Should I apply if I don't meet all the job requirements?

03 July 2023 Sharyn Waterworth

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​When you find a job description that captures your interest, disappointment can sometimes follow if your skills and experience don’t perfectly align with the job requirements.

You might question whether you’re qualified enough to apply for the job and be tempted to let the opportunity pass you by.

But before you do, it’s worth understanding how job ads are typically written and how to best determine if you’re qualified to apply for a role or not.

Here’s what you need to know:

Understand how job ads are written

Job ads are usually broken into three distinct sections, all of which can be used to determine if you fit the job requirements or not.

  1. Skills (may appear as qualifications or “must-haves”)

  2. Education (sometimes referred to as “educational background” or “what you need”)

  3. Experience (often listed under “what you’ll do,” “duties,” or “responsibilities”)

Employers use these three aspects of a job ad to communicate what they’re looking for in an ideal candidate - but ideal candidates often aren’t the norm.

The idea that you can't get hired unless you meet all job requirements is a complete misinterpretation of how most hiring processes work. You can (and should) use the job ad as a guide rather than a fixed set of requirements. If you meet 60% of the job requirements, this is enough to be considered for the role.

Some requirements are more negotiable than others

Once you start thinking about job requirements as an employer’s wish list, the next step is to determine which requirements are "must-haves" and which are "nice to have."

The use of the phrase "preferred" is a significant tip-off. "Or equivalent" is another term that implies that a listed job requirement is negotiable.

The word “minimum” on the other hand, indicates the job requirement listed may have less wiggle room. Applicants who don’t meet minimum requirements will often be removed from the recruitment process before the hiring manager is involved at all.

In saying that, if you are close to a “minimum” requirement (e.g. you have three years of experience where an employer is asking for four), some flexibility may be possible. At the end of the day, it all boils down to one question: Can you make a compelling case for why you would succeed in this position?

If you can, you’ve got nothing to lose!

Still not sure if you’re qualified enough?

If you’re still unsure if you’re qualified enough to apply for a position, I’d encourage you to understand your “transferrable skills”. Transferable skills are skills and abilities that can be used in multiple jobs.

This is important if you’re considering a significant career or industry change, as the transferable skills you’ve gained in one industry can enable you to make meaningful contributions to other industries.

In addition to transferable skills, personal qualities can play a crucial role in the hiring process, too.

Let’s say you apply for a job with a company that has recently restructured. Business restructures generally lead to a significant period of change for an organisation. If you have an adaptable personality and are able to quickly change directions in your work without losing momentum, you can leverage this to qualify for a job, even if you don’t meet all the job requirements.

Again, if you can demonstrate how your skills and experiences can help the hiring manager solve a problem, complete a project, or positively impact their team, you can prove that you are qualified for the job.

Interested in job hunting tips? Click here to keep reading.