Q: A company asked, “When applying for a position please describe in your cover letter why you think you qualify for the job.” Please tell me what to write as I am concerned that I could get this wrong and it would affect my chances of being called for an interview.

You are right to be concerned about how to answer this question because it will be the first impression the company forms about you. A wrong answer, lacking relevant details, could eliminate you from being considered. However, a well-thought-through answer could result in your being shortlisted for the job.

Before I go into the detail how to answer this question, I would like to emphasise that a jobseeker is the “seller” of skills and experience and a company is the “buyer”. The company draws up a list of the skills and experience that it wants to “buy”, which is typically detailed in an advertisement. As the “seller”, in order to be successful, you should begin by studying the advertisement or job description to get a clear idea of what the buyer (employer) is looking for.

A good way to do this is by using a table. In one column list the employer’s requirements in individual rows. In a second column list the experience you have that matches each of the employer’s requirements. Let’s assume the advertisement asks for five years’ experience in a start-up company with the ability to speak Arabic and English. In the first column of the table you would list “5 years’ experience in a start-up company” in one row and “speaks Arabic and English” in another row, and so on, listing the requirements from the advertisement or job description. In the second column put your response across from each requirement listed in the first column, explaining whether you have this experience or similar experience. For example, your entry regarding the requirement of 5 years’ experience might be that you have over eight years’ experience in start-up companies and have been involved in two such projects in the last five years.

Once you have completed the table you will have the basis for drafting your response which might be, “After reviewing the job description I believe that I qualify because I meet the following requirements.” You would then list all the job requirements from the table where your skills and experience match or are similar and briefly outline the matching experience for each requirement.

There is a skill to applying online, as some companies use filters or scanning software to pick up “key words” from job applications. These key words will generally be found in the advertisement for the job, such as “IT manager”, “primary school teacher”, “UAE experience”, “Arabic speaker”. The companies set up their filter systems so that the more key words that are found in your application, the greater the likelihood that you will be selected for further review and possibly invited for an interview.

The question that is being asked is, “Please describe why you think you qualify for this position.” Using the approach that I have described will fulfil these requirements. Don’t be discouraged about applying for a job if you don’t meet all the requirements in the advertisement or job description. Sometimes advertisements or job descriptions are so comprehensive that no one can possibly meet all the requirements. Generally, in today’s market if you match 70 per cent of the requirements you should proceed with your application.

Daniel Ough is a careers coach and founder of jobsearchhelp4u.com and Sandpiper Coaching. Got a problem? Our fantastic panel of renowned experts is available to answer all your questions related to fashion, well-being, nutrition, finance and hypnotherapy. Email your queries to friday@gulfnews.com.

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