Should You Apply for a Job You’re Not Fully Qualified For?

Imagine meeting a young environmental engineer fresh out of university, burning with the desire to make a difference but facing the daunting task of applying for jobs with little or no work experience.

I met such an engineer several years ago.

He had just come from an informational interview with an engineering firm, who met with him only as a courtesy, as they had no job openings.

He said to me, “I know I can help them.” I liked his confidence, so I suggested he write a short business plan explaining how he could add value to the firm.

We both knew it was a long shot, but why not try?

To his credit, he produced a 15-page plan that documented what he could do. Luckily, the firm was willing to meet him again. They listened to his case, read his plan, and much to his surprise (and mine) they decided to hire him for a junior engineering position.

It was this young engineer’s initiative that got him hired. It got me thinking:

Should you apply for a job you are interested in but under-qualified for? Or should you just pass on it, like most people do?

Here are a few things to keep in mind.

The Ideal Candidate: Myth vs. Reality

It’s important to remember that job postings often describe a wish list rather than absolute requirements. In most cases, the so-called perfect candidate is not out there. If a job excites you and you meet some qualifications, don’t hesitate to apply.

Highlight Your Transferable Skills

Many overlook the power of transferable skills like communication and leadership. Reflect on your experiences, from previous jobs to volunteer work, and articulate how these skills make you a valuable candidate.

Demonstrate Value Beyond Qualifications

Rather than just telling the hiring manager what you can do, show them. For example, you might consider preparing a short presentation or document that outlines your ideas and how you can contribute to the role. This initiative can set you apart from other candidates.

Volunteer Experience Counts

Never underestimate the skills, experience, and contacts you gain through volunteering. Although unpaid, these experiences can provide tangible examples of your capabilities and dedication.

Be Likeable

Employers want to hire people they like and whom they feel will be a good fit in their company. Simple gestures like maintaining eye contact, smiling naturally, and listening attentively can make a significant difference.

Leverage Your Network

A recommendation from someone connected with the company can be incredibly powerful. If you know someone who works at the company or is a key supplier or customer, don’t hesitate to contact them.

Dare to Apply

Although facing a job that seems just out of reach can be intimidating, it’s also an opportunity for growth.

Remember, your qualifications on paper don’t always capture your full potential. If you’re passionate about a job and confident you can add value, let that drive you to apply.

You might just find the door open to an exciting new career path, much like the young engineer who dared to dream big.