A clipboard with a lines and checkboxes in a list. Three boxes are ticked. There’s a pencil and a plant either side of the clipboard against a blue background.
Image: © everything bagel/Stock.adobe.com

Can I apply for a job even if I don’t meet the requirements?

8 Sep 2021

Hays’ Nick Deligiannis explains why you don’t need to hit everything an employer is looking for in order to apply for your dream job.

It has probably happened to you at least once before. During your job search you’ve spotted the perfect job advertisement that you’d love to apply for, only to realise you don’t quite match all the stated job requirements.

Perhaps you feel you don’t have the specific experience the job description states is needed, or you lack a particular technical skill that is listed. The chances are that because of this, you counted yourself out and didn’t apply for the role.

Click here to check out the top sci-tech employers hiring right now.

The next time this happens to you, don’t discount applying in the first instance. Instead, assess whether the skills or competencies you lack are fundamental key requirements for the job – if not, do you possess the other required skills to ensure you can do the job successfully?

Take a step back and look at the role in terms of how it plays to your true potential, rather than whether you tick every single box. Doing so will help you decide whether you should apply.

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 – here’s why you should still apply.

It’s unlikely that the employer is looking for an exact match

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 jobseekers and applications, considering potential rather than looking for an exact match.

You’ll be able to learn certain skills on the job

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 never 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.

You can bring other qualities to the role

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 are plenty of reasons not to shy away from a job opportunity that you don’t meet 100pc 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.

Click here to check out more on the Hays Viewpoint blog.

How to apply when you don’t have all the requirements

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 haven’t 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.

Demonstrate your willingness to learn

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 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.

Use keywords from the job description

As mentioned, not having all of the ‘required’ skills and experiences for a job doesn’t necessarily rule you out of the running. However, it does 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 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.

Provide examples of your work

Back up your CV 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.

Demonstrate your passion for the industry and role

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 of 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.

Also, consider 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 100pc 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.

By Nick Deligiannis

Nick Deligiannis is the managing director of Hays Australia and New Zealand. A version of this article originally appeared on Hays’ Viewpoint blog.

Loading now, one moment please! Loading