Apply to a Job Without All the Qualifications or Experience

Updated on March 23, 2018
KCO profile image

Katy has mentored young professionals beginning their careers and financial journeys to make informed decisions.

Missing Job Qualifications

Can you apply for a job when you don’t meet all the qualifications? What if you don't have all the years of experience the job posting asks for? There are steps you can take to make your application stand out even if you are missing one or two key qualifications.

Begin with a thorough, honest assessment of whether you have a chance to succeed in the job without meeting all the requirements. Think about what makes you stand out and what qualities you have that allow you to make up for what you're lacking. Keep these qualities in mind as you approach the job application process.

Applying to a job takes a lot of work, so only choose the jobs were you can justify missing qualifications with other experience.
Applying to a job takes a lot of work, so only choose the jobs were you can justify missing qualifications with other experience. | Source

Apply Anyway

When assessing whether you should apply for a job it helps to understand where the job posting comes from. In larger companies, they are written by HR with little or no input from the people actually making the hiring decision. It's likely that the list of qualifications was copy and pasted from similar roles and tweaked by someone unfamiliar with the role to fit the specific project or department. Sometimes these job postings are written by a staffing agency or a subcontractor, who are even further removed from the person who actually knows what skills are needed.

Also, realize that one candidate rarely has all the qualifications listed. In many cases, the managers are hoping the candidates they interview have 80% of the qualifications and are bright enough to pick up the remaining 20% on the job.

So don’t think that missing one or two bullet points on the basic qualifications list automatically disqualifies you. Actually, that makes you just about average. How you compensate for your missing qualifications is what will let you rise above average.

Not Enough Years of Experience

Can you apply for a job when you have fewer years of experience than they are asking for? How can I make up for it if I have 3 years of experience and the job description requires 5 years?

Whether you stand a chance applying for a job you don't have enough experience for depends mostly on the discrepancy in years and how relevant your previous experience is to the position.

Some job postings treat years of experience as a hard cut off and won't even take a second look at applicants that don't make the cut. Other postings treat the listed years of experience required as a general guideline for who should apply and then the salary of the selected candidate is determined by their years of experience.

When the experience you do have is highly relevant, how do you get hiring managers and human resources to see past your inexperience? You do this by emphasizing the hard skills you've gained and showing specific examples of what you have accomplished with them. This will alleviate their worries that you don't have a proven track record or haven't learned the early career lessons yet.

Some certification or formal education requirements can be substituted with years of experience.
Some certification or formal education requirements can be substituted with years of experience. | Source

Missing Certification Requirement

Many industries have certain certifications that set candidates ahead and some that are absolutely necessary to even obtain a job in that field.

Think about how essential the certification is for the work to be performed before you apply for the job. If a certain license or certification is required to legally practice your profession it will be difficult to find a company willing to hire you without it. This is a good sign that you should spend the time and money getting the certification if you want to work in the industry.

But if it's not absolutely required, you may be able to secure a more entry-level position and work your way up with training to that certification. In lieu of a certification, you can show years of experience in the field and skills you have acquired. Research what is involved to achieve the certification so you are prepared to argue how your abilities replace it.

Replace Formal Education with Job Experience

Similarly to a certification, lacking formal education can be made up for by highlighting years of relevant experience and proven results.

Like certification substitution, the cases where this applies is also industry-specific, so consider the nature of the job before applying. Obviously, there is no substitution for medical school in order to be a doctor. But if you have been a system administrator for several years, completed professional training and improved business results for your company you likely don't need a formal degree.

What makes the system administrator example from above such a compelling person to hire? They showed they could perform well in the role already, which signifies they have already gained all the skills they would have in college. Showing you completed a few extra courses or attended a conference to keep up with changing technology in your industry is an extra bonus that helps managers overlook education.

Is the hiring manager really going to care that they don't have a four year college degree? Absolutely not. But will that person struggle through the HR application process if they don't have a school to list on the online application? Absolutely, especially for in a large company.

Lacking formal education might always be a bit of a drawback for you. But with the right network and interviewing skills it won't hold you back from a great career.

Think about the tools and skills required for your current position, can they be translated to those needed for the new role?
Think about the tools and skills required for your current position, can they be translated to those needed for the new role? | Source

Missing a Specific Skill or Software Experience

Looking for a job that has a skill listed in the Basic Requirements that you don't possess?

You're in luck because lacking a specific skill is actually one of the easier job hunting disabilities to overcome.

You simply need to show the ability to pick up new skills quickly and show accomplishments in similar programs or skills. And if this is a job you are particularly excited for you can show initiative by trying to learn the basics of the skill before the interview.

First, showcase that you are a quick learner by providing a specific example in the interview of a time when you did not have the skills for an assigned task and you adapted quickly to get it done.

Also, emphasize any skills you already have that are related and thus would allow you to pick up the missing ability quickly. If the requirement requires a specific modeling software, describe your experience with a similar program.

Lastly, if possible, try to acquire the basics of that skill if you are invited in for an interview. Check out tutorials online or see if your workplace offers training courses.

Thinking through what skills are necessary for the job will show the hiring manager that you appreciate what the role is all about. It shows you gave some true thought to what you will need to be successful. Who wouldn't want to hire someone like that?

Missing Job Requirements Summary

Job Requirement
Mitigating Factor
How To Emphasize
Specific Certification/Formal Education
Your Equivalent Experience
Display equivalent skills on resume, express willingness to get certification during interview
Years of Experience
Your Relevant Skills
Share proven results in interview and on resume
Specific Skill
Similar Skills
Display similar skills on resume, give examples of learning quickly during interview

Emphasize Your Existing Skills to Get Hired!

Overcoming a less-than-stellar resume or track record requires emphasizing the value you already have to convince the company it's in their best interest to choose you. There are many opportunities in the job application process to communicate your skills that compensate for your disability:

  • Cover letter
  • Resume
  • Interview
  • Thank you note

Make sure your skills shine in each of these areas so that the hiring manager can overlook any missing qualifications.

Questions & Answers


      0 of 8192 characters used
      Post Comment

      • KCO profile image

        Katy Medium 4 weeks ago from Denver, CO

        Hi Haley, thanks for reading! You're right that tailoring your resume is so important, especially if you don't fit all the qualifications. Interesting idea that culture fit is starting to be preferred over just pure qualifications. I see that happening more often and I think companies would have better retention of the younger workers if they paid better attention to culture fit during hiring.

      • Haleykieser profile image

        Haley Kieser 4 weeks ago from Arizona

        Tailoring your resume to fit the job description also greatly improves your chances! For instance, if the job description talks about wanting a self-motivated individual. If that's you, include self-motivated on your resume, whether that be listed as a quality, skill, or in the description. If you are also reaching out with an email and an attached resume, make your email tailored to the language of the company. Finding the best culture fit over the most qualified candidate is a trend that is going to continue to grow. Great article. Very important subject. Thanks for sharing!