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Should You Apply For A Job You’re Not Fully Qualified For?

Some of my clients have asked me if it makes sense to apply for a job they aren’t fully qualified for.

While I won’t give you a straight yes or no answer – I’d like share some observations from my recruitment work and also my interview coaching practice.

Firstly, don’t let a list of requirements on a job description to intimidate you, especially if it is a very long list. The list of requirements is often more of a wish list for the ideal candidate and that ideal candidate doesn’t always exist.

Employers aren’t always looking for an exact match, but more for a skill set. Let’s suppose they are looking for an event planner who’s done some hospital foundation benefits, and you have experience running non profits fundraisers in the arts world – you’ll probably fit the bill quite well.

You need to prove that your experience qualifies you to do the job you’re applying for. You do this by using specific examples throughout your resume and cover letter. Or, if you have the experience an employer is looking for, but just not quite enough, you can draw their attention to your positive track record that shows that you’re ready to take on more responsibilities.

Also, if they are looking for specific skills, whether it is CRM software or Javascript or knowledge of languages, list them on your resume.

Having said all that – if you don’t meet the minimum requirements, please don’t apply – you are wasting your time and you are wasting recruiters’ time.

If you apply for something you are completely not qualified for, you won’t be remembered in a positive light. When I recruited for Expedia, I’d seen the same person apply for over 20 jobs within the company. Even if a job came up that this person would be suitable for, they just wouldn’t be considered a credible candidate.

You should read the entire job description, do some research on the company, and use your sound judgment to decide if you want to apply or not.

I get so many unsuitable applications that I sometimes wonder if the candidate has fully read the job description.

Just to give you an example, I am currently looking for a digital Account Manager who speaks fluent German and this is one of the first requirements listed on a job description.

Guess what?

More than half of the people who’ve applied don’t speak German.

Or, if I am looking for an experienced media sales person, even if you’ve been a sales super star in another industry, you most likely won’t be considered.

You’re really going to have the best chances applying for jobs that you’re qualified for – you don’t have to be a perfect match, but you should be fairly close.

When employers get a lot of applications from highly qualified candidates, there’s just no incentive for them to consider someone less qualified.

Of course, there are degrees of qualified. If they want 10 years of experience and you have two years, this isn’t the job for you. But if they want 3-5 years of experience and you have two years, and you can write a really good cover letter and point to excellent achievements in those two years, I’d say go ahead and apply.

Employers write their job descriptions in order to attract candidates who are a good match. If the ad says they’re looking for specific qualifications, do yourself a favor and don’t apply unless you have the experience they’re looking for.

The idea is to put yourself in the hiring manager’s shoes.

What should make them excited about hiring you or inviting you to an interview?

That’s what needs to be reflected in your cover letter and your resume. If you can’t figure out why they should be excited about hiring you, then there’s no way you can expect them to figure it out — and that means you need to move on to a different opening, one where you can make a compelling case for yourself.


By: Margaret Buj

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