Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Mandatory Requirements are Not Always Mandatory

As a job search coach I am frequently asked if a candidate should apply for a job if not all of the mandatory requirements have been met. My response is yes. I have a real example of my own that shows that not all mandatory requirements are truly mandatory. Many people have found inspiration from this story; I hope you do too.

One April day in 2002, when I was on the job market I saw an ad for a job fair for a healthcare claims processing company. One of the positions they were looking to fill was one I was looking for, an Information Technology (IT) Business Analyst (BA). The odd thing was that the ad asked candidates to RSVP for the job fair. I thought the purpose of the RSVP was to schedule the candidates across the entire day instead of having everyone show up all at once first thing in the morning.

When I called the phone number listed in the ad, I was connected with a Human Resource (HR) representative. When she heard I was calling about the job fair, she asked how many years of experience I had in the healthcare industry. In response I told her I had worked with a healthcare company but since it was a Y2K assessment (checking systems to be sure they handled the year 2000) I could not say I had actually worked in the healthcare industry. It was then that she told me I could not attend the job fair, that the job fair was only for candidates who had five years of healthcare experience. I could not believe it – she was telling me I could not attend the job fair. They were going to be sitting there taking resumes and they would not let me attend.

That was in April. In July I networked into the same company. A former co-worker who knew my work as a BA insisted they interview me. He knew I could do the work and since had been trying to find the right candidate since before April, they had nothing to lose.

The BA Manager set up a phone interview with me. Although I lived less than half a mile from their offices, they wanted the first contact to be via phone. At the outset of the phone interview that July, the hiring manager asked about my lack of healthcare experience. She restated that the company has a requirement that candidates have five years of healthcare experience. She asked how they could be assured I can learn healthcare sufficiently to perform my job as a BA.

It was then that I pulled out one of my STARs. STARs are a way of documenting your accomplishments in the format Situations / Tasks faced, Actions taken, and Results realized.

The following is my reply to the hiring manager’s question:

"For the past three years I served as a lead BA consultant at a software company. Each client I worked with was in a different industry. I worked with clients in aerospace, banking, reinsurance companies, electric companies, gas providers, and others.

Through my series of questions, I learned their terminology, their processes, and their systems. I made it a practice to ask questions about areas around my scope of assignment so I had a fuller context of information.

Not only did I learn the business well enough to successfully serve in my role as Business Analyst, two companies asked to hire me back as a system expert because I knew their systems as well, if not better, than they did."

From that conversation, they brought me in for an in-person interview, they hired me, and two weeks later they promoted me to the Manager of the BA team when the previous manager left the company. A month later they asked me to work the next job fair – you know the one they would not let me attend back in April.

If I had not networked into the company, I would not have made it passed the requirement that HR was asked to implement. It was only by networking into the company that I was I given a chance to share my STAR. It is also because I had my STARs ready that I could respond so confidently.

Mandatory Requirements are not always mandatory if you have an abundance of the other skills and are prepared with your STARs.

Next Week: Sign up as a follower of the blog for next week’s article on the Power of Your STAR Statements to learn more about capturing your STARs.

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