Job advertisements can be intimidating — especially if you’ve found one you really want, but feel like your current experience makes you underqualified. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t apply.
Applying for a job you’re underqualified for — and even getting that job — can have a lot of benefits. When working a job that might seem out of your league, you can break the boredom you once had at a more comfortable job, while giving yourself new challenges and opportunities to advance your career.
So what if you’re underqualified? Below, we’ve outlined how you can write your resume to align to your dream job’s description, how to nail the interview (and post-interview), and how to set yourself up for success when you land the position.
How to Amp Up Your Resume
Examine the order of qualifications in the job listing. Usually, the most important ones are first. Focus on your skills and qualifications as they relate to the job listing’s first several qualifications.
If you lack some of those, try to bridge the gap between those requirements and other experiences you may have that are still related. If you still don’t have transferrable skills, determine if any of the qualifications are something you can start working on now, like knowing the ins-and-outs of spreadsheets or a software program.
Secondly, determine your experience — whether it’s from school, volunteer work, an internship or other unpaid work. A potential employer usually will not consider your experience invalid just because it was unpaid. If anything, it may speak to your character that you’re passionate enough about your work to do it without pay.
You can also consider a chrono-functional resume. If you have skills and qualifications that are more important than your job history, a chrono-functional resume will highlight those skills and experiences over your employment history. This will allow your qualifications to be highlighted instead of buried by unrelated work.
How to Nail the Interview
What’s the first step to nailing the interview? Thorough preparation.
First, research the industry. Are there certain words you’re unfamiliar with, programs you haven’t heard of, or general information you may not know? Conducting as much pre-interview research as you can will go a long way when you’re underqualified for the job. If you can show that you’re in the know, the job could easily be within your reach regardless of any underqualifications.
When interviewing for a job you’re underqualified for, figure out what makes you unique. What do you bring to the table that may be beneficial to the company and will make you stand out among other applicants? Determine what those additive skills are.
Do you have any personal contacts who could be beneficial to the company? Or, do you have a certain skill set that the company hasn’t considered but would benefit from? Discuss those additional skills that could potentially outweigh qualifications you don’t have.
Also come prepared with a portfolio. If an interviewer isn’t totally convinced that you’re qualified, letting them actually see your work can put you in a different light and show that you hold the necessary abilities to do the job.
How to Stay Relevant Post-Interview
Now, it’s the waiting game. Even hours after an interview, it’s hard not to sit by the phone or computer waiting for that call or email even though you know it could be weeks before you hear back.
So, the next most important part of this job process — especially if you’re underqualified — is to stay relevant and top-of-mind to the hiring manager.
Within 24 hours of the interview, email a thank-you note to your interviewers. This will put you in a positive light, but remember to keep it modest. You can also send a handwritten note, between one to three days after the interview or the follow-up email, if you send one.
Lastly, continue your research. If you’re called in for a second interview, you’ll be able to show that you’re still passionate about the job when coming in with more information than before. Additional research will also allow you to ask more questions you may not have thought to ask during the first interview.
How to Be Successful at Your New Job
The first few days (and even weeks) at a new job are always the hardest, especially if it’s full of tasks and knowledge that seem a bit over your head. But don’t fret just yet.
If you were hired for a job you first thought you were underqualified for, remember that you were hired for a reason. Many companies go through a rigorous hiring process before deciding on one person — and you are that person.
Also remember to be confident, as self-doubt can do a number on your performance in the workplace and can be potentially visible to supervisors and lead to negative consequences. Take that feeling of being underqualified and channel it in a positive manner like pushing yourself to be in uncomfortable settings, learning new things, or asking new coworkers questions. Online courses, mentors and additional research can also help you gain confidence in new, uncomfortable work environments.
Build an Impressive Resume
With the right resume, you can elevate yourself to the top of the resume pile, even if you are underqualified.