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

Updated: Jan 6

You’ve probably come across job openings that sound interesting, but you notice that there are some requirements missing from your qualifications. Can you still apply? In most cases, it's worth taking the chance!

young professional male pointing up to some tips about finding a job

Of course, there are some exceptions, like when you have to be an attorney or know how to play the violin. Otherwise, it’s usually a matter of seeing if you can reframe your background to address the employer’s needs. In fact, many job ads are more like wish lists than precise formulas, so there is substantial room for flexibility.

Take 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

If you’re thinking about switching careers, there are many options for making the switch. Whether it be within an industry or to another type of position—many people have found success at various stages in their professional lives. A career change could help provide new opportunities that will allow you to explore jobs you would enjoy greatly. These strategies will help you make the switch:

1. Research the field.

Person researching the potential employers before going to an interview

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. Attend networking events where you can make new contacts. Join groups on LinkedIn and reach out to someone whose profile looks interesting.

3. Focus on transferable skills.

Review your resume 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.

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

You may be a new or inexperienced professional, but there are ways you can stand out. You might not have much real-world job experience yet; however, that doesn't mean your talents won’t pay off in the long run. Try these techniques for highlighting your talents and gaining some experience:

1. Volunteer your services.

Young woman with down syndrome volunteering at a local charity

Build up your resume 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 adults. Contact companies where you would like to work and ask about formal or informal opportunities.

3. Polish your cover letter.

Customizing your cover letter is even more important when your resume 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 make the difference. In a world where everyone is trying to get ahead, it's important that you've mastered more than just your major or computer knowledge. Soft skills such as communication and problem solving will give employers something different from their expectations of what they need in an employee- someone who can adapt quickly when faced with new challenges on top of everything else. Try out some of the following techniques:

1. Study the job description.

Young woman doing some studying about her skills before applying for a job

Review the qualifications to see which requirements are essential and which are less significant. 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.

Automatic programs and human resources departments focus heavily on keywords these days. If a particular skill is stressed repeatedly, you may need to look elsewhere.

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.

So, if you’re feeling under-qualified for a job opening, don’t give up hope! Chances are good that you can reframe your qualifications to fit the employer’s needs. And if you do decide to apply anyway, be sure to highlight how your unique skills and experiences make you the perfect candidate for the position. Need some help putting together an application that will get noticed? Check out our resume services – we can help you make the most of your qualifications and stand out from the competition.


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