This happens a lot. You’ll see a job posting and it sounds like something you would love to do and be great at. Then you scan down to the required qualifications and it turns out that you don’t have the 15 years of experience and five master’s degrees that they are asking for.
Don’t despair just yet.
Employers frequently put extra qualifications into job ads as filtering tools. They know that they will likely receive more applications for their job than they actually need, so they pad the posting with extra degrees, certificates, and years of experience in order to discourage less qualified candidates from applying.
That is why so many job ads now ask for applicants to have a university degree – even though there is no evidence that one would be required to actually do the work of that particular role.
You can still be a contender for the job if you are underqualified on paper – so long as you are not irrelevant. If you have never worked in the field and have none of the qualifications, then don’t apply for the job. You’ll only be wasting your time and the employer’s.
However, if your education and experience allows you to confidently demonstrate that you would be successful at the job, then apply. Apply with the resume that demonstrates this. Being relevant to a specific role is at least as important as specific qualifications, and that is the step that many candidates miss.
How to get a job that you’re underqualified for
Step one is only applying for those jobs that you know – and can prove – that you can actually do.
Then write a resume that demonstrates how your past work experience, education, and achievements will make you an asset for the company to have in that specific job.
Your transferable skills that can apply across sectors can play an important part of this. Think about your communications and leadership skills, as well as competencies such as budgeting and project management, customer service and negotiation. Many of these so-called soft skills are in high demand across industries, and these can make up for a missing credential or being a few years shy of the requested amount of experience.
Employers like to see accomplishments on resumes. These always trump job duties. So, when you are looking for achievements to highlight in your application, think of those that are most relevant to your targeted job. Describe how your previous achievements indicate your potential for success in this new sector.
Other than some advanced technical proficiencies that may take years of study and advanced education to acquire, most other skills can be learned. (And if the job required advanced technical skills that you do not have, you should not apply.) Other than that however, demonstrating that you are a high-achieving employee who has consistently exceeded targets and accomplished what others might not have in similar roles will attract an employer’s attention.
You don’t have to have five years experience at something if you have had a demonstrably successful two-years with potential for lots more to come. An ambitious, up-and-coming candidate can be more of an asset to a company than a more seasoned one who has plateaued.
Just don’t apply for jobs that you can’t do – or can’t prove that you can do. One of employers’ biggest pet peeves is receiving too many irrelevant applications for candidates who are clearly not good matches for the job. Don’t be one of those.
Write a resume that shows how you can do the job – and be prepared to back this up in the interview. Employers are hiring someone because they have a problem that needs solving and work that needs doing. Making it clear that you understand and can solve the problem and that you can do the work is more important than being an exact match for the bullet points in a job ad.