The perfect job has opened up and it ticks off all your boxes: great pay, close to home, excellent benefits package, and opportunity for growth. The only problem is, you don’t quite have the qualifications listed. Do you restart your search, or take a chance and apply?
With some jobs, like medicine, there’s no getting around base qualifications. A person just can’t become a doctor until they get their MD, just like a person can’t practice law without a JD. But not every job is like that, and qualifications tend to reside in a gray zone. How do you identify which jobs to go for, and which ones are out of reach?
1. Evaluate Your Qualifications
Before you think about hitting “send” on your application, take time to make sure you’re the right type of underqualified. For example, if you’re looking at a job as an investor, do you have any experience in the field? Or are you hoping to break in for the first time? Are you taking courses to make yourself educated and qualified? Do you have a contact in the industry? If you answered “no” to any question but the second, it may not be a good idea to apply.
2. Differentiate Between Company and Position
Ask yourself if it’s the company you want to work for and grow in, or the position you’re looking at. If it’s the former, you may have to look at a job that better suits your qualifications to get your foot in the door, and then work your way up from the inside. But if it’s the exact position, try searching for smaller companies, as they generally tend to be more open to taking on underqualified employees.
3. Tailor the Employer’s Needs to Your Qualifications
Sometimes, you present a package that can fit a company well but they just don’t know it yet. Take time to research them and learn what they goals, needs, and performance consists of, and match that to your own skill set. Say you’re looking at a job as an accountant, but you don’t quite meet the list. But what you do have in your corner is an ability to talk to people and get them to hand over money. Using that, apply with the intention of working with numbers, but on more of a collecting or fundraising side.
4. Show Your Enthusiasm
Employers want to hire people who are genuinely excited about working at Company X, not people are using it as a stepping stone, so convey your interest. Be honest about your lack of qualifications or skills, but explain that Company X stands out for you because of [qualities] and you’d be more than happy to learn everything to get caught up to speed. Job qualifications in any career can be taught, but work ethic and enthusiasm can’t, so make yourself stand out that way.
5. Point Out the Benefits
There are many reasons that employers would hire underqualified applicants:
They’re cheaper to start out with
They bring unteachable soft skills to the table
They can be more easily molded than qualified, seasoned veterans
Their desire to get the job means they’re more flexible and adaptable
They tend to show more loyalty as thanks for having a chance taken on them
Mention all these reasons and anything else you can think of that would tip the scales in your favor. After all, you’re not the first underqualified person to get a job above them, and you won’t be the last.