Should I apply for a job if I don’t meet all the requirements?
11 min read | Nick Deligiannis | Article | Job searching Starting a new job
Find out why you should apply for a job, even if you don’t meet all the requirements. Plus, discover our top tips to help you with your application.
Have you ever found a job advertisement that really excited you, except the experience it required was a little out of your reach? The chances are that because of this, you counted yourself out, and didn’t apply for the role.
Next time this happens to you, don’t let it put you off. Here’s why.
Applying for a job when you don’t meet all the job requirements - what you need to know
Whether you’re fresh out of university or looking to make a career change, it’s unlikely that you’ll meet all the requirements listed in a job specification. But you’ll be pleased to know, job descriptions are a mix of must-haves and nice-to-have qualifications, as more than ever, employers are looking for potential rather than a perfect match.
Next time you see a job that you’re “underqualified” for, take the time to assess whether the skills or competencies you lack are essential requirements. If not, do you possess the other required skills to ensure you can do the job successfully? Take a step back and look at the role in terms of how it plays to your true potential, rather than trying to tick every single box. Doing so will help you decide whether you should apply.
Read on to find out more and discover our top tips to successfully apply for the role.
Why you should still apply for a job, even if you don’t meet all the requirements
Of course, if you see an attractive job advertisement and there’s not just one, but several requirements that you don’t meet - it’s probably best to not apply. But if there are only a few ‘desirable’ things that you lack from the listed requirements, you should still apply.
Here are the reasons why:
1. It’s unlikely that the employer is looking for an exact match
Remember: when the hiring manager was writing the job description, they had their ‘dream’ new hire in the back of their mind. This means, it’s highly unlikely that any candidate will meet every single one of the criteria. For this reason, there can be a certain level of flexibility surrounding job descriptions. The hiring manager will most likely be open-minded when reviewing job seekers and applications, considering potential rather than looking for an exact match.
2. You’ll be able to learn certain skills ‘on the job’
Applying for a job when you don't meet all the requirements will allow you to learn new skills and competencies on the job. This may include particular technical skills, a program you’re unfamiliar with, or even a soft skill you haven’t had a chance to exercise in your career.
As an added benefit, you’re more likely to remain in the company longer term as you’ll upskill and develop over time. This makes some hiring managers attracted to candidates with potential to grow into the role. At the minimum, you may be invited for an interview. This will give you the opportunity to explain how exactly you’d fulfil the job requirements, and what other value your transferable skills could bring to the table.
3. You can bring other qualities to the role
As mentioned, you will have other unique and relevant qualities that differ from what the hiring manager is expecting. These could compensate for any skills, competencies or experience you lack in the job posting. More and more hiring managers are looking to add diverse skills to their organisation, and your additional qualities could be viewed as beneficial, and a way to bring a fresh perspective to the team.
4. There’s no harm in applying
There are plenty of reasons to not shy away from a job opportunity, even if you don’t meet 100 percent of the criteria. Don’t let imposter syndrome, or a lack of self-confidence, steer you away from applying for jobs that you would almost certainly be able to do well.
And in any case, what’s the worst that could happen? As Bill Gardner, Forbes contributor and leadership coach, says: “What’s the harm in applying? If you don’t get it, you still get the application, and maybe interview experience.” With this experience, you are more prepared to continue your job search.
How to apply for a job when you don’t meet all the requirements
Rather than highlighting in your job application or cover letter that you don’t meet requirement x, y or z, focus on what you can bring to the role in your CV, cover letter and interview answers.
1. Think about your transferable skills
If, for example, line-management experience is required, and you’ve not directly managed a team of your own, consider including any of your experiences that could relate. Perhaps you’ve led a team on a specific project, or you’ve managed projects which have enhanced your stakeholder management as a result? These points are all valid and will help your application.
2. Demonstrate your willingness to learn
If you’re missing a particular skill or experience using a certain program, research what you would need to do to overcome this gap. Maybe you’re skilled in Excel but not in Access, and have already identified an online course that could improve your knowledge? What’s important here is that you make it clear that you’re committed to your own development, and have a natural thirst for learning new things. You can even use your social media profile to showcase your continuous learning mindset. After all, expect hiring managers to review your social media profiles, too.
3. Use keywords from the job description in your CV and cover letter
As mentioned, not having all of the ‘required’ skills and experiences for a job doesn’t rule you out completely. It does, however, mean you should make it as clear as possible how well-matched you are to the role. Mirror the language used in the job description when writing your CV, and use action verbs like “built”, “headed” and “enhanced” to draw attention to your relevant results and achievements. If the employer is looking for a strong communicator, for instance, you should use that wording on your CV.
4. Provide examples of your work to demonstrate your expertise
Then, back up your resume claims with real-life evidence of your successes. This will help the reader appreciate your potential, even if your existing skills don’t exactly match all of the requirements listed in the job advertisement.
Perhaps you have some experience that isn’t a requirement for the job, but you feel it makes you a more attractive prospect? For example, you may have worked in an industry that’s similar or complementary to the one requested. Or you might possess skills in using a particular tool or software that could make you more effective in the role, despite the job description not mentioning it.
5. Demonstrate your passion for the industry and role
You can acquire skills, but not enthusiasm. You’re either genuinely excited about a role, or you aren’t. And who knows – if you don’t have all of the required skills or experience but apply anyway, the hiring manager may decide that your passion makes it well worth considering you. Think about what activities you’re already doing in your day-to-day that indicate this passion. Do you regularly attend industry events like webinars? Are you always listening to the latest podcast to upskill in your particular field? Are you studying for additional qualifications?
Unfortunately, there won’t be much space on your CV to portray this passion. So make use of your cover letter to highlight this information, and illustrate your commitment and enthusiasm.
Things to remember if you apply for a job where you don’t meet all the requirements
Remember, even if you don’t (at first glance) match 100% of the job requirements, this shouldn’t necessarily stop you from applying. As long as you prove how your transferable skills, experiences and potential make you a great fit for the role, you will stand a chance of landing an interview. Be sure to demonstrate your willingness to learn more - and who knows – you might just land yourself the job. Good luck!
About this author
Nick began working at Hays in 1993, and has held a variety of consulting and management roles across the business. During his career, Nick took on the role of ‘Director’, responsible for the operation of Hays in Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania and the Northern Territory. In 2004, he was appointed to the Hays Board of Directors, and was appointed ‘Managing Director’ for Australia and New Zealand in 2012.