Should You Apply to a Position You’re Not Qualified For?

Jun 26, 2020

Written by Caitlin Proctor

Written by Caitlin Proctor

Career Expert, ZipJob

An average of 250 resumes are sent for a single opening. See how Zipjob uses professional writers and technology to get your resume noticed.

Have you ever been looking for a job and come across a job opening that seems to meet all your expectations? You know – one of those once-in-a-lifetime opportunities that seem to offer everything you’ve ever wanted in a job: the right hours, fantastic pay, great benefits, and more.

The only problem was that you lacked the basic qualifications the company was seeking from its candidates. Did you apply for that position or did you do what most people do when confronted with that dilemma and simply move on to the next posting?

The better question might be this: should you apply for a position when you know you’re not qualified for the job? As it turns out, the answer to that question can depend upon a variety of factors. We’re here to offer some simple rules to help you determine whether it’s worth your time to apply for that type of position, and suggestions about how to ensure that your resume can still pack the right amount of punch even when your qualifications may not be exactly what the prospective employer desires.

Should You Apply to Jobs You’re Not Qualified For?

Should you apply to jobs you're not qualified for?

You really have nothing to lose (except some time). You should still apply to positions where you have most of the major qualifications.

Use your best judgement when deciding whether or not to apply for a position.

For example:

  • If a position requires five years of experience and you only have three – you should still apply.
  • If a position requires a masters degree and you only have a bachelors – it’s usually a waste of time. 

The most important thing is to evaluate the situation to see whether it makes sense to apply. While it might seem as though you should never bother to pursue a job when your qualifications are lacking, the truth is that the decision may not be quite that obvious.

1. Consider your actual qualifications.

Many times, companies overstate the qualifications that they are looking for, so don’t automatically assume that you’re unqualified just because you don’t technically meet all their stated criteria. If you have most of the qualifications, that may be enough for you to try to get your resume in front of the hiring manager. On the other hand, don’t bother to apply for positions that are far outside your area of expertise. For example, if you have no computer programming knowledge or experience, it would be a complete waste of time for you to seek that type of job. If the job posting says that the company needs someone with five years of experience, don’t apply if you have little or no experience. Use common sense and sound judgment, and try to keep everything in perspective.

Think about whether you would be capable of truly doing the job. Even if you have most of the qualifications that the company wants, you still need to be confident that you can actually perform the job tasks. If you have doubts about whether you can meet the company’s needs, don’t apply. That’s a rule that you should apply to your entire job-search effort.

2. Evaluate your resume.

Are your skills and experience convincing enough that a reasonable hiring manager could envision you as a worthwhile candidate for the position? If not, consider other types of qualifications or experience that you might already possess, and try to determine if any of them are close enough to bring you closer to meeting those baseline qualifications. This may require you to rewrite portions of the resume, or add language to your cover letter, but it’s well worth the time you invest in the effort.

3. Never lie or mislead the company.

Sure, a great job opportunity might tempt you to fluff your resume to inflate your qualifications, but that’s rarely a good idea. Any employer who verifies the information that you provide will quickly realize the truth, and that can have far-reaching consequences. In addition to getting passed by for this job opportunity, your professional reputation may be tarnished as well.

4. Include skills you’re learning.

If the qualifications include areas of expertise that you can develop, shape your resume and cover letter to highlight those emerging skills. Remember, qualifications are just the start of the hiring process. Ultimately, every company wants to fill its ranks with the best overall workers, and it is always possible to find a position with a firm if your overall value-proposition is attractive enough to draw their interest – even if your qualifications may not be quite what they’re looking for…yet.

💡ZipTip: check out the most in-demand skills employers are looking for in 2020.

5. Marshal your networking prowess.

If you’re convinced that you can do the job but are lacking in certain qualifications, exploit your network to try to get an interview. These types of situations are perfect examples of why most of us network in the first place.

Perfect that Resume and Cover Letter

Naturally, none of this will matter if your resume is weak or ill-conceived. Take the time to tailor it to the job you’re seeking, and focus on highlighting every area of experience and competence that is applicable to the job in question. You need the hiring manager to read that resume and cover letter and be intrigued enough to schedule that all-important interview.

If you just can’t manage to shape your resume to make you sound even marginally qualified, chances are that there’s no way that you’ll ever get the job anyway. If that’s the case, then you will be better served by moving on to the next job opportunity, rather than expending more time and effort in pursuit of an unattainable goal. In the end, the decision to apply or not apply for a position that you’re not qualified for is one that you’ll have to carefully consider.

If you need more help with your resume and cover letter, considering hiring one of Zipjob’s professional writers.

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An average of 250 resumes are sent for a single opening. See how Zipjob uses professional writers and technology to get your resume noticed.

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