The Case for Applying to a Job You Feel Underqualified For

You’ve probably heard that people apply for jobs in different ways and for different reasons. For example, research indicates that men will more often apply for a job for which they’re only 60% qualified. On the other hand, women are less likely to apply for a job if they feel their qualifications don’t meet 100% of the role’s requirements.
But these tendencies aren’t just split by men versus women. There are several reasons one may take themselves out of the running for a job. In many cases, the reasoning behind why a candidate would choose not to pursue an opening is valid. But in many cases, it’s not.  

 The hiring market could use an update here. So, this blog will lay out the case for applying for a job you want, even when you’re feeling underqualified. We’ll also cover why hiring managers can rethink what defines a truly qualified candidate in the first place.  

Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained 

What’s the worst that could happen, right

Say you apply for a job but don’t land the role. While the sense of rejection may not be pleasant, there is a solid argument to be made for getting over your fear of inadequacy and applying for the role anyway. To quote the fabled hockey star Wayne Gretzky, “You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.  

True, you might not get the job. But you never know. Sometimes there’s a surprising outcome in which an unexpected candidate ends up being the best fit for a job. 

Of course, this doesn’t mean you should go out and shower employers with applications to jobs for which you’re grossly underqualified. The key is to use your best judgment (and your gut) in applying discernment to predict whether you’d be a good fit for the role. And take into consideration that if you’re feeling chronically underqualified for many roles, you might benefit from thinking more dynamically about what you uniquely bring to the table

We urge job seekers to think more holistically about their skills, qualifications and experience when applying for a job that feels like a stretch. Here’s why. 

The Job Market Shift: Mindset Is Equally Important As Skillset  

Likely you’ve heard about the talent shortage of the past few years. Well, employers aren’t just struggling with a shortage of candidates. They’re seeing many of the people who do apply for their roles are short on both hard and soft skills. And perhaps most importantly, many applicants are short on one critical element: enthusiasm

An applicant can have all the skills required for a role, but they need to be genuinely excited about the position and what they can bring to a prospective employer, or they won’t be the very best fit

These shortages in the quantity, quality and overall excitement of job seekers have led many employers to reevaluate how they hire for their roles. They’re redefining what it means to be truly qualified as a candidate, and they’re evaluating a person’s overall energy and “vibes” more than ever. And even if they aren’t yet, they will soon. As much as employers need to differentiate their value proposition to attract and retain top talent, it’s key that you think about what’s different and better about you than all the rest, too.  

Redefining “Qualified” 

We want to be clear: While many employers are redefining what makes a candidate truly “qualified,” it does not mean they are lowering their standards. 

For years, rigid adherence to skills and experience, such as X-number of years in a previous role or a bachelor’s degree in the field, have garnered lackluster results for hiring managers. Essentially, a hard-and-fast skillset or X-years of experience does not automatically translate to a good fit

The idea is that more employers are looking at demonstrable skills such as

  • An ability to lead or influence others 
  • A willingness to learn new skills and problem solving in uncertain situations 
  • Making sound judgments without all the information in a given scenario  

These skills are notoriously difficult—and maybe even impossible—to train in an employee. For example, you can’t just force someone to be influential, and you can’t simply teach good judgment. And so it is, and not a moment too soon, that employers are beginning to think more subjectively about their candidates. In doing so, they’re widening their pool of potentials, and finding better fits for their company in some unexpected places. 

This Means Good Things for the “Under-Qualified” Applicant  

If you are feeling underqualified, these changes in the job market should come as good news. 

The different approach hiring managers are taking is a strong indication that, while the role for which you’re applying will still have requirements for skills and qualifications, they are not always as clear cut as they may seem. 

When we’re working with a candidate who feels like they’re underqualified, we suggest some interview tips that will catch the attention of a hiring manager and possibly lead to a more nuanced and compelling conversation about your qualifications. Try the following:

  • Learn as much as you can about the role  
  • Showcase the relevant skills that you do have  
  • Inquire about reskilling, upskilling or on-the-job training opportunities 
  • Demonstrate why you’re a good fit beyond the checklist of years of experience and education, and draw from real-world examples from your personal and professional life 
  • Be engaged and show a willingness to learn  
  • Stay positive, build your resilience to “rejection,” and know that the right role is often just one great interview away  

How a Recruiter Can Help You Bolster Your Marketability Regardless of Your Current “Qualifications”  

Listen, it’s okay if you feel underqualified. Being honest about your skills and experience shows humility, integrity and self-awareness. So, while we urge many candidates to overcome their fear of professional inadequacy, we’re also not suggesting that you ignore your better instincts. 

Regardless of your current qualifications, Vector Technical definitely wants to talk to you about what you’re looking for and how we can help. If you’d like to learn more about the great opportunities just waiting for the one-and-only you, contact us today.