You’re trawling through online job sites and you come across an amazing job. It’s ideal, and you want it – badly. Oh wait, hold on, they want someone with 5 years experience, and you have two. They prefer someone with a specific degree that you definitely don’t have. Hmm. Do you apply? Or it is just a waste of time? Surely there must be applicants that will meet all of the criteria, right?
The answer is: not always. If you’re unqualified for the job, use this advice to help you choose whether or not to apply. We’ve added extra tips to get you further in the recruitment process if you decide to give it a go.
How big is the gap?
Start off by considering just how underqualified you are. Don’t worry about meeting 100% of the requirements – companies often list these just to weed out people who are completely inappropriate. If you think about it, a lot of people wouldn’t fill all the criteria that would be listed for their current role, so if you don’t have every requirement, don’t stress too much. Jobs can often be altered up or down to suit a great candidate. Sure, every company is different with this, but don’t rule yourself out for no good reason.
You only need to worry if there’s a really big difference between you and the job description. Say, for example, they want 8 years of experience and you have two. If the gap is huge then you might be better spending your energy elsewhere. But even then, you don’t have to give up. Instead of applying for that specific role, send a general application to the company, acknowledging that the position that caught your eye may be suitable for someone more senior, but explaining your interest in joining the team in an appropriate capacity. Will it always work – no, but remember this – up to to 80% of jobs filled are not advertised. It’s a good strategy to keep up your sleeve.
Bridge the gap
Sit down and make a list. Write down the requirements that you don’t have. Then, brainstorm what knowledge, skills and experience you have that can fill those gaps. For example, maybe you haven’t worked in sales role before, but you did have to sell something when you volunteered for a charity, or you have extensive customer service experience. Maybe you haven’t managed a team in a work environment, but you’ve captained a sports team or organised a big event. If there are some requirements where you can’t seem to bridge the gap, maybe it’s something you could jump on right now. There are plenty of very short online course to improve your skills and add to the resume.
Show them you can do the job
There’s no rule saying you can’t include extra info with your resume and cover letter. Create a personal website and display some of your best work. Or write a document outlining how you will tackle the big challenges of the role. Create a pitch deck with the ideas and skills you’ll bring to the business. Film a video of yourself showing off your best side. Putting in this much effort is a solid way to impress the hiring manager and convince them that you can do the job.
Never underestimate the power of networking. Do you know anyone who has contacts at the organisation? If so, ask if they can make a personal introduction. If you don’t know anyone, get creative with how you could meet someone at the company. Let’s say your potential manager is speaking at an upcoming event or attending a local business meeting. Go along and introduce yourself. Did the company feature in any news recently? If so, get in touch to ask them a question about it. Reach out on Twitter or LinkedIn with an intelligent question or comment about something that’s recently happened at the company.
Don’t underestimate your soft skills
It’s easy to forget that the people looking at our resumes and making hiring decision are humans, who want to connect with other passionate, pleasant, capable humans! When they created these job descriptions they were writing wish lists – without knowing whether a candidate with all those skills actually exists. It’s reasonable to think they’d settle for someone who doesn’t tick all the boxes if they really like them as a person.
Hiring people can be a surprisingly personal process. The warm, friendly person with 80% of the requirements will often seem much more appealing than the robot with all the skills on paper. These natural, innate personal characteristics and strengths you bring to the table often can’t be seen on a resume. Do you have natural energy and optimism? That’s more important than specific computer skills which can be taught. Do you tend to be loyal and hardworking? That’s probably better than having the right degree. If you’re a natural people-person then you could be a far better leader than someone who’s spent years inching up the career ladder who can’t inspire others.
Show them your soft skills
While your natural passion, eagerness to learn and fantastic personality can make you a much better employee that someone who meets all the job criteria, you won’t be able to show all of this off unless you score an interview. Making a big effort to bring these aspects of your personality to your application is what it’s all about. This is why a website or a video, where you can express your personality, is a great idea. Why not include a third document with your cover letter and resume that highlights a few stories that show your true personality? Talk about a time you helped your boss out of a tricky situation. Or the time you reorganised the whole office to make it more efficient. Or the day you went above and beyond for a client. Share a story that shows your genuine passion for the industry. Can you demonstrate that you’re obsessed with this line of work? How can you show them that you’re on board with the company’s mission?
Hopefully by now you’ve learnt that when you next see a dream job that looks out of your reach, you don’t need to write yourself off. While these strategies won’t work all of the time, only going for jobs you’re fully qualified for is limiting and unnecessary! Don’t cut yourself off from amazing opportunities, especially if you’ve got the soft skills, passion and enthusiasm they’re looking for.