The KSA Conundrum: Get that Job Anyway

This is a blog post I wrote in early 2007 on 1.0. I found it going through some old documents so I thought I would post it.

Everyone has looked at job postings and found something they think that they would be good at, only to see KSAs (Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities) that seem to knock you out of contention.

You can’t let these requirements get in your way. Most companies set high/specific KSAs to limit the number of applicants to those who are really serious about applying.

Here are two of the top KSAs that deter applicants:

Degree required in a specific field

I come across this one a lot. I hold a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science and International Studies, but professionally I have mostly done internet and design. 95% of the private sector jobs I might be interested in require a degree in a field that I do not hold. This is where the related experience comes in. If you have been working or have experience in that field despite having a different degree, highlight your experience and accomplishments. You are going to have a stronger record of deliverables than someone with less professional experience but with a degree in the field.

Years of experience requirements

I always love to see KSAs for internet-related positions that require nearly a decade of experience in the internet profession. Guess what, there aren’t many people around with that much experience, and many of those aren’t job hunting. Years of experience do not necessarily translate into results, especially when it comes to technology. If you have less experience but have been a rock star at your job, use that to show you can deliver the goods.

It’s hard out here for a job seeker, so here are a few tips to get noticed and get that job:

1) Network like mad

The best way to get your foot in the door at a company is to network with other professionals in your field. When a company is hiring having someone they already know and trust vouch for you is a huge advantage. Go to as many conferences as you can and use online services like LinkedIn to build these relationships.

2) Make a name for yourself

This is all about personal branding. Start a website or blog that talks about your field. Write an e-book or letters to newspapers on your subject matter. You can use this to give yourself more credibility as an applicant. Keep a portfolio and record of all your work so you can show it to any prospective employer.

3) Research the company and solve a problem

When you are looking at a position with a company, learn as much about that company as you possibly can. Look for ways that the company can improve and offer the suggestion. This shows that you are seriously interested in the company, will have less of a learning curve, and it illustrates your potential utility.

4) Be confident

Don’t be disheartened by the KSAs. Bill Gates, at the time he started Microsoft, would not meet the KSAs for most of their jobs today. Know that you have the talent and ideas to make things happen for the company and make it clear to them. Personally, if I am hiring a person I would rather have someone that is able to learn a new skill quickly through experience than a KSA poster child. You are more agile, more able to grasp new challenges, and good at keeping up with the change in your field.

5) Find out how to improve your resume

Look at a number of job openings in your field and see what jobs and skills are most in demand. Maybe it is proficiency with a certain piece of software, or some kind of certification. Find out what it takes to learn that software or get that certification and you will be more marketable in your future employment pursuits. There are some things that you can’t really change, like the field your degree is in, but there are things that are possible that can make a big difference in getting hired.

Do you have any tactics that worked for you or a story about how you broke in to a job without all the stated KSAs? Share in the comments.