Until the early part of the 21st century, a time when millions of job seekers tended to exhibit specialized talents, recruiters adhered strictly to a principle: Shortlist only those candidates who match exactly with the job requirements. Hire only those candidates who fit the job profile perfectly. It’s what responsible hiring managers and recruiters were told to stick to.
The latest research, however, suggests that posted job requirements no longer hold the importance that they once used to, and companies are far more willing to make exceptions to the required job profile. According to Robert Half’s recent findings, more than 80% of companies are willing to hire candidates who fall well short of job requirements, and help them bridge the gap later through training.
The study also established that more than 60% of employees who were offered a job were simply not qualified for the position. In the current age of generalization over specialization, companies are finding it difficult to identify job seekers who match the job requirements perfectly in every aspect. Instead, they are resorting to hiring individuals who meet the requirements partially; you should never hesitate to apply for a job just because you’re under-qualified.
To that end, here are a few pointers to improve your chances of landing a job that you aren’t fully qualified for.
1. Don’t Scrimp on Applying
When you consider the ease with which the modern job application process takes place, there is simply no reason for you to hold back on submitting your under-qualified application for a job. You have everything to win, and nothing to lose, by taking a chance every single time. It doesn’t even cost you a dime, in most cases.
If, despite applying regularly over a significant period of time, you’re not receiving responses or feedback of any kind, do not be demoralized. Keep telling this mantra to yourself repeatedly: Apply, reapply. Resubmitting your application — say every couple of months — allows your résumé to get a periodical jump over the competition.
2. Mention Key Companies, not just Keywords
Your friends and colleagues might have suggested you to sprinkle certain keywords all over your résumé, but what could boost your efforts even more is the sprinkling of key company names, or certain brand names.
Recruiters, while going through thousands of profiles, often look for candidates who’ve worked at certain companies. If you haven’t worked at any of those companies during the course of your career, then you should be more creative about working them into your profile.
For example, you can research the prospective employer’s clients or competition, see if you’ve had any dealings with them in the past, and describe any work you’ve done for them in any role. One of them could’ve been a client at your previous job, or you might’ve served as a consultant for them, or you attended an event held by one of them. Any such links with key companies can be leveraged to help your profile stand out more.
3. Leverage Experience & Personality
One of the key reasons behind reduced reliance on job post requirements is the rising reliance on cultural fit and personal experiences. You might be under-qualified for a particular position, but you can still convince hiring managers to take a chance on you by demonstrating the results you achieved in the past, the skills you can bring over to your new role and, crucially, your willingness to pick up new skills.
In other words, you can signal your readiness to tackle an unfamiliar job by drawing attention to the various skills you picked up from unrelated roles, and how they will aid you in the future. The bottom line is that companies can easily rectify the shortfall in your qualifications through training, but it’s a lot harder for them to teach you to be a team player or approach tasks with a positive attitude. That is why your personality and experience can easily make up for your lack of qualifications.
4. Honesty is the Best Policy
Regardless of whether you’re qualified for a job or not, it is important for you to be completely honest about the skills you have — and don’t have. If a job description mentions that prospective candidates need to have three years of experience, but you only have one, then don’t claim in your résumé that you have anything more than a year of experience.
Instead of allowing recruiters to linger on your areas of under-qualification, divert their attention to the areas where you’re well-qualified for the job. Any job has a few key criteria according to which candidates are judged. If the position you desire has, let’s say, five core areas of competency, draw their attention to the three areas where you’re strong, and ensure that they don’t dwell on the two areas that you aren’t.
5. Confidence is Everything
If you don’t apply for jobs you’re not fully qualified for, the only way to advance your career would be to patiently wait until your current employer decides to give a promotion. In today’s age, candidates are usually picked out for a bump up the organizational hierarchy despite their lack of prior experience in the position, not for an abundance of it. So, in your mind, you should never perceive the chance of landing a job you’re unqualified for to be impossible.
The whole point of improving your professional skills is to constantly put yourself outside your comfort zone, find a way to succeed in it, and experience the best possible career you can make for yourself. So don’t get discouraged easily, believe in your abilities, and keep taking chances. After all, the first step to achieving the impossible is to be confident that you can get it done. The winds of fortune will, sooner or later, carry you up.