Creating a skills matrix is a useful preparation tool when it comes to applying for jobs and I request one from anyone that I work with. It will provide clarity as to how suited you are to a position and a completed skills matrix will amplify any job application. It will identify gaps in your capabilities saving you time and effort applying for jobs that are not for you.
To begin, one needs to review the job specification.
Job specifications vary extensively depending on who is writing them. HR may have greater focus on the cultural, company and personal competencies, where an IT/Line Manager may focus on outlining the technical environment and the specific skill requirements. Finding a good mix of both is the ideal but not always found.
If it is strictly a technical specification, I advise that you take the initiative and do some homework on the company (if it’s known).
TIP: Visit their website and at a minimum read the About Us, Culture and Vision statements to see if the company would be a good ‘fit’ for you. It is usually this aspect, rather than the job itself, that determines whether people stay in a new position.
Either way, you, as the applicant, need to take what you find and work with it; and determine, at this stage, if you are right for the job.
Having reviewed the specification you feel you have the skills to match and having reviewed the company website you are interested in pursuing further. So what is the next step?
The Skills Matrix:
To complete this you simply create a two column table in a word document (as shown below). In the left hand column you write down the list of requirements (copy and paste from the job specification). Then in the right hand column you outline your competencies and RELEVANT work experience, addressing each item listed in the left hand column.
Job Requirements & Responsibilities Experience
The Skills Matrix can be quite extensive depending on how elaborate the job specification is. Focus on the essential and mandatory requirements first. If the list is not extensive include desirables (if listed) and definitely include soft skills and competencies (these are also cultural indicators describing what type of environment the role would be operating in i.e.: team work, ability to meet targets, ability to work in a fast paced ever-changing environment, listening skills, customer focus, driven).
TIP: With any application you should at least meet the mandatory experience and requirements. (There are very few companies that will deviate from a mandatory requirement, this is usually only the case for very specific or rare skill sets). If you do not meet the minimum requirements, you are most likely wasting your time in relation to that specific application.
You should provide approximately 3-4 sentences (bullet points) outlining your experience against each of the listed requirements.
The experience you state needs to be relevant, therefore be specific about systems supported, years of experience, and specific tasks that would be associated with that requirement/responsibility. DO NOT just provide “Experienced” or “5 years’ experience”. If you have not worked with something that has been listed but you do have experience with a similar technology you should mention this. Do not put ‘No’ or ‘N/A’ unless you have had zero interaction in this specific area.
Try and keep your matrix as concise as possible, providing clean and factual bullet points. You should not be documenting your complete career history. This is an exercise initially to determine your suitability for a position. If you do proceed with an application it can be used to accompany your CV. (For tips on CV writing see The Kiss of Life for the Technical CV.
From a job seekers perspective it has proven to be very beneficial when identifying their suitability for a role. If called for an interview it serves as a very good starting point for interview preparation. (For more on preparing for interviews see Interview Preparation – The SPREAD Technique.
From my own perspective, I hope this is a useful exercise that gives you a clear perspective regarding your suitability for job applications in future.