Thursday, June 13, 2013

How to Get Hired If You're Underqualified

Entry level skills, Mid-career requirements


I'm continually surprised by how many people don't realize that the "required qualifications" in job ads are like wish lists, not inflexible lists of requirements. Those qualifications are a composite of someone's idea of the ideal candidate. Believe me; they will look at people who don't perfectly match it. So when a job posting requires four years of experience and you only have two, you're not automatically disqualified. If you think you could do the job, apply anyway.

That said, if you're a bit under-qualified, you need to work for it more. Here's how:

1. For starters, you must write a fantastic cover letter. If you don't do this and you're under-qualified, you have no shot. (See tips on writing a great cover letter here.)

2. Learn a ton about the company you're applying to, and let it show in your cover letter. I'm impressed when people know more than the basics about my organization and tie it into why they want to work for us. It's like the way it's far more enticing when a guy I'm dating talks specifics about why he's interested -- as opposed to seeming like he's looking for someone to fill the "girlfriend" slot he has open.

3. In your cover letter, acknowledge that you don't have every qualification they're looking for, and explain how you'll make up for it. (Be realistic here -- if they're hiring a graphic designer and you have no design experience, this won't work.) Acknowledging it is good because (a) it shows you paid attention to the ad -- something most people don't do -- and indicates an attention to detail that hiring managers love to see and (b) it shows that you're not one of those insanely overconfident candidates with no humility or sense of your own weaknesses.

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