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  #1  
Old 02-09-2011, 02:44 PM
Time Stranger Time Stranger is offline
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Applying to a Job You're Not Qualified For

Have you ever applied for a job you're not qualified for? If you got an interview, did you just try to BS them or were you open about your deficiencies?

I'm asking because I was talking to a friend about how I was applying for a new job in my own dept, and he told me that there was something opening in his department (we work at same company) that he thought I should apply for also. Except it's in tech security, which is something I have zero experience with. (I have worked the past 8 years in IT, mostly minor web dev. and helpdesk-type deals, so I have been around computers.) He is pretty high up in his area, and I flat out told him that I have no security experience - he said apply anyway.

I asked an old coworker about it, and he said that in tech jobs like that, just the fact I have any IT experience is what they're looking for, and they'll train me to do what they want.

I am suspicious of this - I don't want to play the fool and waste everyone's time, but it's a significant step up. Tomorrow is the deadline, and I'm applying just for the heck of it, but I really don't see how I can get through an whole interview on a subject I know little about. (The referring friend did tell me how they interview in two parts, one a basic questioning period, then I have to give a presentation, so I do have that going for me.)

So tell me about times you've done this yourself. What was the job for, and how did it turn out for you? Is it crazy? Any tips?
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  #2  
Old 02-09-2011, 02:50 PM
Trubie Trubie is offline
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Originally Posted by Time Stranger View Post
Have you ever applied for a job you're not qualified for? If you got an interview, did you just try to BS them or were you open about your deficiencies?

I'm asking because I was talking to a friend about how I was applying for a new job in my own dept, and he told me that there was something opening in his department (we work at same company) that he thought I should apply for also. Except it's in tech security, which is something I have zero experience with. (I have worked the past 8 years in IT, mostly minor web dev. and helpdesk-type deals, so I have been around computers.) He is pretty high up in his area, and I flat out told him that I have no security experience - he said apply anyway.

I asked an old coworker about it, and he said that in tech jobs like that, just the fact I have any IT experience is what they're looking for, and they'll train me to do what they want.

I am suspicious of this - I don't want to play the fool and waste everyone's time, but it's a significant step up. Tomorrow is the deadline, and I'm applying just for the heck of it, but I really don't see how I can get through an whole interview on a subject I know little about. (The referring friend did tell me how they interview in two parts, one a basic questioning period, then I have to give a presentation, so I do have that going for me.)

So tell me about times you've done this yourself. What was the job for, and how did it turn out for you? Is it crazy? Any tips?
I actually have the opposite experience. I've had interviews for jobs I was over qualified for due to shortages in my field, education. I think interviews just want to hear you know how work and are commited to the job. One thing you could do, that seems to be a crowd pleaser, is say how interested you are in that field. Maybe say you plan to go to school, or back to school, to work with tech security.
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Old 02-09-2011, 04:08 PM
Time Stranger Time Stranger is offline
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That is a good idea, but I don't know how long I can stretch out boundless enthusiasm for the field in an interview. I will keep it in mind, though. I really am starting to believe getting jobs is just about knowing the right people and not drooling on yourself. I envision my presentation starting: "So this morning on Wikipedia when I was learning about exciting developments in system security..."
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Old 02-09-2011, 04:20 PM
Quercus Quercus is offline
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Remember: it's not your responsibility to decide if you're unqualified; it's the interviewer's responsibility. Don't lie, of course, but do sell yourself -- in particular your IT experience and proven ability to learn different IT issues. If they invite you for an interview then go, and do your best to convince them you can do the job.
For what it's worth, if I was hiring for a tech security job, I'd look for a good security mindset, general computer experience, and overall smarts way more than I'd look for any particular computer security experience (in fact, some helpdesk type experience might be really useful, to know the difference between what a corporate policy says and what end-users actually do).

Now go and read a bunch of Bruce Schneier. Then spend the first few minutes of the interview trying to get a feel for the interviewers and whether they're looking for boring corporate-droid answers or for a big-picture discussion about how the real challenge in computer security isn't the techical issues, it's creating a solution that efficiently meshes with how real humans actually work.

As far as enthusiasm goes, well, if you don't want to do the job then you certainly shouldn't apply.
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Old 02-09-2011, 05:54 PM
robert_columbia robert_columbia is offline
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One challenge is getting it by HR screeners, who are, according to common wisdom, just looking for keywords.

HR drone: This position requires 5 years in Java, 5 years in "Application Support", 2 years with Jira, knowledge of "Web Services", and 1 year of ColdFusion. I don't see any of these words on the resume. <tosses in circular>.
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  #6  
Old 02-09-2011, 06:07 PM
Grapefruit Grapefruit is offline
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The worst that can happen is that they won't hire you and you stay where you are (or you get the other job you applied for, in your case). I wouldn't BS them and lie, but highlight the areas you are familiar with. The most important attitude to bring with you is your desire to learn a new skill set. Plus, it wouldn't hurt to throw in that you're a quick learner...
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Old 02-09-2011, 06:09 PM
Markxxx Markxxx is offline
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I agree apply for the postion and be honest. Don't sell yourself short but only apply if you think the position would really interest you.

A lot of times a person willing to work is what they want. AND they can offer you less money and get a person that will work harder and take direction. When I worked in IT, one of the things I saw that disqualified a lot of applicants was a "know it all" attitude. And they know A LOT but the job was with hotels and this attitude kept them from getting the job.

Some IT jobs require you relate to people. I worked in a computer store over the holidays and the techs received bad comments for "talking down to the people." As techs they did fine, but they insulted and were rude to people. I don't believe they did this on purpose, they just couldn't understand why anyone couldn't do what they did. They thought computers were simple and felt everyone else should see it that way.

So apply for the job and be upfront and state you're willing to learn anything and if they don't want you, that's their choice. The thing is people will look at your application and H/R is pretty good at weeding out junk, so you won't even get an interview unless they want you.
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  #8  
Old 02-09-2011, 06:13 PM
Lord Ashtar Lord Ashtar is offline
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In my experience, they just want to confirm that you have some IT experience and that they wouldn't have to train you on the most basic of basics. (eg: "Okay, now this is a computer. They plug into the wall like this.")

If you show that you aren't a complete idiot, most people will bring you on and train you up.
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  #9  
Old 02-09-2011, 06:32 PM
Poysyn Poysyn is offline
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You are competing against whomever else applies. If you are the most qualified, they may decide they can teach you what you are lacking.

Don't lie, you may be surprised.
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  #10  
Old 02-09-2011, 06:58 PM
Eva Luna Eva Luna is offline
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I did this for my first immigration paralegal job, and was very upfront about what I did and didn't know (I was generally familiar with the various agencies involved in immigration, I could string two sentences together, and I used to be a court interpreter. I did not, however, know a damn thing about work visas.)

They offered me the job anyway, doing nothing but employment-based visa petitions, and I took it and worked my way up and learned a lot. That was almost 12 years ago, and it turned out to be a road to an entirely new career for me.
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  #11  
Old 02-09-2011, 06:58 PM
Time Stranger Time Stranger is offline
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Thanks everyone for all your input! As the deadline was tomorrow, I went ahead and submitted my app/cover letter and definitely emphasized my IT experience and willingness to learn. I feel a little less anxious about it now that I've gone through with it, and I am telling myself that he probably wouldn't recommend I apply if he didn't have some sort of faith in my abilities. Plus I'm not unemployed, so it is no big deal if HR thinks I'm unworthy - so I am going to choose to think of it as an adventure. I'm glad the Dope let's me vent my anxieties. You guys and gals are great.

Anyway, if anyone does have their own stories, feel free to share - this didn't have to be all about me.

ETA: Oops, Eva Luna beat me in - That is great that it you got the job! Sounds like you ended up doing really well. I'm glad to know it is possible.

Last edited by Time Stranger; 02-09-2011 at 07:01 PM..
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  #12  
Old 02-09-2011, 06:59 PM
Kyla Kyla is offline
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Man, if you can get a job you're not qualified for, let me know how you wrangled it. I can't even get a job I am qualified for.
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  #13  
Old 02-09-2011, 08:14 PM
The wind of my soul The wind of my soul is offline
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Two things I want to comment on:

(1) You asked what people did if they got invited in to interview for a job they were not qualified for. It has been my experience that if you get invited in for an interview, you ARE qualified, at least on paper. The interview is to determine if your personality and work habits would be a good fit for the company environment.

(2) Regarding your comment that getting a job is "just about knowing the right people and not drooling on yourself," I think that statement needs to be qualified. It has been my experience that knowing the right people can put you at the top of the list. Your resume gets reviewed right away, you are put in contact with recruiters and hiring managers right away, and are treated with a lot more promptness and respect. However, merely knowing the right person will not get you steady employment unless you indeed are qualified to do the work. It's business: if you're a liability, they're not going to want to keep you around.

Of course, I am twenty-four years old and only have three years experience in corporate America, so I'm not exactly a seasoned expert myself.
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  #14  
Old 02-09-2011, 11:38 PM
Ladymarmalade Ladymarmalade is offline
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Sure, I've applied for jobs I was less than qualified for and been hired for ones I was very minimally qualified for (twice). You never know, maybe nobody better qualified applies, or they get lazy and just let you have it, or they decide your attitude makes you a better choice than someone who is technically better qualified or... whatever. You never know when you might get lucky.

I don't lie but I also do not emphasize my shortcomings. Answer questions honestly, but focus on how you are a fast learner, excited about the job, useful skills that you do have, etc. Research as much as possible before the interview so that you can ask a couple of well-placed questions that make you look good. Also, look sharp.

You have absolutely nothing to lose.
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  #15  
Old 02-09-2011, 11:50 PM
Kozmik Kozmik is offline
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Originally Posted by Kyla View Post
Man, if you can get a job you're not qualified for, let me know how you wrangled it. I can't even get a job I am qualified for.
If you imply that it's a job no one can be qualified for, then you'll most likely be hired.
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  #16  
Old 02-10-2011, 02:53 AM
EvilTOJ EvilTOJ is offline
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Yes, and it was a disaster. I'm glad it was a phone interview, because they asked all kinds of technical questions I didn't know the answers to and I could just hang up in shame instead of driving home in shame. I even said 2/3rds of the way through the interview (after saying "I don't know" for the third time) "I'm just not doing very well, am I?"

Well fuck them, they wanted a genius that could fix all their IT problems with zero training for less than what I was making before. It was still very demoralizing.
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  #17  
Old 02-10-2011, 10:26 AM
Dogzilla Dogzilla is offline
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I actually did apply for a job I wasn't qualified for. I was a magazine editor and there was a business magazine in Miami that was looking for an editor. I got called in for an interview and made my way to the Cuban section of town (called "Little Havana") to their offices. I was perfectly qualified as an editor, but they were looking for someone who either had an MBA or a lot of experience with business writing/editing. They were also looking for someone who spoke fluent Spanish. I was not qualified on either count. (No, you cannot learn Spanish by osmosis just by living in South Florida. I tried.)

I thanked them for the opportunity and for considering me, but it was clear I was wasting the interviewer's time and mine as well. I felt really foolish for thinking I had a shot at that gig when they probably had 10 other candidates who did have the business background and the bilingual thing going on.

My advice to the OP is to not bother if you're really sure that you couldn't hit the ground running if you were hired. This is a very, very tight job market right now and you will be wasting your time because there will be 100 other candidates who do have the qualifications that you don't. If there was ever a time when employers were desperate and had trouble finding people, then I would say you're in a position to present your eagerness to learn and get yourself up to speed asap. In this market, I can't see it happening.

Where I work now, we just had an editor position open up. We got 40 resumes. Previously, when the job market wasn't quite so desperate as it is right now, we'd have probably interviewed 4 or 5 people and perhaps 2 of them wouldn't really have all the qualifications on paper. This round, the managing editor found about 8 people who were all completely qualified on paper and had to eliminate several really promising candidates because she could only do 4 interviews. Any one of the 8 would have been capable or better at the job.

So I vote for don't waste your time or the company's.
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  #18  
Old 02-10-2011, 10:40 AM
Dogzilla Dogzilla is offline
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[Deleted inexplicable double post]

Last edited by Dogzilla; 02-10-2011 at 10:40 AM..
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  #19  
Old 02-10-2011, 11:51 AM
Haunted Pasta Haunted Pasta is offline
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Things were clearly looking grim for the local office of the first company I worked for, and I'd been scanning the employment section for nearly a year. I saw a few jobs here and there that looked like possibilities, had had an interview or two, but hadn't seen anything really promising. Finally I saw an ad for a job that looked just right... except it said that a Master's Degree was required. Just a B.A. for me, so I was screwed.

That day, or maybe the next, a co-worker quietly asked me if I'd seen the ad. (She was reading the Want Ads too.) I told her that I'd seen it, but the Master's requirement knocked me out of contention. She told me I should apply anyway. So I did.

The person doing the hiring apparently just held the dubious belief that having a Master's meant you had good writing skills, which is really what they were looking for. Well, hell, that was no problem for me, and in fact I'd emphasized it on my resume. They liked my experience and educational background. I got the job.

I worked for, and befriended, the two terrific people who ran that office for a couple of years, before they left to start their own company. When they were established enough to need help, I was the first one they called, and I happily rejoined them. I'm still working for and with them almost 12 years later.

I owe most of my career to that almost offhand prompt from my co-worker way back when.
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  #20  
Old 02-10-2011, 12:58 PM
The wind of my soul The wind of my soul is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dogzilla View Post
Where I work now, we just had an editor position open up. We got 40 resumes. Previously, when the job market wasn't quite so desperate as it is right now, we'd have probably interviewed 4 or 5 people and perhaps 2 of them wouldn't really have all the qualifications on paper. This round, the managing editor found about 8 people who were all completely qualified on paper and had to eliminate several really promising candidates because she could only do 4 interviews. Any one of the 8 would have been capable or better at the job.
So how did you choose which four to eliminate?
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  #21  
Old 02-10-2011, 01:11 PM
tingbudong tingbudong is offline
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I often apply for positions that are related to my qualifications but that I'm lacking direct experience or certification for. For example, I have a urban planning degree, but I put out apps for environmental tech jobs.

I'm finding that almost every position (no matter how menial) tries to legitimize itself by listing a whole host of 'required' qualifications, tickets and certifications. I was looking at manual labour positions in the oil sands recently and I couldn't believe the required two-bit junk for scraping crap off the side of truck. You need a ticket in X, you need to be certified in Y, you need WHMIS, you need your power-washer credential...blah, blah. I know it is a lot of HR bullshit, but it is a real damper on the desire to write out a brand new resume and cover letter that caters.
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  #22  
Old 02-10-2011, 01:28 PM
Dogzilla Dogzilla is offline
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Originally Posted by The wind of my soul View Post
So how did you choose which four to eliminate?
I didn't and wasn't involved in the process. Just heard the tale from the boss lady, who sits about three feet away from me. I really don't know what criteria she used to narrow the field down to the final four. I would bet that all four had at least a Master's in English or Journalism, had at least 3-5 years working as an editor, and may have had teaching experience (this is a gig in education, so it's relevant).

My friend, whom I referred, had the Master's and teaching experience, but no print production or web production like we do here. She made the 2nd cut, which meant if the four all fell through, they'd have done another round of interviews and my friend would have gotten one.

In years past, we've had upwards of 20-30 resumes, but could barely find 3 with editorial experience and either an advanced degree or teaching experience. I've managed print production for years, but have neither the advanced degree nor teaching experience; I wouldn't be qualified for my own job right now if I applied for it.
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  #23  
Old 02-10-2011, 02:20 PM
kushiel kushiel is offline
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I did once for a summer student position (to do with proofreading). The reason I applied was because they said an ideal candidate was someone who was in the same program I was entering in the fall (a tech program).

I ended up getting hired. The tech program stuff had virtually nothing to do with the job, but if you trained a monkey to be competent at English they could do it. Best job I ever had! It was slack government work.

IT and tech positions are so odd because the ads often give a very specific skillset but a lot of the time you can cobble together knowledge on the job.
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  #24  
Old 02-10-2011, 02:26 PM
Skammer Skammer is offline
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If you do it, the best thing that can happen is you get the new job, they train you where you're lacking, and everyone is happy. That's pretty good.

The worst thing that can happen is that you don't get the job and you stay where you are, or you get that other job in your department. That's not so bad. There's no chance really that applying for this other job will make you end up worse off. So I say go for it.

Don't try to BS, though. Be honest about what you know and what you don't. You don't want to get the job and then now know what the f* you're doing.
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Old 02-10-2011, 02:32 PM
PoorYorick PoorYorick is offline
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I'm of two minds on this. I apologize if I'm a little off-topic, but it's something I have some experience with.

My previous company often had positions with certain technical requirements, such as SQL Server administration, VB programming, and so on. We advertised those requirements because we needed them. I'd say about 70% of the resumes I received were from people who weren't remotely qualified. It was a waste of my time to pore over the resumes just to figure out which ones to toss before considering qualified candidates (we didn't have a fancy key word searching program). Even then (and I know this doesn't apply to the OP), it wasn't unusual to discover someone in an interview who had just flat-out lied about his qualifications ("But I'm a quick learner!"). This is like my saying that I'm fluent in French. Yeah, I might get the job, but eventually I might be expected to, you know, speak French.

On the other hand:

I've also seen employers advertise for positions with completely unreal requirements. For instance, they might be asking for someone with 5 years VB.NET and Fortran programming experience, MSDBA certification, and a Masters in Computer Science for $30K. Yeah, there are people out there who fit the bill, but not for $30K. Eventually they'll either have to settle for someone with fewer skills or pony up a bunch more money. This reminds me of some dating sites where someone is looking for that special someone who must be between 5"7" and 5"9"", can't be over 120 pounds, and have black hair and blue eyes. And they have to be Rastafarian. What the hell, he might get lucky, right? In the meantime, he's missed out on some wonderful possible matches.

Given all that, my advice to the OP is, sure, why not? The worst that could happen is a few wasted hours and a rejection. Seems like a small investment for the potential return.
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  #26  
Old 02-10-2011, 02:47 PM
Nadir Nadir is offline
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Go for It!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Time Stranger View Post
He is pretty high up in his area, and I flat out told him that I have no security experience - he said apply anyway.
This is the key - you're covered. That is assuming he really has any pull and he's a decent person who won't turn around and screw you behind your back if you mess up.
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  #27  
Old 02-10-2011, 04:03 PM
Time Stranger Time Stranger is offline
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Well, I would hope he's a decent person, but I'm sure he wants the best for his workforce, friend or no.

I think I'll spend my free time here on out studying up as much as I can, and see if I even get called for an interview. If I feel competent enough about the subject then, I'll go for it. I would dread a scenario like what happened to EvilTOJ . Thanks again for all the responses!
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  #28  
Old 02-11-2011, 12:57 AM
Martini Enfield Martini Enfield is offline
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Originally Posted by Kyla View Post
Man, if you can get a job you're not qualified for, let me know how you wrangled it. I can't even get a job I am qualified for.
My experiences at the moment too. It's frustrating and confusing at the same time.

From what I've gathered, it's a complete waste of time applying for "Professional" or Government jobs that you're not completely, totally, and utterly 100% qualified for here; because if you (an "unqualified" external applicant) get the job, your appointment can be challenged by unsuccessful internal candidates.

On the few occasions that I've felt my qualifications and skills are "near enough" (eg "Experience with Microsoft Visio", which I've never used), I'll mention my familiarity with similar things to whatever the job requires, or mention I can learn the skills quickly (possibly with an example of a time I did learn a new skill quickly), but it hasn't done any good so far.
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  #29  
Old 02-11-2011, 09:43 PM
Waenara Waenara is offline
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I would definitely apply for a job I'm not totally qualified for if someone higher up and/or from that department suggested I apply, and I have some experience that's at least somewhat related. It's not just nepotism or favoritism, I think sometimes (depending on the particular job) there can be a good justification for hiring someone who doesn't have all of the credentials. If you can hire someone who you know who has at least some related skills, is a fast learner, and is a good fit for your department, then having to take some time to train them after hiring is no big deal. Far better than hiring someone who has the qualifications on paper but after hiring it turns out they aren't a great learner or very flexible and isn't a good fit in some way.

Last edited by Waenara; 02-11-2011 at 09:45 PM..
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  #30  
Old 02-11-2011, 11:12 PM
China Guy China Guy is offline
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Shesh, and possibly because it is IT security they just are not getting a load of internal applicants eager to move into that. REmember you also bring knowing the corporate culture, proven working ability in that culture, as well as your at least in the ballpark related IT experience. It's not like you are an external candidate applying because they worked concert security while getting an undergrad degree in Economics.

Plus, most companies the "low risk" strategy is to hire someone internally that comes recommended versus the "higher risk" of correctly assessing external candidates during the hiring loop that will beat expectations.
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