Do You Still Apply When You Don’t Meet the Job Requirements?

Do You Still Apply When You Don't Meet the Job Requirements?Here’s a question, ladies: do you apply for a job if you don’t meet the listed job requirements? For those of you who do, is there a general number of percentage that you use as a goal (“if I meet at least 50% of the requirements, I’ll apply!”)? For those of you who’ve already gone ahead and gotten the job that you weren’t qualified for — share your success! How’d it go? Was there a learning curve, or did you hit the ground running?

I think often about The Confidence Code and their conclusion that “[u]nderqualified and underprepared men don’t think twice about leaning in. Overqualified and overprepared, too many women still hold back. . . . Women applied for a promotion only when they met 100 percent of the qualifications. Men applied when they met 50 percent.”  I mean, yow. I just recently passed a job listing along to a friend that, we both agreed, was a bit of a stretch for her — she joked that she’d like to work for whoever was hired for the position, and decided not to apply for other reasons.  But the job posting itself seemed a bit absurd to me — like someone just wrote down The Perfect Candidate — and I wondered, really, how many of the listed requirements, the ultimately-hired candidate would meet. Alison at Ask a Manager even notes that “[t]hose qualifications are a composite of someone’s idea of the ideal candidate. Believe me, they will look at people who don’t perfectly match it.” I agree with her that you have to do a bit of extra prep before applying, such as rewording your resume to better match some of the skill sets, or even signing up to take other courses or certifications so you can at least show that forward movement is planned.

Ladies, what are your thoughts — do you apply to jobs where you don’t meet the job requirements? Do you think imposter syndrome is behind this, or something else?   (Fun challenge idea (maybe): let’s all apply to one job (or volunteer position) for which we’re only 50% qualified sometime in the next 6 months, and all report back on how it goes.)

 

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Further reading:

  • How to Get Hired If You’re Under-qualified [Ask A Manager]
  • Should You Apply for a Job You’re Not Qualified For? [The Muse]
  • 3 Steps to Applying for a Job When You Don’t Meet the Requirements [Newsweek]
  • Why Women Don’t Apply for Jobs Unless They’re 100% Qualified [Harvard Business Review]
  • Study: Women Do Not Apply To ‘Male-Sounding’ Jobs [TIME]

Pictured at top.

Comments

  1. I waited until I was a late-3rd year biglaw associate to begin applying in earnest to government jobs (USAO/DOJ/DA offices) even though a lot of the postings only required 1 year of experience. I didn’t feel confident in the experience that I had had in the first few years of practice to really make myself an attractive candidate. It’s not that I wouldn’t apply, it’s just that I didn’t think I had a high probability of success of getting those jobs (and I was correct – I didn’t really get interviews until my 4th/5th year, and I started a new job in my 5th year).

    • I should clarify: in my first year (and a good portion of my second year) in biglaw, I did 75-90% doc review and had insane hours on one large case. The type of case where there are 7 partners who are all control freaks who don’t trust somebody below a counsel level to do research / writing. I really pursued pro bono opportunities that would provide me with experience in other skills whenever I could – brief writing, oral arguments, even a bench trial. I really think those pro bono opportunities helped me get my foot in the door. This meant, of course, that my hours were even crazier, but that was worth it to me because I was gaining skills that I knew would make me more marketable.

  2. Aunt Jamesina :

    Interesting read on women’s unpaid labor in the NYT today!

    http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/23/upshot/how-society-pays-when-womens-work-is-unpaid.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=photo-spot-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news&_r=0

  3. Not Confident :

    In re Challenge: I’ve been playing around with the idea of applying to a sole in-house lawyer position for which I’m probably 70% qualified, but feel only… 20% competent to do? Going to apply today and I’ll let y’all know how it goes!

    • I think you SHOULD apply, b/c 70% of the stuff is probabley doable, and you can ship the other 30% that is NOT doable by you to outside counsel. Roberta told me that she takes all of the stuff she can do easily and does it, and then sends the rest outside, to peeople like me, to handel. That is why you can have 9-5 hour’s in house, and we as outside counsel, have to work 22-7 to keep up with all of the overload. FOOEY! Unless all you want to do is bill, but I want to have a life, and marry a guy soon so that I can be out of this non-stop treadmill. DOUBEL FOOEY!

    • I just did this and, surprisingly, got an immediate initial interview. Based on that I don’t think it’s a job I actually want, but I was shocked to get any interest at all.

  4. Anon Lawyer :

    So this is interesting because I’ve been casually looking for other jobs for the last year or so and I always think I’m underqualified for pretty much everything. I mentioned this casually to one of my male lawyer friends and he was stunned that I thought that because he thinks I’d be a great catch for any of the firms I was looking at.

    I’m not posting this as a humblebrag but more as an indication that for me at least, Imposter Syndrome is a real problem that it’s inhibiting my ability to even look for other things.

  5. IDoNotLikeTheConeOfShame :

    I’m thinking about this from the perspective of being a hiring manager. When I have a job opening:

    (1) I write much of the job description, but HR/Recruiting adds a bunch of other stuff I don’t really care about, usually in the bullet item list of requirements.

    (2) I may list 10 things I’m looking for, but in reality I’m happy to consider candidates with an interesting combination of some / most of them. Of course there’s always 1-2 attributes that are most important to me – non negotiable – but you as the job applicant will never know what those are (you can guess, usually in the narrative description of the position – what things are mentioned there or mentioned first?)

    • I completely agree with this. I write a job description as kind of a wish list, but always have 2 or 3 must haves in mind.

      Being on the hiring side of things has changed the way I look at my personal job search and I apply for way more positions where I have 50%-70% of the requirements, especially if I think I have a combination of experience that may not be exactly what is listed, but I feel is equal to what they are looking for. For example, I’m an accountant and started my career working for a firm where I gained a ton of invaluable knowledge and experience. When I went in house I sometimes had to make a case for why my public practice experience was a bigger asset than hiring managers thought, mostly because they didn’t understand firm work beyond preparing taxes.

  6. Anonymous :

    I’ll apply for a job if I meet 90% of the required elements of the job posting, and about 70% of the “preferred” elements.

    That’s because I see most companies as less flexible on the required portion of the job–either you have a degree in a specific area of study, or you don’t. If it’s required, and you don’t have it, you will probably be eliminated in the first pass through the resumes.

    But with the preferred part of the job listing, if they want knowledge of a certain database that I don’t have, but I do have knowledge of 7 other databases and I know I can learn a new one easily, I don’t let that stop me.

    I just applied for a job where I have all the required elements, but I come up a bit short in the preferred elements. I don’t speak a foreign language, for example. But the required elements–they want someone who has lived outside the US, traveled outside the US and has worked people from other cultures/countries. I never thought a military childhood would become a job skill, but there you are. I figure they will have a more difficult time finding someone with that background, and that will give me a better chance.

    • Sounds like an interesting job! Can you share any more details? My job-envy needs a little fodder to grow. :)

      • Anonymous :

        I agree, I want to know about what kind of jobs list having lived outside of the US as a req!

  7. Anonymous :

    I’ll apply for a job if I meet 90% of the required elements of the job posting, and about 70% of the “preferred” elements.

    That’s because I see most companies as less flexible on the required portion of the job–either you have a degree in a specific area of study, or you don’t. If it’s required, and you don’t have it, you will probably be eliminated in the first pass through the resumes.

    But with the preferred part of the job listing, if they want knowledge of a certain database that I don’t have, but I do have knowledge of 7 other databases and I know I can learn a new one easily, I don’t let that stop me.

    I just applied for a job where I have all the required elements, but I come up a bit short in the preferred elements. I don’t speak a foreign language, for example. But the required elements–they want someone who has lived outside the US, traveled outside the US and has worked people from other cultures/countries. I never thought a military childhood would become a job skill, but there you are. I figure they will have a more difficult time finding someone with that background, and that will give me a better chance, over someone who knows more languages, but has never left the US.

  8. I did. I never would have without the support of this community who encouraged me at the time (lots of anon posts then). And I got the job (senior gov’t attorney), interviewing while 8 months pregnant. Seriously, this community is the best.

  9. I applied for a job recently that I thought was a huge stretch. I had fewer years’ experience than they were requesting. I only applied after my mentor and others urged me to. I was 1 of 2 finalists for the position (out of over 100 applications). So there you go!

  10. I had a boss tell me once that a lot of those qualifications were BS and you should apply anyway (this was also his way of telling me to apply for a job on his team he had posted recently). Since that experience, I have not hesitated to apply for jobs in which I might seem under qualified for on paper. As I get older and gain more experience, I’m realizing that while I might feel less than an expert in something (because there is always so much more to know!), I am probably more of an expert than most people.

    So, yes, I would absolutely encourage anyone to apply for a job in which they seem underqualified, especially it is in your field and you do have some expertise in the subject matter.

  11. Anonymous :

    Does it make a bigger difference if one of the requirements that you fail to meet is the minimum years experience? For example, I recently saw a posting at a great company for a senior manager or director of X (my fairly narrow specialty), with a listed minimum of 10 years of experience. I am a manager of X with 8 years of experience. Would it be seen as totally off-base to apply? Similar to Kat’s example, the position I would be 100% qualified for would be reporting to whoever is hired for the position (unfortunately, no posting for manager of X yet!).

    • Not at all off-base to apply. 10 years is a pretty arbitrary cut-off that’s a proxy for “has a lot of experience.” I would definitely go for it.

      • MBA Hiring Manager :

        Agree with this response! They’re looking for quality, not really quantity, so if your 8 years of experience is great, then apply! Please!

    • CorporateInCarhartt :

      I have a comment below on this – applied for a job that required 3 years experience, and I had zero.

    • Girl that is Gone :

      Nonononono! My current job was posted for “7 – 10 years experience” and I applied in my fourth year out of law school. It turns out the rest of the pool was really weak, I clicked with the senior staff that I would be joining, and was hired immediately. Several people told me they only listed the experience requirement in the way that they did because they wanted someone “with gravitas” and they didn’t think anyone in their fourth year of practice could project that image. I have now been in the job three years and just got a huge performance bonus; don’t be held back by the way the position is listed if you think you can do (or learn to do) the work. FWIW, this is a non-practicing lawyer-job, and I’m in a C-level position. (Yes, I’m younger the seven people I supervise.)

    • This is actually the biggest requirement I ignore. My threshold is that I will apply even if I am 2-3 years under the requirement.

  12. CorporateInCarhartt :

    When I was clerking for a judge, I applied for a corporate associate position that required at least 3 years of experience. I, of course, had zero. But I applied anyway, got an interview, and got the job offer, I think in large part because we got along well at the interview, I had good references, and they were able to see how my background would translate over into the position, even thought I didn’t have the experience. Ended up taking a different position (also corporate associate), but I kind of applied on a whim and never thought I’d even get an interview, and it definitely changed my perspective on applying for jobs.

  13. Hot messes :

    I apply–unless the job posting sounds like a hot mess.

    Hot messes are job postings that ask for skills beyond the desired level of experience, include requirements like “have each other’s back”, don’t include a job description with some actual description of what the job entails, has been posted and reposted more than once (even though I know qualified people who have applied), hint that the supervisor’s procrastination will be the hiree’s crisis (‘work well on abbreviated timelines”, “willing to stay late to meet a deadline”, “works to meet deadlines with little advance notice”) (these are all positions that should not have tight deadlines on a regular basis), or jobs where I’ve met the person in charge of hiring and know that I don’t want to work for him/her.

    • Been unemployed/underemployed :

      As a frequent applicant, I like this analysis.
      It works for everything – internships, startups, established companies, etc.

  14. Shopping challenged :

    Aspirational applications are my downfall! When I was a simple single, I stretched and grew in positions I wasn’t initially qualified for. As a single mom, I am often not able to meet the requirements, overextend myself and neglect my kid (no, not criminally, but he def notices) and the whole thing just ends in misery.

  15. SteelCityMagnolia :

    I’ve always applied for jobs I wanted but may not have completely matched the job description for with the idea that if they don’t get the person they want, they’ll take the best person they can get and that may very well be me. Apply for the job. It may be your only chance. The worst that can happen is that you don’t get an interview. And if you DO get an interview and you don’t think you’re up for the challenge and you’re offered the job, you can always say no. There’s no harm in interviewing and seeing what’s out there and what you just might be qualified for. You don’t know if you don’t try.

    • Anonymous :

      Yes. You never know what the hiring manager is looking for. Some really go on a “gut feeling” about the candidate as long as they meet minimum requirements. I probably have several years’ less experience than a typical person in my position, but I am enthusiastic, a quick learner, did my research about the company ahead of the interview, and clicked with the hiring authority (my boss).

    • “The worst that can happen is that you don’t get an interview.” So true. Applying costs you, what, 20 minutes in most cases. You already have a resume written & maybe you write/re-write a cover letter. In the grand scheme of things, you have very little to lose & much to gain in applying for jobs you are not 100% qualified for ‘on paper.’

      I agree with those who’ve been in hiring positions — I have too, & job descriptions are always a mix of the managers wish list & HR’s wish list & maybe company boilerplate. The bigger the company, maybe 50% is actually job requirements.

  16. I’ve been on the job hunt for about a month and a half. I’ve applied for 5 jobs that asked for 3-5 years of experience (I have 1.5) and have been turned down universally, whether I meet 10% or 100% of the skills requirements. My attitude has been along the lines of “you don’t get every job you don’t apply for.” But the rejection has still been pretty discouraging.

    • Years of experience matters more the less you have. Under 5 years of experience, it matters.

      Over about 5, the exact number doesn’t matter in many industries. Even for management positions, 5+ years of experience is not that different than 10 years. It’s the specifics of how, when, where that matter more.

  17. savings vs roth? :

    TJ:
    I just finished my PhD in May and got a great 3 year postdoc at a place that probably won’t run out of money unless the apocalypse happens. People seems to like me, I’m already registered to teach next year, and the odds of me getting unexpectedly cut are miniscule. I managed to avoid taking on any debt but also left with not much in savings, particularly after moving expenses. (Thanks 30k/year stipend in NYC!) I’m super anxious about being behind on retirement, since I’m 30 and only now have the income to save with any seriousness. I’m maxing out my 401K and contributing about 1k/month to savings to build up my emergency fund. Given how the market is tanking, though, I’m really tempted to slow down on my emergency fund and toss some of that extra money at my Roth IRA. This seems like the time to buy and I do have unusually stable employment…..on the other hand, I’d like to hit my 6 month emergency fund first and am realistically 6 months away from that now. What do you guys think?

  18. Anonymous :

    Just my 2 cents. If you think you can do the job in the job summary go for it regardless if you meet all the qualifications. I am in the field of consulting. I have been in more than 25 large firms across the globe. Learn everything, volunteer, train, do anything you can and go for it when asking for a promotion. Gender inequality comes from women ourselves because of lack of confidence. If we demanded the same as men I really believe we would get it (and I have). Stop worrying so much and act. Take a step! Be realistic in the time it is going to take to get there too! Most importantly show your value, be noticed, be exceptional! It takes work, it takes a lot of sacrifice!

  19. I was under qualified for both my last job and my current jo , but I find this to be a big benefit of working for a large business. My last role advised that you needed to have experience A and/or B, and I had C which was a weird non-technical subset of A and D which was a slightly linked degree of B. My current role was actually a senior role that asked for 10 years experience and qualifications, but instead they took me as a regular position with a 12 month plan for development. The work itself was not a stretch but I will have attained the qualifications by then and my business also has a cap on pay rises so I would have been stunted by the jump from my old position anyway.

  20. In-House Europe :

    Hope this doesn’t sound like a humblebrag…but I actually have the opposite problem – after 8+ years in-house, I am technically “over-qualified” for many jobs that I am interested in. I think there is just not a lot of lateral movement in-house after you reach a certain level? Anyone else have this “problem” and figure out a way to deal with it?

  21. Travel for an interview? :

    I’ve been offered an interview for a dream government job in DC for next week. They’ve given me the option of coming from the Midwest to DC to interview in person (on my dime) or via a conference call. I’m still working so a conference call would be more convenient and I wouldn’t have deal with overnight childcare. Thoughts? Could I still interview well over the phone? Or is this one these moments, I need to suck it up and make it work?

    • Travel! It’s a dream job, if there’s any way you can make it happen, do it.

    • In-person is going to be more effective, especially if other candidates are interviewing in person. If you really can’t make it happen, what about video-conferencing? Many Federal agencies have that capability.

  22. I just applied for a Receptionist role. I don’t have some of the requirements (being experience in a 4/5 star hotel but I have general reception experience and no experience in the system they use. I just got an interview. Ill let you know how I go.

    Melinda.

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