To Apply or Not to Apply? That is a Really Good Question

by Kristy Amburgey

Please don’t read this article hoping to find a definitive answer or quantifiable evidence to support or dissuade you from applying for a position to which you don’t have all the prerequisites.  In the research accomplished, I can tell you that there are many different takes and no one answer to this question.  Everyone has an opinion about applying for a job to which you don’t match all the qualifications, and that opinion may not always match common sense, career advice, recruiter feedback or your own instincts.  This article is here to give you some guidance on how to go beyond the qualifications to build your case for employment.

Most feedback you will get on this subject typically falls into three categories: the go-for-its, the no-ways and the it-depends.  First, there are the go-for-its who feel that it never hurts to try, and there are success stories from people who have gone for it.  There are many people, including job seekers themselves, who see applications as chances to get their feet in the door, and that may be the case under certain circumstances.  There are also the no-way people, who expect candidates to have mastery of all the qualifications for a position.  This group will have expectations that the job seeker have above and beyond what is expected and would be reluctant to take a chance on someone who does not meet all criteria.  The third part of this equation is the group that advocates the it-depends school of thought.  Most people in this group ask that job seekers carefully consider if they can truly do the job and whether or not they have the ability to relate their backgrounds and accomplishments to the specific positions.  This group also advocates for ideas that you can implement in your job search to help you move beyond the qualifications requirements.

Before we proceed, there are several important topics that must be addressed.  First, there are a number of requirements set forth by the company that can’t be compromised.  These can include citizenship, education and certification requirements.  Please recognize that there are policies that a company must follow, and it is not in your best interest to try and convince them to ignore these basic rules.  Secondly, remember that you do need to honestly evaluate your ability to do the job and your desire to actually do that work.  Consider spending your time pursuing other opportunities if you have no interest in that career field or any background, education, experience or passion for it.  And finally, don’t ever lie to get the job.  If you don’t have the qualifications, be truthful and identify ways to further your candidacy before applying.

If you don’t have all of the qualifications but feel you can do the job, you can consider some of these action items to implement into your job search both prior to and after applying, which are hopefully things you are already doing.

Write a Cover Letter

A cover letter gives you a chance to explain how your background, while not a match on paper, is a great fit for an organization. Not all employers read the letters, but you can give your resume a boost in terms of expanding on your accomplishments as related to a specific job.  Before applying for a position, there are many ways to gather information to integrate into your job search documentation, including an informational interview.

Conduct an Informational Interview

Request a meeting, or informational interview, with an expert in the field you want to pursue.  Sit down with the person and ask them well thought out questions about how to succeed in the field.  This type of conversation is yet another way to gather information about an organization, but it also allows you to get an insider’s view into the job to which you may not have the qualifications.  Better yet, read the Alumni Spotlights on the Going Places blog as we ask these experts for their insight into their career fields.  Once you have a grip on what it takes to break into the industry, it’s now time to build up your qualifications.

Build your Qualifications

You can always work to add qualifications to your repertoire even if your credentials are not up to company standards at this point in time.  If the job description lists a specific quality, certification or requirement, figure out how you can gain that exposure.  Before deciding on what qualification to build, you should take time to identify your transferable skills to see if you already have some of the prerequisites needed.

Address your Transferable Skills

You may have an entire set of skills valued by employers that you may not know you possess.  These qualities are known as transferable skills.  The key to transferable skills is to connect your previous experiences and accomplishments to the job you are hoping to obtain.  Identify and then address (via resumes, cover letters and conversations) your transferable skills, which are those attributes that are valued by employers regardless of the environment in which you developed them.  Transferable skills can include your ability to analyze, communicate, manage, organize, research, resolve and more.  In order to know what transferable skills you need to emphasize, you must ensure that you research the organization.

Research the Company

Even though researching the company should be a standard for any job search, learning as much as you can about a company is often the best way to figure out how to get your foot in the door even without all the published requirements.  Arm yourself with plenty of company knowledge as a way to understand the path to the job and as a way to build your connections.

Utilize your Connections

Even without all the qualifications, you still have a chance of being granted an interview if you have a connection inside the company who can influence hiring decisions.  Having an acquaintance such as a fellow alum share your resume with a hiring manager can be beneficial in making your resume a priority.

If you don’t have all the requisites for a position, it can be a daunting decision to pursue the position or wait until your background more closely fits the company’s requirements.  The decision is entirely a personal one, but it should involve careful consideration, planning and action.  Build your case for employment, regardless of whether or not you have all the qualifications, by following these steps.

Kristy Amburgey is the Associate Director of Career Services – Daytona Beach campus and currently manages marketing and employer relations for the department.  She has been with Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University for approximately 10 years and with Career Services for nine years.

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