Your dream job has finally appeared in a job search. But even though it’s right there, all but begging you to apply, you stop short of submitting your resume. Why? You’re not qualified.
Whether the job posting requires years of experience you lack or a specific skill you haven’t yet honed, you feel as if you’d fall short—and into a slush pile of more-qualified applicants.
Apply anyway. Seriously. Why? “Oftentimes, managers put everything they can think of into a job description; sometimes, they make long lists of responsibilities and qualifications just to make the job look more impressive than it is,” says Emily Perron, a career development strategist. “As long as the position isn’t regulated by the government, the requirements are going to be more flexible than you realize. There’s only one way to find out: Apply anyway!”
Of course, that doesn’t mean you can’t give yourself a leg up and prove you are very much qualified—even if you can’t check off all the required qualifications. Read on to find out, according to our career experts, how you can avoid the slush pile and snag an interview.
1. Use keywords to your advantage.
“When it comes to job postings,” Perron says, “most employers use a software that collects the applications and uses an algorithm to analyze which applications are the most relevant to the job posting.” The higher your relevance score, the more likely it is your resume will make it to a real person—and that you can secure an interview. To increase tour relevance score, “look at the job posting and pull out the words that appear to be the most important to the position,” Perron recommends, especially the first three requirements listed on the qualifications section, because they are the most important. “You can also look for words that are repeated multiple times,” she advises. “The more times a word appears, the more important it is to the position. Once you have a list of 10 keywords, work them into your resume and cover letter you’re using in your application,” and let the algorithm do the rest.
2. Don't rely on the application alone.
According to Ren Burgett, career coach and certified business coach, “the majority of jobs are secured through networking,” not online applications. In addition to submitting your resume, work your network, he advises. “Find a similar connection to someone that works for that company,” Burgett recommends. “Go on LinkedIn and search for connections of connections of people that work for the company you want to pursue. Send a cold email to the person you want to connect with letting them know you applied online but want to get your resume in the right hands.” And don’t give up. “Keep emailing people in the company until you get a response,” he says. “Companies love candidates that have grit and tenacity.”
3. Position yourself as a problem solver.
No matter the job, everyone wants a problem-solver, says Burgett. So, consider “revamping your cover letter to position yourself as a problem solver,” he suggests. How can you do it? “When you send in your resume include a cover letter,” Burgett instructs, and “don't make it the boring, traditional kind of cover letter. Make it a one-page problem-solving solution letter. In your cover letter, identify what problems you can solve if hired for the position.” Make sure you research what problems you could encounter in your dream job—and the company’s pain points—and address those specifically in your letter. For example, “if the company needs help with targeted marketing,” says Burgett, “share with them exactly how you can identify and target their key demographic to market products and make an impact. Keep your letter to one page and three to five actionable points so that it’s easy to read.”
4. Show off your unique skills.
Now that you’ve applied and made a connection at the company, get ready to “present the experience and qualifications you do have as assets to the position, the department, and the company,” says Perron. In fact, it may behoove you to point out the qualification they’re not looking for. “Sometimes, being under-qualified can actually be a benefit,” Perron says. “You aren’t weighed down by a lot of experience and strong opinions about how things should be done, and you can differentiate yourself by highlighting your different background and skill set than all of the applicants.” For example, Perron says, “don’t forget to mention your college degree even if it’s not in a related field or if it took you longer than normal to finish. Having any degree shows you’re good at setting long-term objectives and achieving them.”
5. Learn the required skills.
Lastly, if you feel you must learn certain skills to meet the requirements of the job, then by all mean, learn them, says Burgett. “With platforms such as LinkedIn Learning and Coursera, there's no excuse not to learn a skill required for a position,” Burgett says. Then, “under the education section of your resume, include the courses you are taking to learn the required skills.” By adding this information to your education section, you’re being honest that you don’t have the skills—yet—and showing that you’re a proactive go-getter. “Chances are by the time you snag the interview, your course will be complete and you can share with them that you took the course specifically for the job,” Burgett says. “And even if you don't get the job, you learned something new that will help you as you progress in your job search.”