A woman shakes hands with another woman across a table while sitting down to be interviewed.
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Why you should apply for jobs you’re underqualified for

1 Feb 2023

If you’re not sure if you’re a good fit for a role, Hannah Pearsall is here to advise you on how to show off your best self, even if you don’t tick all the boxes.

Do you avoid applying for roles if you don’t meet all the criteria listed? Stop doing that and hit the apply button anyway.

A huge 80pc of employers surveyed by Hays said they’d consider candidates who don’t have the full skillset required. In a jobs market where 90pc of organisations said they’re concerned about skills shortages; they’re keen to get their hands on professionals who have potential.

So, what are employers looking for if not specific skills? An attitude – and aptitude – for learning on the job.

Great news for candidates, in theory, but how exactly do you showcase your willingness to learn?

Let’s start with your CV

Kick off with a short opening paragraph that highlights your curiosity and your appetite for learning. Demonstrate that you’re a self-starter who’s motivated to go above and beyond to access new skills.

Did you teach yourself the basics of SEO? Have you done online training outside of your workplace? Tailor what’s relevant to the role and include insights that will resonate with your potential employers.

Reach out directly to recruiters

Building an in-person rapport will really help your recruiter get a sense of your personality, reassuring them that putting you forward to a role that’s technically beyond your expertise will be a good opportunity for both you and the prospective employer.

Read up ahead of the interview

It’s crucial that you arrive prepared to discuss gaps in your understanding and how you plan to fill them. Research what it is you’ll need to fulfil the role and have a handful of examples to share at interview stage.

Explain, for example, that you’ve signed up to weekly emails from a relevant industry publication or that you’ve collated training articles that you plan to work through.

It’s not imperative to actually read all of these at this stage but it shows that you’re actively engaged in developing your skills.

Take accountability for your learning

Showing a positive and enthusiastic approach to learning during your interview will help you stand out. Lifelong learning is no longer a nice-to-have, it’s fast becoming a necessity in today’s ever-evolving job market.

While it’s up to employers to ensure they’re providing adequate learning resources, it’s also up to you as a candidate to take responsibility for your learning and development.

Be honest

A candidate who wants to learn must be open about what they do and don’t know so that their employer can build a cohesive training plan for them. Once everyone is on the same page, this can be a really successful working relationship.

Employers are addressing skills shortages with learning

While being able to hire a candidate with all the skills you need is the dream scenario, employers are realising that they need to be flexible to widen their talent pool.

More than three-quarters (77pc) of employers surveyed said they are concerned about skills shortages within their organisation, hence, training their existing team is a logical solution.

Of course, while employers are becoming less strict about candidates having the full criteria for job roles they’re advertising, they are expecting great attitudes to learning in return.

A positive job market for candidates

Simon Winfield, managing director of Hays UK and Ireland said: “Amidst a challenging hiring market, it’s positive to see that employers are more willing to recruit staff who might not tick all the boxes.”

This change in attitudes and an open-minded approach to upskilling staff is creating an appealing market for jobseekers.

Also, more employers are willing to take on talent from different industries, which is the perfect opportunity to make that career change you’ve always wanted to or try a new challenge if you’re becoming unmotivated in your current role.

By Hannah Pearsall

Hannah Pearsall is the head of wellbeing at Hays UK and Ireland. A version of this article appeared on the Hays blog.

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