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How to Apply for a Job When You're Underqualified

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If you’ve ever applied for a role online, then you know how disheartening it can be to find your dream job, only to realise that you don’t meet the requirements. Job postings can sometimes seem to describe an impossibly qualified candidate, putting many people off applying at all. But if you think you can’t apply to a job because you’re underqualified, you’re wrong. You just need to know how.

When reading a job listing, it is important to remember that the worker being described is an “ideal scenario”. In reality, recruiters don’t expect to find a candidate that meets 100% of the given criteria. The requirements listed reflect what the company is looking for, but you’ll often find that they’re open to discussion. 

Identify What Matters

In any list of job requirements, there will be some skills that are more important than others. Being able to identify which skills are required and which are desired will make it much easier for you to rule out jobs that you definitely won’t get.
Certain skills can’t be taught on the job, but others can be picked up quickly, or simply dropped from the role. Take a moment to think about how long it would take for you to learn the requirements you don’t meet. Usually, the longer it takes to learn, the less flexibility there is. You might have a degree or qualification that they’re looking for, but be missing something more basic like PowerPoint experience. Companies will usually be willing to train you for small gaps like these if you have the main components. 

Do Your Research

It is important to research a company before making an application, but even more so if you are underqualified for the position. The requirements and duties listed in the job ad will give you an idea of what the company needs. But if you don’t meet those, research can help you identify any other areas you can help them in.
Social media accounts and online reviews are a good place to start. Look for problems brought up by customers, and explain how you could solve them. It is important to tread lightly in this area, as you don’t want to insult how they do business currently.

You should also see if they are hiring for any other positions, as this could identify other areas you can help them in. Businesses go through a number of steps before advertising a position publicly. Usually they’ll look internally and within their own networks before posting a job online. By enquiring about their needs directly, you could get your application in before everyone else sees the ad online. 

Address the Gaps

It can be tempting to avoid or downplay the criteria that you don’t meet. This is the worst thing you can do. The recruiter isn’t going to forget those requirements, they’ll just see that you listed the things you can do, and it doesn’t include everything they want. They may still contact you if they think you meet the most important requirements, but not acknowledging your shortcomings hurts your chances.
Addressing these issues head on gives you the chance to tell them about similar skills you have, and how they will help you learn as you go. Make it clear that you know you don’t meet all the requirements, and explain why that shouldn’t matter. You could argue that you have other skills that weren’t listed, but you believe to be relevant to the role. Or maybe you have similar experience that will cross over, and help you learn quickly. Basically, explain why you’re applying despite not having all the experience.
The most important thing is to be realistic. Don’t waste time by applying for a position you’re vastly underqualified to do. But if you are underqualified and decide to apply anyway, be upfront. Acknowledge your shortcomings, and make the best case you can for why you are still suitable for the role. You could be pleasantly surprised at how far you can go. 

Think You’re the Only One? 

Our latest employment monitor found that over 70% of jobseekers have applied to jobs they’re not qualified for. View the full report to see what else we found. 

View Report