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Not Quite Qualified? Apply Anyway

The job posting seems too good to be true. It’s the kind of role that can start you on a path to your long-term career goal, at a company that’s been on your short list of targets. You just know that this is a job that’s screaming out your name.

There’s just one little problem: The posting wants someone with seven to ten years of professional experience. You have only three.

On top of that, the posting says you need to be “expert” with a specific piece of software, but you’ve had only minimal exposure to it.

OK, so there are two little problems. Or maybe they're not so little?

So, what do you do?

  • Apply anyway, hoping the employer ignores or won't notice the experience gap?
  • Move on to the next job posting, albeit a bit dejectedly?
  • Or, apply, but, in your cover letter, acknowledge your lack of sufficient experience and stress your other skills that do meet the company’s criteria. Also, think of dropping in a couple of quotes from current or former colleagues that can extol your virtues as a professional and support the assertions you make.

Hmmm, maybe that last option seems appealing. If it is, take it! Why? Here are three reasons:

You might just intrigue them enough to call you in for an interview. Let’s say you state something like this in your cover letter: “I have three years of solid experience in web development, as well as the project management and team-building skills you’re looking for. I am familiar with BuildIt's capabilities, and am able to quickly master new software programs. So, I would put in the extra effort to develop expertise in BuildIt. In fact, a former supervisor wrote this on my performance evaluation last year: Bob is able to quickly absorb the functionality of any software program, and can help others get up to speed.”

This kind of statement can make a positive impression on a hiring manager. It demonstrates energy, a personal commitment to learn, and how seriously you take your career. Besides, smart employers know that most skills can be taught, but important personality traits (such as likability) can't. There’s no guarantee you’ll be called for an interview, but it could happen.

In fact, it did happen just days ago to a young woman I know who took this approach in her cover letter. The job description listed experience with the web design software Dreamweaver as a required skill, and she had not used it before. She told the truth, pointed out her other qualifications, and was called in for an interview this week.

If you don’t get this job, maybe they’ll consider you for another one. If this position is out of your league, maybe there will be another that’s more suited for your qualifications. If it’s a company you’ve dreamed of working for, it would be a good idea to follow up on your original submission. If this is a company that actively looks for people who will fit in well, and you make a good impression, you just might get hired when another job opens up.

Admittedly, many companies don’t espouse this hiring practice. But with some employers placing a higher priority on talent recruitment and development, I wouldn’t be surprised if more begin paying attention to previously rejected candidates as part of their recruitment strategies.

If nothing else, you’ve scored some points for honesty. You may not have had every skill they wanted, but at least you were forthright in your cover letter. And honesty counts for a lot with about 99.99% of employers.

Have you ever applied for a job knowing you didn’t have the right level of experience? How did you fare? Please share your thoughts below.

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