Applying for a Job When Not 100% Qualified

I’ll answer two related questions together:

Dear Anita, I found an ad for a position at my dream company. My skills and responsibilities during my years of experience match up almost exactly to what they are looking for. However, I don’t have a college degree, and they list a Bachelor’s Degree as a requirement. Should I still apply? – Almost  Qualified 

Anita, After months of being out of work, I’m desperate to get a job, so I’m applying to just about every job posting I can find in my town. Obviously, this takes a lot of time. But after being picky and only applying to those few that I qualify for 100% with little to show for it, I have to do something different! My wife thinks I’m spinning my wheels. Can you settle our disagreement?
– Trying the Shotgun Approach 

Dear, Almost Qualified and Shotgun Approach,

TargetWhen a manager needs someone to fill a position, they make out a wish list of their pie-in-the-sky candidate’s qualifications, and post this ad. Are they going to get everything on that list? Did you get everything you asked Santa for? Probably not.

My personal feeling is that if you meet 80% of the criteria (Pareto’s 80/20 rule comes in handy for a lot of situations), then Almost Qualified, go ahead and apply away. Even if there is an applicant meeting 10 out of 10 requirements, and you rank a close second with 9 out of 10 qualifications, chances are good that you’ll still get an interview. The other job seeker isn’t necessarily a shoo-in for the job, either. They may interview poorly or have a less sparkling personality than you. There are all kinds of intangible, je ne sais quois qualities that come into play when a hiring manager is making that final decision.

Shotgun, if you’re just throwing spaghetti on the wall to see what sticks, I feel like you’re wasting 80% of your time, as well as that of hiring managers in your community. And you wonder why employers use Application Tracking Systems (ATS) and don’t respond. See my recent post ATS 101 for a better understanding of the computer program that will toss your unqualified app in the trash. Just to be fair, here’s a blog from Youtern that is PRO-quantity. My advice, however, is to go back to your more targeted approach and have multiple résumés that focus on and spotlight different aspects of your experience and skill set. For example, you may have done a little bit of purchasing in a previous manager position and now want to apply for a procurement coordinator position. Adapt your résumé to focus on the particular abilities and facets of your past experience that make you a viable candidate for the new position.

Shotgun, you may wish to consider a temporary agency like my friends at The Select Family of Staffing Companies. You’ll be able to work on various assignments based on your skills. Who knows, you may even fall into a temp-to-hire situation.

Readers: Readers, have you ever applied – and landed – a job for which you did not have each and every qualification the company requested in the ad?

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3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Tiffany Lieu
    Dec 30, 2014 @ 12:52:06

    It is my standard to apply for jobs even if I am not fully qualified for all of the job duties listed. I weigh how I can persuade during the interview the remainder of the way. Just did not think it needs to be at least 80% of the job duty qualifications. Don’t we have 70% as the standard for passing courses and trainings? I do think over how capable I am for each of the duties as I only have semiprofessional skills currently. Sometimes select duties require professional standing and I might have certain level of it only.


    • anitaclew
      Dec 30, 2014 @ 13:44:02

      Tiffany, My 80% “standard” is more of a suggestion based on the Pareto principle. If you have the majority of qualifications, you’ll probably be able to grow into the role with little difficulty. And you’re correct, it is up to you to persuade the hiring manager how you can bridge any gaps in their requirements during the interview.


  2. Accountess
    Jul 23, 2014 @ 19:48:49

    Anita makes a great point about working for Select, also if an employer has a requirement such as Bachelor’s Degree, I have noticed they are serious about that and I don’t normally waste my time with those applications and just simply move on. A few years ago I would have had a different opinion and said go ahead an apply, not today. Today I say stay focused on your skills and always look at the employer requirements and you will soon land a good job…That’s how I see it. Amelia


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Anita Clew's blog posts are intended for general guidance and should never be taken as legal advice. In all instances where harassment, inequity, or unfair treatment is believed to be present, please consult your HR Department or legal representation.
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