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The Secret to Applying for Jobs When You May Be Under-Qualified

You’ve probably come across job openings that sound interesting, but you notice that you’re lacking some of the desired qualifications. Is it okay to apply anyway? In most cases, it’s worth taking a punt.

Of course, there are some exceptions, like when you have to be a lawyer (and you aren’t) or know how to play the violin (and you can’t) – I guess you get the drift. Otherwise, it’s usually a matter of seeing if you can reframe your background and align your soft and technical skills to address the employer’s needs.

In fact, many employment advertisements are more like wish lists than precise job requirements, so there is substantial room for flexibility.

The secret is always to align your CV with the skills and competencies in the job advert or job description that you have.

Let’s have a look at three of the most common situations where you may be able to make the case for why you’re a candidate worth considering.

When You’re Changing Careers

Do you want to switch to a new industry or a different kind of position? Many people have made a successful transition at various stages in their professional lives. A career change could help you discover a job you’ll love.

These strategies will help you make the switch:

  1. Research the field. Before making such a big move, do your research carefully. Clarify your reasons for the switch, so you can explain them to an employer as well as yourself. Look up data on starting salaries and employment prospects.

  2. Interview colleagues. Professionals already working in the field are an important source of information. Attend networking events where you can make new contacts. Join groups on LinkedIn and reach out to people in the role you want to move into to gain insights and an understanding of how they were successful.

  3. Focus on transferable skills. Review your CV to see how you can apply what you’ve done to your new area of interest. Many tasks are similar even when the job title changes. Look at how you can align your skills and experience with the new role.

  4. Ask for referrals. Your current network is still an asset. See if there is someone you know who can introduce you to others who may be willing to share advice and job leads.

When You Lack Experience

Maybe you’re brand new to the job market or have limited experience. You can still impress employers with your talents and accomplishments.

Try these techniques for highlighting your talents and gaining some experience:

  1. Volunteer your services. Build up your CV while you advance a worthy cause. Offer your assistance to a charity you already support or call your local volunteer clearinghouse. Propose a project that will give you valuable experience.

  2. Do an internship. While internships are usually designed for students, there are also programs for experienced people. Contact companies where you would like to work and ask about formal or informal opportunities.

  3. Polish your cover letter. Customising your cover letter is even more important when your CV needs support. Develop engaging stories that present your skills and abilities. Ask friends and family for feedback.

When You’re Missing Specific Skills

Soft skills can be just as important as your technical knowledge. With a few extra steps, you may be able to prove that you can do the job even if you’re unfamiliar with aspects of the role.

  1. Study the job description. Review the qualifications to see which requirements are essential and which are less significant. E.g. while an international company might like each employee to be multilingual, it may not be a significant part of the position you’re seeking.

  2. Pick out keywords. Application Tracking Software and human resources departments focus heavily on keywords these days. If a particular skill you don’t have is stressed repeatedly, you may need to look elsewhere. Or indeed you may realise that your transferable skills are in demand so align these and play to your strengths.

  3. Continue learning. On the other hand, you can keep strengthening your qualifications. Take advantage of training on the job or in your free time. Always stress in your CV, cover letter and indeed interviews that you are quick learner and you are very keen to do additional and ongoing training and courses.

If you’ve done your homework and concluded that you’re an excellent fit for the position, ask to be considered. Even if you’re missing a few items on the qualifications and skills checklist, you’ll feel better knowing that you made an effort. Plus, you may even land your dream job.

As they say: “Nothing Ventured – Nothing Gained”!


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