For most people, looking for a new job means weeding through tons of job ads to find one that seems like a good fit. As you search, you may come across a position you'd love to take but don't meet every requirement for. 

If this happens, you have a choice: Does it make sense to apply for a job even if you don't have all the qualifications the employer wants? The answer: In most cases, it's a good idea to just go for it.

In fact, limiting your job search only to positions where you check off every box could mean missing out on important opportunities to advance your career.

Woman at a job interview with two interviewers

Image source: Getty Images.

When to apply even if you aren't the perfect candidate on paper

Throwing your hat into the ring makes sense if you think you have the skills to do the work and you believe you can persuade an employer.

There are some minimum qualifications that likely aren't negotiable with most jobs. If you need a particular certification or have to understand how to use a complicated computer program, there's no point applying if you're lacking these essentials.

But if you meet the key criteria the company is looking for while missing a few of the desired traits in the ideal candidate, there's no harm in introducing yourself to the company and seeing if it will give you a chance.

How to maximize your chances of success

Submitting a cover letter, along with a detailed resume, can help maximize your chances of being considered for a position even if you can't check all the boxes. Your cover letter should show why you're actually the person the company is looking for even if it has a different idea of whom it wants. 

In both your cover letter and resume, emphasize the education or work experience that aligns with what the ad mentions while also providing details on transferable skills that could help persuade the company to give you a chance. You can show that while your past work experience may not be exactly on point, it's taught you the problem-solving skills you need to get the work done. 

You'll also want to explain the specific traits that make you the ideal fit, even if the employer had something else in mind. Provide some examples of past successes that demonstrate how your unique skill set could be an incredible asset. 

Don't settle in your quest for your next job

While you don't want to waste your time (or the hiring manager's time) applying for a job that you clearly can't do, there's a lot to be said for stretching yourself and trying for an opportunity that you aren't quite qualified for yet. A better job can mean more money for retirement savings as well as the chance to do something you really love.

You have little to lose by taking a few minutes to prepare an application -- and potentially a lot to gain.