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Should You Apply for a Job You're Not Qualified For?

By Daniel B. Kline – Updated Apr 2, 2019 at 1:47PM

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A new study suggests it's a good idea as long as you do a few things to enhance your candidacy.

Being able to do a job and meeting the qualifications laid out by the company hiring for that position are two different things.

There are, of course, some fields that require very specific training. Nobody hires a pilot who's very good at flying model airplanes but lacks pilot training. The same goes for surgeons, teachers, and a number of other professions.

In many cases, however, qualifications are less specific, and even if there are listed qualifications in the job ad, they may not be true requirements. That means that it's not a bad idea to apply for a job you're not fully qualified for, and a new report from Robert Half supports that idea.

Hands typing on a laptop with the words job search and find job on the screen

Just because you're not qualified doesn't mean you shouldn't apply. Image source: Getty Images.

Beggars can't be choosers

It's a strong job market with more openings than available workers. Some jobs, of course, are hotter than others, but employers are, in a broad sense, having trouble filling open positions. That makes them more open to hiring workers who should be able to do the job with a little more training. 

Workers are clearly taking a shot. About half (42%) of resumes sent to human resources managers are from professionals who don't meet the job requirements, according to the study. Those numbers may actually be low because 84% of companies said they were open to hiring and training a candidate who had potential but lacked the required skills.

This type of hiring clearly happens. Over half (62%) of workers surveyed said they had been offered a position that they weren't qualified for.

"When it's challenging to find candidates who check off all the boxes, companies may need to reevaluate their job requirements to hire the right talent," said Robert Half Executive Director Paul McDonald in a press release. "Workers can be trained on duties for a role, but individuals with the right soft skills and fit with the corporate culture are often harder to come by."

What can you do?

It's not enough to simply apply for jobs that you're not qualified for. You need to draw a line between your skills and those needed for the job.

If you lack a specific certification but already know how to do the work involved, say that and express a willingness to get the needed training. In situations where you actually need to learn how to do the work, say you're willing to do so. Ideally, you should also be able to lay out an example where you previously gained a similar skill while on the job.

Basically, you need to convince the human resources person that you can do the job even if that will require some training. You want to appear competent, eager, and open to doing whatever work is needed.

"Professionals shouldn't rule themselves out for a position if they don't fulfill all the criteria. However, applicants need to make a strong case by highlighting past results, transferable skills and a willingness to learn," McDonald said.

You need to show the person doing the hiring that you're a risk worth taking. There's no one formula for doing that, but being open to added training is a big part of the process. A good attitude and showing a history of learning as you go may get you the chance you hope for.

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