It can be incredibly frustrating when you find your dream job, only to read the advertisement and realize you don't match all the listed qualifications. This may leave you asking "should I apply for the job?" even when you know you'd be a great fit for the position.
The difference between minimum qualifications vs. preferred and desired skills may mean that you have a shot at more career opportunities than you think. Job advertisements often paint a picture of an imaginary, ideal applicant. Depending on how quickly a position needs to be filled, the hiring manager may not truly expect to hire someone who completely matches the written description. Several competencies listed in an ad can actually have a relatively small influence on whether you get the job.
For more on when and how to apply for a job without meeting all the listed qualifications, check out the following answers to some common questions.
Hiring managers consider many factors when choosing who to call in for an interview, and the list of ideal qualifications is only one piece of the decision. They also look for candidates with a strong job history, a track record of success in previous positions, and who demonstrate a willingness to learn new skills.
The answer to how to get a job you are not qualified for is highlighting what you do have to benefit the company. Focus on transferable skills that will be valuable to the prospective employer, rather than overly-specific examples of how you succeeded in your previous positions.
For example, if someone who works the front desk at a doctor's office wants to apply for an administrative role at a sales company, they should cut all confusing medical terminology from their resume/cover letter and focus instead on how well they performed general administrative tasks like scheduling or record management.
There are different expectations for required skills vs. preferred competencies or desired skills. If you're considering applying for a job without all the qualifications, first determine which general category your missing proficiencies fall into. This will help you predict your chances of getting called for an interview.
Desired skills: These are the “nice to have” skills that make up a recruiter's wish list. Desired skills are the least critical, and proficiency in these areas will give your application a nice boost. However, employers aren't looking specifically for candidates with these abilities and you should definitely apply for the job even if you don't have any of them.
Preferred skills: These are the abilities employers want to see in a potential new hire, but they may not be deal-breakers when it comes to landing an interview. If you have at least half of the preferred skills listed in the advertisement, don’t think twice. Apply for the job!
Required skills: These may also be called "minimum qualifications." In most cases, you must meet all of these standards to be considered for the position. The only potential scenario in which you might try applying for a job without all required qualifications is when you will soon meet the requirements. For example, if you are one month away from graduation and the position necessitates a Bachelor’s degree, you should still apply.
Once you've identified required skills vs. preferred and desired skills, you need to decide how critical your missing skills are to the employer. Circle any competencies that are repeated multiple times throughout the job ad, as well as those that are described as "highly desired" or "strongly preferred." These abilities are at the top of the list of what hiring managers will look for when deciding which applicants to interview.
Hopefully, you already have some experience with the circled skills, even if only in passing. If you are inexperienced in any of them, you could consider an online course to demonstrate basic knowledge and a willingness to continue learning while employed.
Your cover letter—and even some supplemental application sections—is an excellent opportunity to discuss what you are currently doing to close large skill gaps. Consider continuing education courses or professional workshops you might have attended recently to develop these areas. Especially if a qualification is listed as "strongly preferred" or "highly desired," you want to show that you are open to putting forth the effort to acquire these skills.
Another approach to applying for a job without all qualifications under your belt is to demonstrate your adaptability and ability to learn quickly. Use your resume to showcase examples of when you gained expertise or accomplished a project thanks to your willingness to learn a new skill.
The key to how to get a job you are not qualified for is understanding the differences between minimum qualifications vs. preferred capabilities and desired skills. If you read the job description and know that you will bring value to the company, you should almost always apply for the job. The tips above can help you determine how to address any skill gaps you may have and land the interview for your dream job.
*Pro Tip: Use iHire’s exclusive iScoreResume Match tool to quickly compare your resume to a specific job posting and identify any missing skills.