Feb 27, 2020 in Coaching

Underqualified for the job: Should I still apply?

Job Seekers: Unsure of whether or not to apply for a job opening because you might be underqualified? Read this

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Job listings always include a description with a list of requirements for job seekers to vet if they are qualified for the role and thus whether they should throw their hat into the ranks and apply. Have you ever come across a job posting that caught your eye, but you were seemingly underqualified for the position, your skills were not a 100% match, and you questioned whether you should even bother applying?

These feelings of being “underqualified” happen to many job seekers. There are times when job seekers discount themselves and turn down the opportunity to apply for a job opening simply because they are seemingly underqualified. Instead of finding ways to connect the dots between their previous experience and the open role, they look for another opportunity that meets their qualifications more closely. But the real question is, should you spend time on a lengthy application if you are underqualified for the position or rather apply to ones in which you are more of a fit?

My answer: Always remember that a job hunt should be strategic. That means you should take a strategic approach to determine whether or not a job would be the right fit for you and whether or not you should apply. Don't discount yourself until you've done a good assessment of whether or not you fit the role, based on 3 factors.

Here are the three topics you should address if you come across a job description and you are unsure whether or not you should apply because you seem to be underqualified:

1. Requirements

What are the ‘must-haves’ or ‘nice-to-haves’ of this position and how do I compare? 

When an employer puts together a job description, they always have key requirements, also known as minimum requirements, and these are the core requirements of what they are seeking in a potential candidate. On the other side, they have desirables that I like to call ‘nice-to-haves’ and these are alternative requirements or skills that are good to have but are not deal-breakers. You want to make sure that you are between an 80 to 100% match for the key requirements or minimum requirements of the job you want to apply for. If you are not between an 80 to 100% match, it is best you pursue another opportunity simply because these are the core requirements the employer is looking for, and if applying online, the Applicant Tracking System (ATS) will scan and rank your resume based on these and other factors, so you want to be between an 80 to 100% fit to rank. If you have some of the desirables or the nice-to-haves, that's a plus factor! You won't get penalized necessarily if you don't have these, but you might get a few extra points if you do.

Thus, don't feel compelled to have 100% of ALL the requirements the job description is looking for. Even the most perfect candidate very often is not a 100% fit. Focus on Key requirements.

2. Skills

What skills do I possess that match what the employer is looking for? What examples do I have to back this up?

This is a good place to think about your transferable skills. Think about what skills you gained (hard skills, soft skills, transferable skills) in your previous work experience that could be applied to this potential opportunity. Think of concrete examples to back these up. If you have concrete examples, that is a good sign. Place your bet and go for the position.

3. Culture

Are you a great cultural fit for the company? 


Skills can be taught, knowledge can be acquired, but culture cannot. 

If you are a great cultural fit for that company, if you've determined that you are extremely passionate about their products and services, and you have an eagerness to learn and grow, you might have to go above and beyond to showcase that to the employer but it is worth going for the position. Not every employer is hiring solely based on skills. What you may lack in key requirements and skills you could make up in cultural fit, passion, and an eagerness to learn. I have heard numerous stories of candidates being underqualified for a position but still getting hired based on their grit and passion for the business.

It’s understandable to feel nervous or uncertain when scouring the job search pools hoping to find a great position to apply to, in addition to not wanting to waste your time on applications that return no results.  That is why it is important to take a strategic approach when determining whether or not to apply for a position, instead of just throwing your resume into the black hole. Always keep in mind Key Requirements, Skills, and Cultural Fit. 

What are some strategies you use to determine whether or not to apply for a job online?

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