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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  • Colin D
    Colin D
    I really like what you did Melissa because I am currently looking for a job for which I do not completely qualify. I am going to use some of your advice and hope everything goes fine for me.Colin
  • Diane C
    Diane C
    Thanks for the article. Im job seeking, and it will help to land that job..
  • John C
    John C
    I have an Idea how about getting a job when you are overqualified and still need the freaking work ????????????????????????
  • Benjamin P
    Benjamin P
    What if you are overqualified for a position?  I know lots of people with lots of good experience and education that are more than willing to take a role a step down from their last position, but keep getting turned down because prospective employers thinks will bolt once a position offered at prior level by another employer.  Too many companies wanting purple squirrels and unwilling to pay for them.
  • Michael F
    Michael F
    This is very helpful but it doesn't find me a pay my bills.
  • Rick H
    Rick H
    Good article.  The only thing I walked away with was the cover letter recommendation.  I am a non degreed engineer working as such for over 25 years.  It is hard to get your foot in the door for an interview, especially when applying for positions on the east coast.  I recently have been including my acknowledgement about the lack of a four year degree by placing more emphasis on how I was promoted as such and by the prestigious company that did so.  So far it is producing more responses.   Thanks,Rick

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