Go for it: Why you should always apply for jobs you are underqualified for
The job search can be such a demanding, demoralizing experience. But you know what? It doesn’t have to be. If you practice positive self-talk and take the best expert advice, the process can be both educational and a little fun. The top piece of offbeat-but-reassuring advice: Always apply for jobs you’re not qualified for. Say what? Here’s the reasoning.
How a “reach” job might be within reason
It is an employers’ market these days, particularly for those elusive “entry level” jobs. Since employers can have their pick of hires, they tend to be fairly picky with the published job requirements. But instead of getting down about it, you should probably go ahead and apply even if the job requirements are a stretch.
According to a recent TalentWorks analysis, employees who had even 50 percent of the job requirements listed were just as likely to get hired as those who had 90 percent. And as long as you’re only up to mid-way through your career years, you can typically get decent results applying for jobs that require about two more years experience than you already have.
Other reasons that it’s good to go ahead and take your chances applying: Hiring managers value people who are willing to learn the skills they don’t already have. And an underqualified applicant can shine in hiring situations where the management or company is not precisely sure what they want in a new hire, and may not know until they meet you.
The tone to take with transferable skills
If you’re applying for a job that’s several pay grades or responsibility levels above what you have now, you’ll have to use different strategies than you would for a position that’s a logical next step. Starting with your resume and cover letter, focus on the skills you possess that will help you thrive in jobs at any level. And if you don’t have the specific job experience the ad or recruiter has described, make sure to describe how you’ve used skills you do have in similar situations. For example, if the job requires three years of outside sales experience, focus on the work you’ve done soliciting donations for a non-profit you’ve worked for. Always emphasize other training and certifications you have, too, especially those that demonstrate you have used new technology. If a hiring manager or recruiter sees that you’re skilled and enthusiastic about further training, that can help you get an edge.
Remember, there’s no need to apologize for not being able to check the box next to every qualification on the job posting. You want to draw the recruiters attention to what you can do, not point out what you can’t.
How to bridge the gap if you’re underqualified
While it’s a huge confidence builder to realize you can, and should, apply for jobs you’re half qualified for, this is not a game. You won’t be pretending you are, in fact, a mid-level sales manager or proven non-profit director or whatever. Because the hiring manager will notice you’re not fully qualified, so it’s important you address it first. This doesn’t mean you run yourself down on the application.
But you should spend a minute or two on the first phone call or your application follow-up e-mail stating you realize you don’t match perfectly… on paper. Then immediately segue into the reasons you’re fully capable of filling the role and the ways you’re able to add value to the whole department and workplace. And as tempting as it is, never, ever lie about your qualifications or experience. That’s the kind of thing that’s easy to check on. And if you’re found out, that will kill not just your chance at this job, but your chance within that company, city or industry. Word gets around!
But you can also use that grapevine to your advantage. A glowing reference is one of the prime ways to bridge the gap between your qualifications and a “reach” job. If someone the company values will vouch for you, that could substantially improve your chance of a job offer.