus Recruiting
Elaine Garza, Director of North America
University Technical Recruiting

A strong cover letter should start with a personal introduction and one to two sentences about the company to show the hiring team that you’ve done your research. Then, discuss the skills, experience, and accomplishments you bring to the table. Make sure to convey your passion and enthusiasm for the work you’ve done and the role you’re applying for. Finally, express a clear intention to be in touch with the company again.

Beyond the application

Be authentic; once you’re called for an interview, the hiring team will want to know more about the person behind the resume. This stage is especially valuable if you don’t meet all the job criteria, as you’ll have the chance to elaborate on your background and share what makes you unique.

“We’re looking for an applicant’s knowledge of the skills they have listed on their resume, biggest takeaways from past work experience, projects, and extracurricular activities, and identifying if they have genuine passion and drive,” explains Elaine Garza, director of North America university technical recruiting.

“I like to ask every applicant if there is anything that they would like to discuss that was not reflected on their resume,” Sarah adds. “This gives them the opportunity to discuss any volunteer work or extra projects.” 

Preparing for your interview

With so many ways to make an impression, preparing for your interview is essential. Faride suggests writing down a few lines that describe your career, experience, education, and skills. This will give you an idea about what to say and keep you focused on the important details. Forget about the idea that you might sound pretentious. There’s no need to exaggerate anything, but remember that this is your moment to stand up and talk about yourself.

“Interviews are meant to quickly get an idea of the candidate, so if you don’t believe in yourself and try to win the position, you won’t be able to convince the interviewer. Feel proud about what you’ve done and don’t minimize it, tell it as it is.”

If you have limited or no work experience, emphasize any training or projects you’ve worked on. Hiring teams want to see a track record of learning new things. There may be skills and concepts you’re not familiar with, but Faride advises against saying “I don’t know.” Instead, reframe any gaps in your knowledge with phrases like: 

  • I’m studying X technology. I just created a framework to practice and used A, B, and C to make it more efficient.
  • I haven’t had the opportunity to work with/apply/learn about that, but I know it is similar to XY, which I used on a project…
  • I haven’t used that, but I could learn. For instance, I recently started studying ABC and now I’m able to DEF using it.

Signs of a strong candidate

Before you go into your interview, familiarize yourself with some common “green flags” that stand out to hiring teams.

Interviewers appreciate candidates who come prepared. This means showing up on time, knowing about the position and the company, and taking the interview in a distraction-free location.

Faride Landeros Software Development Senior Manager
Faride Landeros
Software Development Senior Manager

“Strong candidates are enthusiastic throughout the interview,” Elaine says. “They can speak about their experiences thoroughly while showing full understanding.”

On the flipside, strong candidates are not afraid to say “I haven’t worked on that” when faced with the unfamiliar and ask questions if something is not clear. Being able to communicate and understand the interviewer is crucial.

Faride points out that hiring teams are also drawn to people who ask thoughtful questions, such as: “Tell me about the common tasks performed in this position?” or “Do you use agile methodologies?” Conversely, closing the interview without asking questions shows a lack of interest from the candidate.

Embracing confidence

Ultimately, finding a new job takes confidence. Research shows that women apply to 20% fewer jobs than men and are 16% less likely than men to apply for a job after viewing it, screening themselves out of the conversation.

“We tend to be our own toughest judge,” says Faride, who is an advocate for women in tech. “As little girls, we were usually told things like ‘you have to be modest and reserved.’ These beliefs stick to us and make it difficult to feel confident. However, we need to break the mold, take pride in our accomplishments, and find the right balance to comfortably demonstrate who we are and what we can offer.”

She proposes that the first step to overcoming this hurdle is being aware that our lack of confidence can affect us when applying for a new job. If we identify self-sabotaging words or actions, we can start avoiding them. The next step is changing the culture for future generations.

“It’s crucial to raise girls who are proud of their achievements and are not ashamed of talking about them, who understand their potential and know that they can be anything they want no matter their gender.”

When you apply for a role that you don’t meet all the qualifications for, you aren’t just benefitting your career. You’re also enriching the workforce.

Look at each application you submit as a new path to success. If you aren’t a fit for a position, keep looking and don’t be discouraged. It’s always better to try and gain wisdom that will guide you to the right opportunity. 

Are you ready to reach beyond the checkboxes to score your dream career? Apply to our open roles and show us what you’re passionate about.

Oracle Careers Editorial Team

The editorial team is comprised of members of the Oracle Talent Advisory group, with a wide-range of employer branding responsibilities. They partner with employees across Oracle to capture stories that showcase our company, culture and career opportunities, and help candidates envision their #LifeAtOracle.

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