Getting the Job When You're Underqualified

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When you're changing careers, getting your foot in the door can often be the most difficult part. Even though you may have tons of experience in your industry, which could carry over to the new career, odds are good that you don't meet every requirement on the employer's list.


So, how can you get a job when you're underqualified?


First, it's important to know that when an employer advertises a job opening, most of their list of requirements is a wish list. They are qualifications that the employer would like to find, but they aren't set in stone. Even if you don't meet all of them, you can still apply for the job.


In order to land a job you aren't completely qualified for, you have to consider what your qualifications are. Do you meet at least 80 percent of their advertised requirements? If you were the hiring manager, why would you hire someone with your skills? The answer to these questions will help you determine how to market yourself.


Although the current job market makes it considerably more difficult to land a job when you are underqualified, here are the most important things you can do to stand out:


Write a great cover letter – The most important thing you can do is write an amazing cover letter. In it, acknowledge that you don't have all of the qualifications they asked for and explain why you still think you are the best person for the job. This is super important because if you don't explain why you're applying, your resume will most likely be thrown out. Remember, your cover letter is the place where you can make your pitch so don't overlook it.


Learn about the company – Before applying for a job you aren't qualified for, you should know a lot about the company. This means that you should have done tons of research and have a clear idea of what the company's goals are, what challenges they are currently facing and where they are heading. All of this information will make it easier for you to explain to a hiring manager why you want this particular job and why you would be a great asset to their company.


Be likable – When it comes right down to it, being likeable is going to be what makes or breaks an interview. If you're enthusiastic, have some of the qualifications they're looking for, know a lot about the company and the hiring manager really likes you, it's not unlikely that you'll be offered the job. Being likeable makes it easy for a manager to want to help you.


Show your skills – Even though you don't have all of the qualifications they're looking for, show off the skills that you have and stress how they can relate to the job. For example, if they are looking for someone who has 5 years of experience in sales, with at least 2 years of retail sales experience, having only 3 years of retail sales experience might be enough. Just make sure to clearly show that you are motivated and capable of exceeding expectations in the position.


Getting a job that you are underqualified for can certainly be a challenge, especially in a tight job market, but it's not impossible. If you are trying to change careers and want to be considered for a job you aren't completely qualified for, you'll really have to work at marketing yourself.


Have you ever gotten a job you weren't completely qualified for? Please share your thoughts and experience in the comments.


Image source: MorgueFile


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  • Melissa Kennedy
    Melissa Kennedy
    Thanks, Desiree. June, I hope they work! Good luck!
  • Desiree N
    Desiree N
    This is great because that is the position I am in now. This helps me to stay motivated to get a job in my field.
  • June R
    June R
    great article. Just was able to put a couple of the suggestions that were listed into practice.
  • Melissa Kennedy
    Melissa Kennedy
    Wow, this is turning into a really great discussion. When you want a job and know that you can do it, but aren't quite qualified, there is no harm in applying. The odds are against you being hired, especially in this tough job market. But, that's okay because if you follow these steps and do all that you can to show why you deserve the chance, you'll make new connections, put more positive energy into your search and hopefully, you'll find your big break. Don't give up!
  • Willadene T
    Willadene T
    Excellent suggestions.
  • Steve C. S
    Steve C. S
    I am interested in broadening my horizons. Researching the job before applying is a good "foot in the door" idea. It'll also show confidence and  motivation for the position you're applying for, and that you have a dedicated interest in the company you're applying for, even if you don't have all the qualifications outlined in the job description.
  • Maria Elenita F R
    Maria Elenita F R
    That is exactly the reason why I was not able to apply because I feel underqualified inspite being board certified. Thank you for the enlightenment.
  • David O
    David O
    Some really great piece of advice. I sure have learnt a lot because I'm considering switching careers. Thanks.
  • Joyce F
    Joyce F
    if there are opportunities to learn on the job, yes.  Even if it is a all learn together, it still those that are all too positive of their experience that makes it difficult to get there.  New things are being done each year, so, even if we know and have done it all, who knows, it may be different.
  • Rachel L
    Rachel L
    Thanks for this article, I'm going to "save" it and refer to it as I continue my job hunt.
  • Joseph G
    Joseph G
    great article - how about posting one for people who are OVER qualified.  I don't know how many jobs i have been turned down on because i had more knowledge / experience than the manager interviewing me.
  • Aissatou N
    Aissatou N
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts Melissa, this will give courage a lot of job seekers to apply for more positions. Applying only for jobs we think we are 100% qualified may limit opportunities.
  • Miriam K
    Miriam K
    Great points!
  • Anna K
    Anna K
    I am a Ideal Employee that has many skills to offer any company.I enjoy sharing knowledge with others because it makes the team stronger on the job site.Thanks for letting me know that all positions are not carved in stone.
  • Donald  W
    Donald  W
    Thanks for submitting this information. I found it very helpful and encouraging--especially for those trying to transition into a new career. I just recently retired from the military and it has not been easy. Again, thanks DEW
  • Sandy M
    Sandy M
    Good advice.
    I try to only apply for positions where I meet or exceed the requirements, yet I am disturbed when I get the form letter stating they found someone who "more closely meets the qualifications."  
  • DeniseB
    This was great information! How can I find a program or individual who can assist me in typing a very effective resume that won't cost me a fortune?
  • Annie C
    Annie C
    Thank you Melissa! Before reading this article, I thought I was hopeless for a decent job. After reading this, it gave me inspiration to go after the jobs I am not completely qualified for but I know I can do well in or beyond expectations!  Thank you for the encouragement!
  • Jon W
    Jon W
    What we really need to know is how to get the job when we are overqualified and 50 or older...easy to get the job if you are young, inexperienced and cheap.
  • thomas F
    thomas F
    Very useful. I recently applied for such a job and did most of what this article advises, but now i understand where i could've done more. Thanks.
  • Michael W
    Michael W
    Good article. Common-sense advice that should pay off.You misspell "likable" on its second use here:Be likable – When it comes right down to it, being likeable
  • Martin W
    Martin W
    All good advice, except that in most HR search systems the applicants' cv's are screened initially by software programs for "key words," long before any HR Manager gets to see them. The system is deliberately set up to actually reduce human interaction (and associated costs) in the early stages. It is a cold hard fact that if you have fewer "keywords" than other applicants, your credentials will not get through to the next round of review. Exceptions are rare.
    Good article Melissa. Writing a good compelling cover letter can draw attention. I would also suggest using a T-Letter as a coverletter in order to relate some examples of your skills to the job requirements. The most important thing is to research the company and be able to relate to their needs.
  • jenny Y
    jenny Y
    Yes, you are right.  I have never thought this point.  I will try to do it this way.

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