Resumes & Cover Letters

How To Write a Cover Letter When You Are Under-Qualified

October 21, 2021

Applying for a job when you are underqualified may allow you to accelerate your career progression once you successfully persuade your potential employer to hire you. When applying for a position where your qualifications do not align with the company's expectations, your cover letter is an excellent opportunity to appeal to a potential employer. You may use an underqualified cover letter to explain how you can excel in the position by emphasizing your skills and previous experiences.

in this article, we explain what it means to be underqualified for a job and tell you how to write a cover letter when you are unqualified. This article also provides tips in order to improve your chances of earning the position.

What does it mean to be underqualified for a job

Being underqualified for a job means that you do not hold the experience or credentials expected from an applicant for the position. It may also mean that you lack one or more qualifications stated on the job listing. While applying to a position as an underqualified candidate may make it harder to earn the role, you may be able to make a positive impression with your cover letter and resume.

Related: 11 Reasons You're Not Getting Hired (and What To Do About It)

How to write a cover letter for a job you're underqualified for to make a positive impression

If you're applying to a position you are underqualified for based on formal credentials and experience, follow these steps to write your cover letter:

1. Assess your qualifications

Performing an honest self-reflection can be beneficial when applying for a position to which you are underqualified. This allows you to compare your capabilities and experiences to the expectations a hiring professional is likely to have when filling the position. This provides context as you write your cover letter, allowing you to identify your strongest attributes to call attention to. You can also analyze where you may face the strongest resistance from a potential employer so that you can address them appropriately and be prepared for their questions..

2. Focus on your strengths

When applying for a position where you lack the expected qualifications, it's important to relay the areas where you have proven your expertise. This will create a good impression on the hiring manager. Your cover letter is often the first opportunity to present yourself as an outstanding candidate for their open position. This then makes it an important part of the application process.

3. Highlight key achievements

Just as key skills and strength can be an effective way to show a potential employer that you can succeed in a position, highlighting your best achievements at previous jobs may also benefit you. When possible, choose achievements which you can effectively compare to the potential tasks you would do in the position should the company hire you. This can show a potential employer that you are capable of achieving the desired results in the position despite lacking one or more expected qualifications. Give examples of awards or recognitions, and even projects or group works which you have facilitated. These will highlight your value to the firm.

4. Address your areas for improvement

If you lack an important qualification for a position you applied to, the hiring professional overseeing the search is likely to notice. Addressing these areas directly can benefit you in two ways. First, it shows an employer that you are realistic about your previous experience and an honest person. Second, it provides an opportunity for you to elaborate on why you feel the position is one you can succeed in despite the qualifications you lack.

5. Express your interest

Showing enthusiasm for the position you applied to can be an effective way to improve the impression your cover letter creates. Employers often consider enthusiasm for work as a positive attribute in an employee, as it can help you remain engaged with your daily responsibilities. Employees who are happy in their jobs can often produce output at higher levels, providing a larger benefit to the company as a whole.

6. Close positively

Finishing your cover letter with a positive line can help put the reader in a positive mindset. Expressing excitement at the opportunity to apply for the position and showing your worth provide both a positive closing line and a show of respect to your potential employer. This may help establish you as a candidate worthy of further consideration.

Related: How To Write a Cover Letter (Plus Tips and Examples)

Tips for getting hired when you're underqualified

If you are applying to a position for which you are under qualified, keep these tips in mind to supplement your cover letter and improve your chances:

Set realistic targets

When choosing positions to apply to, it's important to understand the degree to which you are underqualified. It can be beneficial to apply for positions that you may be unlikely to earn, because there is still a chance the employer will hire you. If you are significantly underqualified compared to the expectations for the position, however, accepting that there is a low likelihood can make it easier to manage your expectations and remain positive about your overall job search.

Learn about the employer

When applying for a position as an underqualified professional, any advantage you can find can be beneficial. Researching your employer allows you to develop a stronger understanding of how they operate and what they look for in employees. You can look for the company's vision, the type of environment that they are working at, their history, and their brand. These details may help you tailor your approach in writing the cover letter in order to best match the preferences of your potential employer.

Get recommendations

Providing recommendations along with your application can be an excellent way to show how your value exceeds your basic qualifications. A professional reference can speak about your competence and intangible skills which make you a strong candidate for the position. A potential employer may view praise from a third-party as more reliable than your own words about yourself.

Related: How To Ask Someone to Be Your Reference (Plus Email Examples)

Be flexible

One option when applying for a position you are underqualified for is to use it as an opportunity to seek a lower-level opportunity in the same company. By expressing your eagerness to work with the organization, and mentioning a willingness to accept a lower position should an opportunity be provided, your application may serve as a point of entry for employment. By asking for an opportunity in the same department, for example, you can put yourself on a professional path to move into your desired position in the future.

Provide a portfolio

If you work in a field where your outputs provide tangible results you can easily curate, a portfolio can benefit your application. A portfolio allows you to show off your best work, and may allow you to demonstrate how you excel professionally even without the expected qualifications for the position. A compelling portfolio may also earn you enhanced opportunities during the hiring process in order to showcase your fit for the position.

Related: What Is a Work Portfolio? (Plus How to Build One)

Get outside assistance

Seeking help from your friends, family members or professional colleagues can be an effective way to improve your performance when applying for a job. Allowing someone else to read your cover letter and resume provide you with an outside perspective and can help you identify strong areas and other areas for improvement before you submit as part of an application. A partner can also help you prepare for an interview, posing sample questions and offering constructive critique of your responses.


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