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Applying For a Job I'm Not 100% Qualified For Mark Swartz, M.B.A. M.Ed.

About the Author

Mark Swartz, MBA, M.Ed., is Canada's Career Activist. His insights reach millions yearly as the Career Advisor, as author of the best seller "Get Wired, You're Hired," also as a professional speaker and coach on career/work issues. A former Toronto Star careers columnist, Mark's advice is forthright and practical. For Canada's biggest directory of free career articles, and for personalized coaching, please visit

Mark Swartz
Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Q: There's this job posting I saw on Workopolis that I really want. The thing is I've got most of what the ad is asking for. Like the right kind of experience, but only three years worth instead of the five they've listed. Also I can do almost everything on their list, except there's some mechanical stuff I don't have experience with yet (but I could learn fast if given a chance). So how do I apply for this job and not have my resume rejected just because it's not 100% of what they're looking for?

Bryan M, Richmond, British Columbia
Dear Bryan I think the answer to your question is this: if you're interested in the job you've seen posted, and you believe you'd be able to do it reasonably well, then there's no harm going ahead and applying for it. Unless, that is, you're already employed, and you're working for a place that competes with the one you're currently employed at, and it somehow gets back to your boss that you're actively looking for work elsewhere. (Read about how to conduct a ''stealth'' job search here when you already have a job).

A couple of things to keep in mind when you're applying for a job you're not completely qualified for. For instance, the employer who's doing the hiring must choose from among a relatively limited pool of candidates. This includes the resumes received from the job posting, the people already working at that company (known as ''internal candidates''), referrals provided by employees and others, etc. If you apply too, you're competing with all of these other applicants.

Which scares a lot of people off from submitting a resume, since they figure they don't stand a chance given the odds. But remember two things: one is it could be that very few of the resumes received (maybe even none) are at the 100% mark; and two is that even if a few are, people who do the hiring don't always make their decision solely on the abilities, experience and credentials of the candidates they interview. There's often a lot of bias and emotion involved in hiring someone. For instance, if you have most -- but not all -- of the qualifications they need, and you happen to do very well at the interview, and they really like you, there's a good chance they'll lean in your direction versus other applicants who may have more experience, but who either don't interview well, or who aren't as likeable as you.

So you'll need to do several things exceptionally well. One is to submit a flawless resume that shows you meet most of their criteria. Two is to include a customized cover letter that conveys your enthusiasm for the position, and shows you know a little something about the organization you're applying to. Three is to nail your interview -- by preparing like crazy, answering their questions solidly, impressing them with your energy and determination, and by being ''likeable'' (which I'll talk more about next week).

Best of luck with your application, Bryan. Don't let the slight lack of qualifications put you off!

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