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"“Am I Qualified for This Job?

” Is the Wrong Question to Ask" - HigherEdJobs 24/02/2017, 16*43

“Am I Qualified for This Job?” Is the Wrong Question to


Career Tools | by Christopher D. Lee, Ph.D., SPHR

Monday, January 23, 2017

"Am I qualified for the job?" is

the wrong question to ask
oneself. The question that
makes all the difference is "Am I
competitive?" In an earlier post,
we discussed the three levels of
preparation for a given position:
qualified, competitive, and fit.
We first make the assumption
that good positions that are
advertised on HigherEdJobs will
attract a large pool of capable
shironosov/iStock candidates. For example, a
position might attract 50
candidates, 25 of whom are well-qualified for the job. The trick is being one of the 10 likely
candidates who are good enough to warrant a deeper review and who remain in
consideration for an interview.

Qualified candidates have the requisite education and experience. Competitive candidates
have a wider and deeper degree of experience and expertise. An ad might ask for a
bachelor's degree, three to five years of experience, and familiarity with the major tools,
software, or protocols used in the field. In the same ad, a preference for candidates with a
master's degree in a particular field might be indicated, as well as experience in the
particular industry or sector-think research university or community college, etc. Without
much analysis the difference between qualified and competitive becomes clearer. An
assistant professorship might call for a terminal degree and the ability to teach a range of
courses in the curriculum. Whether indicated or not, preference might be given to
candidates who have previous teaching experience -- think graduate assistantship or
years of adjunct teaching -- as well as someone who has had success writing grants or
garnering other forms of external funding.

Over my career as an HR manager, I have received hundreds of calls from disgruntled or

frustrated job seekers who argue that they should have received an interview given their
stellar background. Sharing my regrets and replying that we received applications from a
large number of well-qualified candidates might seem like a platitude, but most often it is
true. Here are a few tips to help determine how good a match one is for a particular
position.…m_source=02_22_2017&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=InsiderUpdate Page 1 of 4
"“Am I Qualified for This Job?” Is the Wrong Question to Ask" - HigherEdJobs 24/02/2017, 16*43

The difference between being competitive and a good fit -- read being invited for an
interview -- is the number and type of related experiential factors that you have with either
the position or institution in question. If you have more factors than the application pool,
then you are more competitive. The degree to which such factors are related to the
requirements for the position and the needs of the institution, the better match you are with
the opportunity.

These enhancing intangibles are likely what can be referred to as 'Organizational Fit'
criteria. These are factors that enrich one's application, but are not necessarily the
concrete and easily discernible items that can be checked off a list. Accounting for a
degree, title, years of experience, and general knowledge is objective and easy.
Demonstrating that one shares similar occupational beliefs, technological acumen, or
appreciation for a region's culture and thrives in a particular work environment is hard to
do. Other intangibles such as sub-specialty, school of thought, work ethic, team-
orientation, complementariness with potential coworkers' scholarship, and passion for
particular kinds of work are often even harder to describe, explain, and communicate in
writing. Nevertheless, these are the very qualifications that make all the difference in
determining who gets interviewed and who gets the job offer.

It cannot be overstated that organizational fit criteria are usually the difference between the
winner and the runner-ups. Everyone considered worthy of the search committee's
deliberations is usually qualified. Those who are subjected to a second round of screening
-- telephone screening, video interview, questionnaire, portfolio review, etc. -- are
competitive. Unquestionably, the candidates who are invited to campus are the potential
good 'fits' for the job. Barring mistakes during the interview process, the candidate who
usually rises to the top is the one whose experiences, interview answers, and outlook for
the position are, to a greater degree, a match with the institution's vision and expectation
for the position. This is another way of saying that the person is a good fit for the job.

Fit does not mean a person who looks a certain way, went to a certain school, or comes
from a specific socio-economic group. Fit criteria must be limited to job-related and
institution-related factors. Otherwise, they might become a guise for the personal
preference or bias of particular committee members and be used in an unfair, unethical, or
illegal manner. Fit is about the degree to which a person's professional background and
personal work style aligns with the needs and expectations of an institution. These criteria
must be widely known, determined in the beginning of the search, and agreed upon by the
search committee. It is obvious that community colleges are teaching-oriented and major
universities are defined by their research agendas. A candidate with a resume filled with
research and publications might be shunned by a community college with a five course per
semester teaching load. Yet, this same scholar would be an attractive candidate if he is
passionate about teaching and indicates in his cover letter that he is looking to change
gears and teach and inspire the next generation of scientists. Similarly, an urban university
that prides itself on engaging with the community would be attractive to professionals who
would savor the location as a living laboratory. Candidates who enjoy service learning,
require students to volunteer off campus, or who do research on city dwellers would fit well
in such an environment.

Demonstrating that one is a competitive candidate who is a good fit for a position requires
communicating in the resume and cover letter the degree to which one is a good match for
a position. Previously, we discussed the need to have multiple resumes tailored to
particular types of opportunities. The purpose for curating one's background, highlighting…m_source=02_22_2017&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=InsiderUpdate Page 2 of 4
"“Am I Qualified for This Job?” Is the Wrong Question to Ask" - HigherEdJobs 24/02/2017, 16*43

certain elements, and reinforcing one's match with a position and institution is all about
demonstrating one's fit with the opportunity at hand. When a curriculum vitae is needed
instead of a resume, or when a general resume is used, the cover letter is of even greater
importance. The cover letter is ineffectual if it does not help convince the reader that the
candidate is competitive beyond the generic qualifications listed. It must add, highlight, or
prove the point of how similar one's background and abilities are to the opportunity. "What
factors in my background should I accentuate to prove that I am a good match with this
position and institution?" is the right question to ask oneself before preparing application
materials for a new position.

• # C a re e r S t a g e s a n d Tr a n s i t i o n s • # J o b S e a rc h A d v i c e

• #Leadership in Higher Ed • # Te a c h i n g a n d F a c u l t y…m_source=02_22_2017&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=InsiderUpdate Page 3 of 4
"“Am I Qualified for This Job?” Is the Wrong Question to Ask" - HigherEdJobs 24/02/2017, 16*43

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EPark08 • a day ago

This is great information and I do employ all of these techniques. I am
curious, Christopher, as to what you think about utilizing LinkedIn
connections to request an "introduction" to the hiring team. I have gone
this route several times and it has not given me the results I would have
liked, even when I was a competitive, good fit for the role.
△ ▽ • Reply • Share ›

Jonathan Lowery • a day ago

Very nice article and thanks for the insight. Do you have recommendations
on the most effective ways (in addition to the job posting itself) to piece
together the institutional identity so that one might highlight fit in an
application? For instance, institutional websites do not always make it
clear how much scholarly productivity is expected for faculty members.
△ ▽ • Reply • Share ›


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