When you’re applying for jobs, it’s generally accepted that you shouldn’t apply for a position you’re underqualified for. Most job descriptions list out specific requirements (and sometimes, additional “wish list” or ideal requirements) candidates should have. If you’re missing many of those requirements, your first instinct might be to pass that job by.
However, that may not always be the best move. If you’re seriously interested in a certain job, there are ways you can land that job, even though you might not have all of the qualifications that the employer is looking for. By tailoring your application and interview, you might be able to land that dream job.
Apply Even When Underqualified
You can’t get a job you don’t apply for, so start by simply taking the step of applying to the job, even though you may be underqualified. Realize that in some industries, like the trade industries, overall demand for employees may mean that hiring managers are willing to be a little more flexible with their requirements.
For instance, the United States is currently experiencing a truck driver shortage. Even if you don’t have every qualification a truck driving position requires, you might still be able to get the position because of the need for drivers. An employer may be more willing to invest time and money in training someone who has the qualities of a good driver but who doesn’t necessarily meet all of the application requirements, especially if they envision that driver staying on with their company for a longer period of time.
Remember, too, that employers may be flexible when it comes to their requirements or their description of their ideal candidate. Employers are looking for employees who can make excellent contributions to their companies. If you can show that you can do that without meeting every requirement, you may be able to catch an employer’s attention and land the job.
Polish Your Application
If you’re going to catch the attention of a hiring manager when you’re underqualified for a job, you need to take the time to make your application shine. Start by rewriting your resume’s goal or objective sections so that they focus on what you want to get out of a job and what you see for yourself in the future.
Next, craft your resume and cover letter so that they truly showcase your skills and experiences that are ideal for the position that you’re applying for. Think about what you would bring to the job and how your unique experiences and skills make you a great candidate. In your cover letter, go into these elements in additional detail. If you’re applying for a management position but don’t have any management experience, highlight how your experience in customer service or your volunteer experience at Habitat for Humanity has provided you with the skills a good manager needs — organization, empathy, problem-solving talents, and more.
If you can get some great recommendations from previous managers or supervisors, this can also help to make your application stand out. This is particularly true if a manager is willing to tailor their letter to address how your qualities and experience make you well-suited for this particular position. Now is also a good time to reach out to your professional networks to see if you know anyone who is connected within the company that you’re applying to. An employee or client who is willing to recommend you for the position can help get your application to the top of the pile.
If you’re applying to a position that requires a portfolio, this can be the perfect way to showcase your talents and prove that you can do the quality work that the employer is seeking. Take the time to create a great portfolio that shows your work, and consider creating a piece or two just for this job application. If you’re applying for a position designing ads for a company but haven’t specifically designed ads before, then creating a few ad mockups can go a long way in catching a hiring manager’s attention and giving them an idea of what you could do for the company.
Know How to Interview Well
In addition to carefully crafting your cover letter and resume, you’ll need to understand how to deliver a great interview that highlights your strengths and downplays the fact that you’re underqualified. Start by familiarizing yourself with the common interview questions that employers ask, and think about how you’ll respond to the questions that address your qualifications — or lack thereof. Create responses that frame the qualifications and experience that you do have in a positive light, and consider ways you can gain the type of experience an employer would want to see. For instance, would you be willing to do additional on the job training, or could you enroll in courses part-time while employed?
Even with thorough preparation, interviews can still go badly. If an interview doesn’t go well, immediately take some steps to recover from the issue. Be honest if things go wrong and you end up arriving late, and follow up with a handwritten note to thank the interviewer and reiterate that you’re interested in the position. While some efforts may help you to recover from a bad interview, also be prepared to learn from the experience if you don’t get the job. Think about what you could have done differently and apply those lessons to future job interviews.
Finding your place in the working world can take some time, but if you have your heart set on a certain job, don’t let being underqualified deter you from applying.