Should You Ever Apply to a Job You're Underqualified For?

Should You Ever Apply to a Job You're Underqualified For?

By: Daniel Steingold | July 24, 2016

While many jobs have set requirements to get hired, these requirements are not always quite as fixed as they are generally perceived to be.

It is not uncommon at all for people with less experience to get a job over someone more experienced because they have a better attitude, communicate more effectively, or demonstrate a better work ethic.

Fit is a buzzword in hiring, and you can use this to your advantage.

Nevertheless, it is not always advisable to apply to a job that you don’t have the qualifications for, particularly if it diverts your focus from positions that you’d be more likely to get.

This post will guide you through how and when to apply for a job for which you don’t completely fit the bill.

Examine Your Qualifications

While you might find that you want a given job, that isn’t what you should be asking yourself when it comes to applying to a position for which you’re underqualified.

Rather, the question you should ask yourself is: can you do the job?

An example of something that would preclude you from performing the job properly? Not being able to speak German when applying for a transcription position that requires fluency in German.

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An example of something that may not preclude you from getting the job would be not having quite the level of education of experience required.

From here, you want to determine what skills that you do or don’t have, and determine if a lack of experience can be surmounted.

While for some jobs this may be easy— you may be able to determine that your experience in journalism may make you fit to work in another publishing sector— it is not always as evident.

If it is unclear as to whether you can overcome certain requirements, it is never bad to directly contact HR at the company where you’re interested working, as they can help clarify how rigid the requirements listed are. You shouldn’t be afraid to reach out others in the industry either, such as through platforms like LinkedIn.

Distinguish Requirements from Preferences

We’ve all seen them before: job listings that note what skills or qualifications it would be nice for candidates to have, although they’re not absolutely necessary.

Certain so-called “job requirements” are added to either make the company look more prestigious or to weed out certain applicants.

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An example of this type of requirement on a job listing would be a preference for a degree from an Ivy League school or for proficiency with a content management system like Wordpress.

To clarify, it is important to carefully read job listings to determine if they simply prefer certain qualifications, or demand them. If they are absolutely required, you can examine from here whether they can be easily obtained— e.g. proficiency in Wordpress— or are outside of your scope of control.

A good way of looking at it is that an employer is generally not going to wait for that “perfect” candidate. While that candidate may come around, they are ultimately going to interview anyone who seems to be a good fit.

No employer in their right mind expects you to be good at everything.

Word It Right

When applying for a job for which you are underqualified, there are certain no-nos.

One thing you should never say in a cover letter is, “I know I don’t have the right experience, but…”

This simply further highlights the fact that you’re lacking in a given area.

On the other hand, don’t try too hard to show that you have relevant experience. For example, being able to manage your own finances without having any formal education in accounting doesn’t mean you’re qualified to be an accountant.

It should also be emphasized that when applying to a job for which you’re underqualified, cover letters are vital.

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They can help explain any discrepancies or gaps in your formal application, while also showing that you care about the position enough to take time to learn about the company and how you would fit.

In any correspondence you send to an employer when underqualified, you will want to emphasize how you have the drive and determination to learn any skills that you currently do not possess.

Also, clearly addressing any imperfections you may have in terms of your qualifications can help your case.

Admitting that you’re not perfect will not only make you appear more genuine and modest, but worded correctly, can help show how you’re making progress towards becoming a more well-rounded individual.

So, the answer to the question posed by the title of this post is “yes”… usually. Ultimately, you will have to weigh the potential benefits to applying to a job you’re not qualified for against against the time and effort it takes to apply.

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