How To Get A Job You’re Not Qualified For In 5 Easy Steps

By Maddie Lloyd - Feb. 9, 2021
Articles In Job Application Guide

Find a Job You Really Want In

Articles In Job Application Guide

After wasting hours of your life sifting through job listings that sound about as exciting as eating a cardboard box, you’ve finally found it — the job of your dreams! It’s so perfect, you’ve already started planning how you’re going to accept the job offer when it lands at your feet.

But wait! The company wants to hire someone with five years of experience, and you only have two. Plus, you can’t say that you meet every single requirement. Well, at least not without lying on your resume. Is it even worth applying to?

Here’s the deal:

You don’t need to have every single requirement in order to be considered for the job. On the other hand, you should only apply if you feel that you have what it takes to get the job done and that the job wouldn’t be completely out of your league.

So, how do you get an employer’s attention when you’re underqualified for the job? Follow these five steps to show employers that you have what it takes to do the job — even if you don’t meet every requirement.

Step 1: Focus on What You Do Have to Offer

Think of the qualifications as a wish list, rather than set-in-stone requirements. Instead of focusing on your shortcomings, direct your attention to what you can walk into the office and deliver on day one, and how your former work or volunteer experience could apply to the requirements.

Even if you don’t have the exact number of years of experience the company is looking for, emphasize your skills and your ability to perform the job.

Think about skills you’ve gained from other jobs, internships, and volunteer positions and show how they’ve helped you complete projects. If you have specific achievements or awards you’ve gained in these positions, highlight them in your resume and cover letter.

When you’re writing your resume, make sure you put those keywords to use. Customize your resume for the job by using all of the biggest keywords that actually apply to your qualifications, without embellishing. Fluffing up your skills might seem like the easy way to get an interview, but it won’t get you much further than that.

When you’re interviewing for a new job, always project confidence in your abilities (without becoming arrogant). The interviewer will always remember the job seeker who believes in herself and her abilities. Remember that everyone has to get experience somehow, and it usually involves selling yourself and your potential.

If you feel unqualified for a position, chances are you’re missing some hard skills. Because of that, you’ll need to rely more heavily on your soft skills. Your winning personality, excellent written and verbal communication skills, and ability to stay cool while interviewing will all work to your advantage as a job seeker.

Step 2: Use Your Cover Letter to Make the Case for Why You’re a Good Fit

Your cover letter could be your secret weapon in snagging a job you’re underqualified for. If you don’t meet every single requirement, but feel confident that you would be a good fit, make sure to clearly show your enthusiasm in your cover letter to the employer.

Emphasize the skills that you do have, and mention other strengths that could help you succeed in the position in a unique and positive way. Taking the time to personalize every cover letter you submit could make all the difference in getting picked for a job — or not.

If you have completed any other projects, either independently, for school, volunteering, or in another job, this is a good place to mention them. You want to show, not tell, that you’re passionate about this field and would be thrilled in this position. Think about your unique skills and experiences as a starting point.

Then, research the company culture and try to align your cover letter based on what you discover. If you can bring a fresh perspective to a new job while understanding the overarching goals and values of the company, you’re sure to stand out in hiring managers’ minds.

Resumes are not your friend when you’re a little unqualified for a job. A great cover letter can make up for it though.

Step 3: Start Learning New Skills Before the Interview

Just because you’re not an expert at a skill a company is looking for doesn’t mean you’re going to be rejected immediately. Showing that you’re proactive is a great way to let employers know that you’re taking the job opportunity seriously and that you’re willing to learn new skills.

If there’s a qualification or skill set listed in the requirements that you’re not familiar with, search for tutorials online just to get your feet wet and learn the basics. You’ll have somewhat of an understanding of how these things work and you’ll be able to show employers that you’re taking initiative to have the knowledge required for the job.

In many cases, just showing employers that you’re actively learning a skill needed for the job is enough to make a good impression on them — so get to work!

Still, you do have a skill set (everyone does). Show off the relevant skills you do have, tying as many back to the job description as you can.

You want to emphasize your potential to grow and improve while keeping an eye on what you can do for them. Ultimately, hiring managers want to hear how you’re going to add value to the company and be worth hiring, training, and paying.

Step 4: Get Someone to Vouch for You

Getting someone on the inside to vouch for your skills and experience could help land you an interview, even if you’re lacking some of the job requirements. If you have an “in” at a particular company you’re interested in working for, get your connection to endorse you for the position.

If you don’t feel comfortable asking for someone to sing praises of your limited skills, just ask for advice on what you can do to stand out in the hiring process, how you can improve your resume, and what you can do to nail your interview. Some inside perspective can go a long way.

Professional networking is a powerful thing, so look for opportunities to connect with someone inside the company besides sending a job application. At the end of the day, who you know can end up being more important than what you know.

Just remember that this person is putting himself out there to help you, so be extra professional throughout the application and interview process.

LinkedIn is a great place for low-effort networking, so get started making a great LinkedIn profile while you’re at it.

Step 5: Emphasize You’re Excited About the Opportunity

Skills can be learned and years of experience come with time — but you either have enthusiasm, or you don’t.

If you’re genuinely excited for a job opportunity, or if you’re passionate about working with a particular company, make sure to convey that in your cover letter and during your interview.

Use positive language, emphasize what you can offer them, and admit what you don’t know. But show them that you can bring something extra to the table — passion. Overall, if you can show that you’re a great person to work with, they’ll be more willing to work with you.

An easy way to show your interest is to ask great questions during and after the interview. Read the job description carefully and try to get a sense of how it translates into day-to-day tasks. Once the interviewer starts delving deeper into the role, you might find you’re more qualified than you initially thought.

If you can show employers that you’re excited about the opportunity and you’re willing to do what it takes to learn the skills of the job, it could make all difference when the time comes for a hiring manager to make their decision. A little enthusiasm can go a long way, so make sure to show yours.

Final Thoughts

Finding a job is hard work. It gets even more challenging when employers classify “entry-level” as “three years of experience.” Even if you don’t have every single requirement an employer is looking for, that doesn’t mean you should take yourself out of the running just yet.

If you feel that you have what it takes to do the job and you’re excited about working for the company, you should put yourself out there and apply. Besides, you’ll never be considered if you never submit your application.

With that in mind, it’s time to write your resume, customize your cover letter, and get the job of your dreams! We know you have what it takes.

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Maddie Lloyd


Maddie Lloyd

Maddie Lloyd was a writer for the Zippia Advice blog focused on researching tips for interview, resume, and cover letter preparation. She's currently a graduate student at North Carolina State University's department of English concentrating in Film and Media Studies.

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