How To Get a Job You’re Not Fully Qualified for (With Tips)
Updated June 24, 2022
Not everyone is fully qualified for every job they take, either due to earning a promotion into a position that requires new skills or due to applying for a position they don't have all the qualifications for. Employers often expect to receive applications from candidates who aren't fully qualified and, depending on other factors, still consider those candidates. In order to get the position you want, sometimes you may need to apply for a role you aren't fully qualified for yet.
In this article, we discuss whether you can apply for jobs you're not qualified for, explain how to get a job you're not qualified for and explore tips to consider when applying for these jobs.
Can you apply for jobs you're not qualified for?
There is no rule that you can't apply for jobs you're not fully qualified for, and often applying for jobs you're not qualified for may lead to new ways to innovate in your career. However, it's important to be realistic about what is possible when applying for jobs so that you aren't wasting your own time. If you're looking for a new job with urgency, you may find that focusing your efforts on realistic possibilities is more effective for getting interviews and potentially a position.
You might learn that jobs where you're missing a few qualifications but have most of the requested qualifications are more accessible than positions that you have no qualifications for or that require a great deal more experience than you currently have. It can also be useful to consider if the qualifications you lack are those that you would be able to learn fairly quickly if hired, as companies often provide on-the-job training to new employees, and hiring managers may take this into consideration.
How to get a job you're not qualified for
Here are the steps you can take to apply for and get a job you're not fully qualified for:
1. Understand the role
Before you apply for any role, it's useful to understand the role and its responsibilities based on the job description or listing. This is especially true when you are planning to apply for a job that you aren't fully qualified for. If you are interested in more information about that type of position, you can also search online for common responsibilities for that title, although it's helpful to remember responsibilities can vary depending on the organization.
It may be especially helpful as you are researching the role to make a list of the skills you have that fit the job description as well as the skills you don't yet have. This allows you to see clearly how close you are to fitting the requirements for the position.
2. Target your resume
Once you understand the position you're applying for and how your experience differs from the requested qualifications, you can target your resume to the position. This includes emphasizing your relevant skills and featuring positions that are most relevant to the job you're applying for. For instance, if you're applying for a job as an editor but you've never had a similar role, you might want to emphasize a position that had responsibilities that are relevant, such as proofreading, writing, scheduling and managing others.
It's particularly important to list any skills that are requested in the job description that you have, so that the recruiter and hiring manager are aware of what you offer. You likely also want to include any job responsibilities you've had that seem to relate to the position you're applying for, especially if they are a direct match.
3. Explain why you'd be a good fit
In your cover letter, in correspondence with recruiters and hiring managers and in interviews, it's a good idea to focus on explaining why you're a good fit for the position. By highlighting the skills and abilities you offer rather than spending any time on the qualifications you lack, you show the prospective employer how you might function in that role. Your cover letter especially should be persuasive about why the employer should consider you for the role, and you should be prepared for interview questions about your qualifications.
4. Highlight what's unique about you
In your cover letter and in interviews, you can mention skills you offer that are unique for someone in that position that might be useful. People who have worked their way up to that position through similar roles may not have diverse experience that you have from working in other roles, so having different skills can be useful.
For instance, if you are applying to work as an editor and you have experience working as an accountant, those financial skills can be useful if you need to create profit and loss statements or analyze sales numbers. Emphasizing those skills on your cover letter and in any interviews can show prospective employers the unique skills you have.
5. Ask thorough questions in interviews
When a hiring manager invites you to interview for a position you know you're not fully qualified for, it's helpful to ask thorough questions. This can tell you a lot about the position and if it's one you are capable of or if it's too advanced for your current skills. Thorough and thoughtful questions can also show hiring managers that you're interested in the specifics of the position and in learning more about it.
Tips for applying for jobs with different qualifications
Here are some top tips for applying to jobs with qualifications you don't match perfectly:
Be honest. It's important to be honest in your application materials and in interviews about your qualifications. If the hiring manager asks you about a skill or knowledge that you don't have, be honest, but emphasize what you do have to offer as an employee and express your interest in acquiring that new skill or knowledge.
Avoid mentioning what's missing. Even though you should be honest, you don't need to point out the skills you don't have that the employer is asking for. By focusing on the qualifications you do have, you show what you are offering rather than focusing on the negative.
Use your network. Your network of professional contacts, friends and family members may be able to help you find a position without needing the full list of qualifications, as a recommendation can get your resume to the hiring manager even if you're not fully qualified.
Reframe your abilities. If a prospective employer asks you about a skill you don't have yet or about training you haven't completed yet, it's helpful to reframe your response by focusing on the positive. You could explain you don't have that skill but that you've learned a similar skill quickly, so the employer can see your abilities.
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