How to Prove You're Qualified When Applying for Jobs
In 2014, the Harvard Business Review reported that men tend to apply for jobs when they meet only 60 percent of the qualifications, whereas women hold off until they meet 100 percent of the qualifications. While in some cases women may think they aren’t fully qualified, the bigger concern is that they don’t think others will view them as qualified, so why should they take the time to apply?
But it isn’t a waste to apply for a job you would love that you think you would be great at—even if you aren’t sure you meet all the qualifications.
Ask yourself these five questions to help you decide whether or not it’s worth it to apply for a job:
1. What are the day-to-day responsibilities, and can you handle them? Job descriptions can be tricky to navigate, as they often include excess information that may or may not apply to everyday life in that role. Because the hiring manager wants to give candidates a complete picture of the role and responsibilities, he or she may list everything the employee will do, whether it occurs once a day or once a year.
To truly understand the job itself, dig a little deeper and pull out the tasks that make up the day-to-day work. If you’re having trouble, you could reach out to a friend who works for that company or who has a similar role in another company. Or you could call the recruiter to help decipher the posting.
By narrowing down what the job is, you can determine whether or not it’s a good fit for you. Then you can begin brainstorming how to sell yourself as the perfect candidate.
2. Can you distinguish the “must haves” from the “nice to haves,” and do you meet them? Hiring managers often compile long laundry lists of all the qualities of their dream candidate. But finding someone that checks all these boxes is what some recruiters call “hunting a purple squirrel”—in other words, something that doesn’t exist. It’s the recruiter’s job to bring the hiring manager back to reality by vetting quality candidates who would be a great fit even if they aren’t perfect.
As a job seeker, you need to distinguish the “must haves” from the “nice to haves” for the hiring manager. You can then highlight how your skills and experience make you the right person for the job. Focus on what you have and what you can do rather than what you don’t and what you can’t, and the recruiter and hiring manager will see what you bring to the table.
3. Do you have soft skills that make you attractive to the company? Before you begin writing your cover letter, make a list of your strengths that might relate to the job you’re applying for. Are you a people person who would integrate well into the team? Are you an optimist who would motivate your colleagues and bring up morale? Do you have an eagle eye for pinpointing errors and ensuring that all the moving pieces of a project are covered?
4. Do you have transferable skills that relate to the qualifications listed? When you are looking to switch industries or career paths, it may be tough to relate your past experience to the role you want. Play back the highlight reel of your career in your mind, and think about your major accomplishments. What skills helped you achieve those successes? What did you learn? Things like generating revenue, building relationships and balancing competing deadlines are transferable skills that can be critical to any function in any industry. Help the hiring manager visualize your achievements by citing specific results, like dollars saved, impact on sales numbers and awards won.
5. Are you genuinely enthusiastic about the job, the company and what you could do in the role, and can you express that to the hiring manager? Expressing authentic interest and excitement can go a long way in moving your application from the reject pile to the interview pile. With the high cost of turnover, companies want to know that the people they hire want to stick around for a while. It’s much easier to train someone to do a task than to motivate and engage them if they aren’t enthusiastic.
In your cover letter and then in your interviews, candidly explain why you want this particular job—what attracted you to the role or the company, how it fits in your overall career plan and how your desire and enthusiasm make you a better candidate than someone else with a similar résumé.
Whether you are unsure of your qualifications or believe that the recruiter will pass you by for not checking every item off the hiring manager’s list, know that it is never a waste of time to apply for a job you believe you could succeed in. Be confident in your abilities and experience, and take the time to tie those to specific requirements of the job. Sell yourself to the recruiter and hiring manager, and reap the benefits when you accept a new job offer.