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Applying for jobs you are underqualified for 

Published: Friday 25th September 2020

It iperhaps fair to say that applying for jobs you are underqualified for is something that most of us have done. Now we are not suggesting people should apply for roles they are hugely underqualified for, you should not. Doing so will waste your time and theirs and ultimately does not help anyone. In fact, it may leave you feeling even more underqualified than you are!  

Likewise, we are not condoning companies advertising starting-level roles requiring the skills, years of experience and commitment needed to run a small European country. Often for an ‘excellent’ starting package of £18,000. However, that is not to say you should not be applying for jobs where you do not meet all 100 requirements. Many people have often thought such demands are impossible to meetAnd, it would seem that not only were these people perhaps correct, but employers knew this too. 

Are role requirements important when applying for jobs? 

Woman stressed while applying for jobs with a laptop blowing with a notebook on the head in a table at home

A study was conducted by Robert Half International, a global HR consultancy based in California, and credited as the world’s first and largest accounting and finance staffing firm. Findings from this study revealed that 84% of companies surveyed were willing to hire and train candidates lacking their stated required skills. It was also revealed that on average, 42% of job applicants did not meet the skills requirements for positions they were applying forPerhaps reflecting this disconnect, findings also showed that 62% of employees have been offered a role for which they were not qualified. 

Regarding the findings, Paul McDonald, a senior executive at Robert Hall International, said, “Based on the research, you should apply even if you feel underqualified. Companies are challenged with finding qualified individuals who meet 100% of the job description, so they’re hiring individuals who meet a portion.” 

So everyone should cheat? 

The answer is of course no. However, the study does suggest many companies do not expect candidates to meet all job requirements. Therefore, as long as you have a good portion of the requirements for a job, you should apply. Again, you should not lie that you have skills or previous experience that you do not. What you should do, is highlight, maximise and perhaps massage the skills and experience you do have. So, in the spirit of always wanting to help job seekers find work, here are a few tips on applying for jobs you are underqualified for.  

Fill in any gaps 

woman sitting at table in cafe in front of laptop with inscription on screen e-learning and image of square academic cap

By skills requirement No.50, most people have decided that particular job is not for them. No matter how much they thought it was up until skill No.32. However, instead of giving up, you should look at how you can shape your other skills/experience to match those you don’t. For example, you may not have previous office management experience, but you have supervised a team of freelancer writers or managed a local sports teamThese have transferrable skills that are similar, and so you should include themThis allows employers to consider this experience and helps you edge closer to having what they need when applying for jobs. 

Having the right stuff 

Personality and being a cultural fit for a company has become increasingly important. Therefore, even if you do not meet all skill requirements, you can emphasise how your personality and soft skills are a match. This can include past successes, transferrable skills and your determination and knowledge of the role you are applying for.  

According to career expert Vicki Salemi, you should try to demonstrate how your unrelated experience is relevant to the role. She explains, “At the end of the day, they can teach you a technical skill set, but it’s much harder to teach someone to have a positive attitude or be a team player.” Adding, “These aspects are very important, so as a job seeker, you can highlight why you’re the right fit for the company.” 

Believe in yourself when applying for jobs

Sounds simplistic, Gandalf-like almost, but it is true. If job seekers only applied for roles they were fully qualified for, hardly anyone would be working and promotions would only happen from positions you were already in. Vicki Salemi says most career advancements occur when a candidate is hired for a more senior role than their previous one. She says, “The whole point of looking for a job is to reach and go outside your comfort zone and advance your career. Go for something that does make you a little uncomfortable and find a way to grow and succeed in it. 

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