Thursday, January 22, 2015


Recently, three very hesitant young people came for advice on job hunting. Very apologetic, and quite down hearted, they were facing a brick wall. The problem? No qualifications. Or that's what they said.

On digging just a bit deeper, I was not surprised to find that they each had very valuable experience. One had been running a tooling and machining unit for the last three years, another had just left a job of managing a manufacturing unit with two plants under his control, and the third had been doing a successful own retail business when the recent sudden down turn forced him to close it up. Yet HR after HR had been turning them away. They had rarely even got to the interviewing stage, and they were downcast.

Two of these promising young people had no college qualifications at all. The third had a degree, but in arts. All three got their starts because of recommendations from influential family/friend contacts, and now that they needed to hunt for jobs on their own, the lack of suitable qualifications was haunting them. Everywhere they had tried, almost the first question asked was 'what's your qualification?' Very often, the corollary remark – how were you heading that unit without any engineering or commercial background? In one case, because of a major fight with the management, any request for a reference was out of the question.

Were I hiring for a project, I would have snapped them up!

The reality is that the kind of experience that these three young people have is invaluable. It can't be taught in college. They've learned the practicalities of what makes any business run. So, I set out to find out why HR's don't seem to have the ability to see what they have been missing. There seem to be at least two factors at play.
1. Time – hundreds of applications to scan!
2. Filters – almost all jobs seem to begin with having some (ir)relevant qualification.

Rather than banging my head against that wall, I decided to see what could be done about the negativity and hopelessness that had set in. All three needed some serious counselling! Self belief is perhaps the biggest factor in successfully job hunting. We talked about what they had achieved and what they had learned, and we talked about what any employer is looking for – people who have the skills and knowledge that they had already accumulated in the real world of running their various businesses.

Then comes that other great necessary – the CV. Looking at what they had as CVs, I was hardly surprised that they had gotten nowhere so far. Please, look at your own CV from a HR's perspective. It should be clear what your core skills are, and it should also be very clear how your abilities and skills have been put to use in your previous work. Simply listing employers with dates and job titles does not get you very far. Remember that the HR has very limited time, and certainly cannot be expected to 'read between the lines'.

In going through the CVs, I found a couple of areas where each individual needed to put in some extra work, and suggested either reading material, or a short course (e.g. in personal presentation, etiquette or in body language). At this stage, in no case was going back to college going to be a useful option.

Finally, while the run of the mill process of job hunting may be good enough for the so called 'qualified' candidate, for those who have come up the harder way and who have the more valuable knowledge, one needs to try a more nuanced approach. I'd suggest getting yourself a consultant. Beyond that,  your own work contacts, especially business persons and unit heads with whom you had dealt in your previous avatar. As they already know you, getting an appointment might not be difficult, and believe me that's 50% of your battle won!

And Go for it !

First published on LinkedIn Pulse as UNQUALIFIED!

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