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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  •  Indira T
    Indira T
    I think this is helpful as I have the kind of qualifications that aren't recognised here and most of all trying to make a change in my career at the age of 59.I have lost faith in my own abilities and lost my sense of identity.The suggestions here kind of tells me that nothing is lost and there's hope somewhere.Thanks!
  • Paula S
    Paula S
    Awesome advice most sites ramble for pages and say little of nothing...
  • April J
    April J
    The largest issue we are dealing with is companies that advertise and interview even though they know they are going to promote from within.  Even when you're qualified, getting hired is impossible these days.
  • Jacqueline H
    Jacqueline H
    Thank you Melissa, I needed the confidence boost. My self-esteem is starting to take a beating. If prospective employers would take the time to contact you regardless if you have been successful or not, it would certainly relieve a lot of anxiety. Good luck to all who are  pursuing employment, it is certainly not easy! :)
  • Kimball J
    Kimball J
    Hmm... I've been getting jobs that a normal person might think I was under-qualified to perform throughout four careers over four decades. There's really nothing to it. In fact if you do what I do, you are not unqualified in any way, you are simply 'have just a little less experience' than the super-qualified individual and they might be under-qualified compared to your grasp of the situation. The answer is very straightforward: you have to research! You must constantly read to understand your industry, your role, responsibilities, and skills. You need to read about the same topics from the perspective of your managers, your CEO, your HR department, and as regards any person who works in a different capacity in your organization. By reading and understanding the organization and its challenges, strategies and objectives, and the skills and technology that can and will make success happen, you are able to interview in comfort with anyone. And so I believe this article is misdirecting candidates in a fundamental way. The suggestions made here are the frosting, but solid, continuous research is definitely the cake.
  • Alicia q
    Alicia q
    Great article. I am a believer is learning how to market yourself!
  • Ana B
    Ana B
    Thank you for helping me to have a better understanding of presenting myself within my cover letter.  -ana
  • Pamela H
    Pamela H
    Thank you so much! I was laid off from a financial institution and am looking to change careers. This information will be a big help to me. I have most of the skills needed, I just don't have experience in the same computer programs they ask for.
  • Marie T
    Marie T
    This was an excellent article! Thank you!
  • Cassandra J
    Cassandra J
    This came at a great time, because I am strongly contemplating a career change. The requirements are things I'm able to do well, I've just never done them on a professional level, so I don't have that to bring to the table.
  •  Neil M
    Neil M
    This article addresses my needs! However, I don't know if it is worth going through all that effort (typically 1 hour) for EACH job listing if the chance of being chosen for any type of interview is anyway very small.
  • Kevin B
    Kevin B
    I've read this article, I enjoyed the about likability. I work in an industry that's paid for my master degree, yet after doulbe digit attemots applying can't get my foot in the door as an intern, how do you overcome that issue?
    What about if you're underqualified partly due to the fact that you don't have that much experience, at least at one steady place? My jobs have been temp, lay offs, or single projects since I graduated (2 BAs and extra classes in design w/talent, I've been told). On unemployment and food stamps (which is shit) and applying like mad still. It's depressing as hell. I don't know what to do.
  • James C
    James C
    I'm in total agreement with all areas except that of the cover letter. I have found that unless the employer is requesting the cover letter one should not be included. Essentially, if you are submitting an unrequested cover letter you have just made your resume a two (2) page document. Only send it if it's being requested.
  • James B
    James B
    Laurie,Thank you for picking up one of the most difficult topics in the job search realm.  Your recommendations are very good.  I believe there are elements there with immediate applicability in my own circumstances.  Isn't it ironic that "likeability" can be so important when qualification is the primary discrepancy?  Yet, I believe you are correct.  If the potential employer begins to feel a sense of affinity, s/he will want to move forward with it.  Thanks for your work.Regards,Jim
  • Jermaine B
    Jermaine B
    Think you for the advices...I did the things that you said on your and my aunt help me fill out my resume done my interviews and all still looking for a job but it helps when you be smile and likeable when doing interview.
  • Reene W
    Reene W
    Excellent Info
  • Arthur G
    Arthur G
    I was talking to a friend, the President of a large company, this week and told him I had lots of IT experience, but not Certifications.  He said, "you can teach a monkey to do anything.  Who cares about certifications!"  Answers is Online Apps do.   So, to follow your advice, you have to MEET the Hiring Manager, so that they can see that you're more than a monkey.  LOL
  • Richard A
    Richard A
    I love it. It gives you confidences to go get the job of your dreams. Only you can make or brake the offer.
  • Juan M
    Juan M
    I think is the most important and well done about how to make a Resume I ever have. The instructions and advise provide are very valuable for my interest in finding a job that I will follow all step by step. I thanks very much  your interest in help me and how easy will become to get my goal.Juan M.
  • Yolanda L
    Yolanda L
    I thought the article was right on target - so much that I am going to share with the students I work with who are doing just that...making a career change into the medical field. very helpful and informative :) It will help the students understand the market and help get their foot in the door.
  • Laurie O
    Laurie O
    Thank you, thank you & thank you for the confidence boost needed to see myself as a worthy applicant in the job economy chaos.
  • Thomas Joseph C
    Thomas Joseph C
    I have done all of what you have listed and I MIGHT receive a rejection response some three months later. It's amazing how ineffective online applications can be. I have had more success by actually driving to the location and handing my resume to the person at the gate. I'm just sayin.
  • Marlaine D
    Marlaine D
    A lot depends on whether the employer has any wiggle room where qualifications are concerned. If the job requires a license or certification, then it won't matter how likable you are or how great your cover letter is. If there is some wiggle room and you appear to be someone who could learn and fit in, then maybe. But if you are up against applicants with stellar skills and experience, which is often the case, you probably won't get the job (unless you are willing to work for a lot less than they are).
  • Geraldine B
    Geraldine B
    I have always been overqualified, Melissa. I am appreciative of the above suggestions nonetheless.

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