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Do you have what it takes to be a fluffy puppy?

Getting an employer to take a chance on you when you’re not the ideal candidate.

You're smart, you're motivated, you KNOW you can do the job. But your resume and their wish-list of skills and qualifications don’t quite line up. How do you get them to give you a second look, and (hopefully) let you in the door to prove yourself?

  1. Don’t go it alone. This is where an agency can really shine for you. When you throw your resume in the door all by itself (on paper or electronically), it’s got a good chance of landing in the slushpile with thousands of others. Many companies these days use keyword-software that searches for the items identified in the job requirements. If you don’t have exactly the right words, the software will discard you before humans ever lay eyes on that resume you sweated blood over.

    An agency will have an account manager who has a direct line to the employer’s hiring managers. If you can persuade the account manager (through your recruiter) that you’re the one for the job, an account manager with good rapport and a record of "good picks" can use their credibility to make a personal case for you. Instead of one in thousands, maybe you’re now one in ten, or fewer. WAY better odds.

  2. Give them the sales pitch for you. If you know you could be perfect for that job, tell your recruiter why. Explain, with solid details, why your lack of some items on the “wish list” won’t affect your ability to perform the role well. That makes it easier for them to turn around and sell you effectively to the client.

  3. Consider the “fluffy puppy” maneuver. Recruiters know this one. It’s easier to say no to the doggie in the window at the pet store. If you bring it home and keep it for a couple of weeks and get used to having it around… you’re far less likely to give it back. If you can find a way to get in the door for a couple of weeks, you’ll have your chance to prove you can be an asset to the team. If possible, offer to work a two week trial period for free, or at a reduced rate for the first probationary months of the contract. When you reduce the financial risk they take by agreeing to take you on, you increase your chances.

  4. Find out exactly what their reservations are, and address them. Ask your recruiter to help you with this one. If they can give you specific concerns, then you can respond, through your agency, with specific reassurances. Maybe you don’t have the right number of years in the industry... but you can point to the time you’ve also spent in related fields. Maybe you don’t have the certification they want... but it’s underway, and you can give a specific timeline for completing it. Maybe you can offer to undertake extra training on your own time. If you know what the problem is, you can address it directly.

  5. Be enthusiastic — but the right kind of enthusiastic. Imagine that you are about to undergo surgery. You find out that you are your surgeon’s very first case. Concerned, you meet with the surgeon to talk it over. Do you want someone who bounces up and down with eagerness to try out their new-found skills on you? Or would you be more persuaded by someone who takes your fears seriously, and explains all the things they have done to prepare for this role, and do it really well? Energy and a can-do approach are all very nice, but back it up with research, communication and facts. Find ways to show that you are committed to your clients’ benefit and not just your own.

  6. Make a business case for choosing you. The hiring manager may like you, but they still need to justify their decisions on a costs-and-benefits basis. So be able to point out how choosing you makes good business sense. Maybe your services will cost less than the others’. Maybe you’ll be able to fill multiple skill niches, and prevent the employer from having to hire extra expertise. Maybe you have outstanding team skills, or can offer high flexibility when it comes to travel or shift work. If you can point to the ways that hiring you will accomplish your client’s goals more effectively or economically, your chances just got a lot better.

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