Of course, if you see an attractive job advertisement and there are not just one, but several key requirements that you don’t meet – then it’s probably best to not apply.
But if there are only a few ‘desirable’ (as opposed to ‘essential’) things you lack from the stated list of requirements – for example, experience using a software package that isn’t of central importance to the job, or knowledge about the organisation or industry that you could learn– you should still apply.
Here are the reasons why:
Remember that when the hiring manager was writing this job description and listing the requirements for their desired applicant, they had their ‘dream’ new hire in the back of their mind. It’s therefore 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.
Applying for a job that you don’t meet all the requirements for means this position would enable you to learn new skills and competencies. That may include particular technical skills, a program you’ve not used before, or even a soft skill you’ve not needed to exercise yet in your career.
As an added benefit, given that you’ll be upskilling in the role, you’re likely to remain longer term, since you’ll grow and develop over time. Some hiring managers therefore find candidates who can grow into the role very appealing prospects. At the minimum, such hiring managers will invite you for an interview, so you can explain how exactly you’d fulfil the job requirements and what other value your transferable skills could bring to their organisation.
As mentioned, there will be other unique and relevant qualities you have that will differ from what the hiring manager was perhaps expecting. These might more than compensate for any skills, competencies or experience you lack on the basis of the job posting alone, especially if the hiring manager is looking to add diverse skills or more varied qualified candidates to their organisation. With diversity of thought a growing focus, your additional skills could be viewed as beneficial and a way to bring unique viewpoints to the team.
There is plenty of reason, then, not to shy away from a job opportunity that you don’t meet 100 per cent of the criteria for. Don’t allow imposter syndrome or a lack of self-confidence to discount you from applying for jobs 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.
Rather than highlighting in your job application or cover letter that you don’t meet requirement x, y or z, focus your CV, cover letter and interview answers on what you can bring to the role.
If, for example, line-management experience is required, and you’ve not directly managed a team of your own, consider including any experiences you’ve had that could relate. Maybe you’ve supervised and led a team on a specific project, or you’ve managed projects which have meant you’ve enhanced your stakeholder management as a result? Even illustrating strong upwards management experience in your CV and cover letter will help your application.
If you’re missing a particular skill or experience using a certain program, ensure you’ve researched what you would need to do in order to overcome this gap. Maybe, for example, you’re skilled in Excel but not in Access, but have already identified an online course that you could embark on to update your skills? What’s important here is that you make it clear to the hiring manager that you are committed to your own development and have a natural thirst for learning new things. You can also use your social media profile to showcase your continuous learning mindset - after all, expect hiring managers to review your social media profiles, too.
As mentioned, not having all the ‘required’ skills and experiences for a job doesn’t necessarily rule you out of the running. It does, though, place a greater onus on you making it as obvious as possible to the hiring manager how well-matched you are to the role. Mirroring the language used in the job description in your CV, supported by action verbs to help your CV stand out, like “built”, “headed” and “enhanced”, will 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.
Then, back up your resume claims with real-life evidence of your successes in previous roles to 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 there is some experience you have that is not listed as required in the job specification, but you feel it makes you a more attractive prospect? For example, you may have worked in an industry that is 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.
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 the required skills or years of experience but apply anyway, the hiring manager may decide that your passion for the vacancy still makes it well worth considering you. Consider, too, what activities you’re already doing in your day-to-day professional life 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 the cover letter to convey this information to illustrate your commitment and enthusiasm.
So, from now on, are you going to reach for your goals, realise your potential and apply for a job that you may think is out of your league? Remember, even if you don’t, at first glance, match 100% of the requirements set out in the job description, this should not necessarily stop you from applying if you possess most of them.
Prove how your transferable skills, experiences and potential make you a great fit for the role, as well as your willingness to learn more, and who knows – you might just get the job. Good luck!
Nick Deligiannis, Managing Director, began working at Hays in 1993 and since then he has held a variety of consulting and management roles across the business. In 2004 he was appointed to the Hays Board of Directors. He was made Managing Director of Australia and New Zealand in 2012.
Prior to joining Hays, he had a background in human resource management and marketing, and has formal qualifications in Psychology.
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