If you haven’t heard about purple squirrels, don’t worry. They don’t exist. Squirrels are not purple. Except in the minds of many people writing and posting job descriptions.

You’ve seen those job descriptions that ask for someone who has so many qualifications, it seems impossible that any one person could meet those criteria. And chances are you’ve disqualified yourself from applying for the job because you didn’t measure up.

I always tell my clients not to do the employer’s job for them. DO NOT DISQUALIFY YOURSELF. Let the employer weed you out.

To mix my metaphors, think of a job posting as a giant fishing net, cast out on the sea of workers to see who they catch. The job poster hopes there really is a purple squirrel out there in the sea waiting to be caught. But the job poster also is a realist and knows that they are more likely to catch fish of varying types than a purple squirrel. The thinking is “I’ll just put in everything we need and see how close we can get.”

People in HR tell me that when the job poster enters in key words to the applicant tracking system – key words taken from the job description – they also ask the ATS to identify people with some percentage of the key words – usually 75% or more. They know it’s unlikely they will find someone with every single qualification.

As a job seeker, it’s your job to apply for a job you are interested in and for which you meet many qualifications. Just because you are not a purple squirrel doesn’t mean you can’t do the job.

Give yourself the chance to show the employer what you can do.

  • Make a case for yourself in a cover letter. Talk about how your experience and skills are similar to those asked for in the job posting. Say how much you want to work for the employer.
  • Find someone who knows someone at the company. Get your resume & cover letter in front of that person, and ask if they are comfortable walking it into HR or to the hiring manager.
  • If the job is posted on LinkedIn and the job poster indicates that s/he will accept Inmail, send the Inmail! You will be noticed. In fact, that’s almost purple squirrel behavior, it’s so rare.

It’s another story if you find yourself interested in jobs for which you meet less than 60% of the qualifications, or if you apply for jobs for which you’re qualified and repeatedly don’t get contacted for an interview.  You may need to:

  • Take classes
  • Get a certification
  • Look at jobs that could be a stepping stone to the next one
  • Get some help with your resume and cover letter to better showcase your impact and value

Chances are you are a “right fit” for many jobs that interest you, and it’s a matter of planning, preparation, and materials to land one.

Good luck!