Applications / Job market

Should you apply for a job even if you don’t meet all of the employer’s requirements?

It can be frustrating when you see a job that you believe you are ideally suited to when you notice a skill, qualification or type of experience that you do not have highlighted in the employer’s person specification. Should you apply anyway, or just accept that there are more suitably qualified candidates out there who will have everything the recruiter wants and look elsewhere?

Is there a perfect candidate?
In their ‘essential and desirable criteria’, employers identify the skills and qualities they believe the successful candidate will need to do the job. Remember though that this is an ideal and in reality, there is no such thing as a perfect fit. An employer will not expect to recruit someone who has everything they are looking for. But they would like to appoint someone who meets most of their requirements.

Of course, there may be some criteria that is non-negotiable. The employer may have stipulated a 2:1 degree is required and the on-line application may not allow you even submit an application if you have not (or are not predicted to) achieve this result. But even in these circumstances, if you otherwise have the potential the employer is looking for, it may be worth informally contacting them to ask if there is any flexibility (particularly if there are extenuating circumstances that may provide context for a lower than expected degree result).

You do not need to match all of the criteria

Perhaps the decision on whether to apply or not is dependent on your level of motivation. Is it a job you really want, are you prepared to invest the time required to make an application even if you feel you do not have a key skill? Certainly, do not be discouraged if you cannot provide any convincing evidence of how you meet the ‘desired’ criteria. Although the employer would like to appoint a candidate who meets all of their requirements, they would not expect to do so.

Former Warwick research fellow Jozef Vlaskamp, who has significant experience of recruitment in the engineering industry, agrees:

I certainly think applying for a job when not all criteria are met is a good idea. Generally training can be provided for the missing skills, or the responsibilities of the role distributed differently within the team. Roles evolve anyway over time, and a job description will change , usually to fit a person. My advice to a candidate is to apply if they meet at least the core requirements, and be open to learning new skills.”

The reference to ‘missing skills’ is an important one because although an employer requires some fundamental core skills and attributes, they are also investing in an employee’s potential. With appropriate training and mentoring those additional skills can be developed. Russell Beech, director and creator of BI System Builders, a data warehousing business also recognises this:

For someone starting out the key thing is the mindset that the candidate comes with. It has to be open to new ideas. A hybrid mindset is especially valuable e.g. ‘analytical and innovative’ or ‘technology and business minded’. The experience and training that they then gain with us will allow them to develop any other ‘essential’ criteria needed.”

Experience required…make yours transferable

Just when you are feeling a sense of excitement that this could be the ideal role for you, the employer specifies something that you just haven’t got, often ‘relevant’ experience. Remember that any experience is valuable however. If you can write about the skills you have gained during  volunteering or extra-curricular activities for example, in a way that highlights its relevance you can still persuade the employer. The key is to make the connection between what you have and what the employer is looking for explicit. You can’t expect the employer shortlisting for the position to do it for you.

I interviewed a Warwick graduate two years ago who has developed a career in management consulting. He didn’t have any relevant experience in the industry when he applied but he did have significant experience on the executive of a society, where was able to provide evidence of his ability to persuade, influence and manage projects.

Don’t underestimate your academic experience as well – academic study develops a range of communication and problem-solving skills, analytical ability and critical thinking. A skill set that employers across many industries are seeking.

Still unsure if you should apply? 

Ask yourself if you really want this job. The employer is more likely to be flexible and overlook one or two of their criteria if you have conveyed your interest and enthusiasm. If you can create an impression in the employers mind that, ‘this person doesn’t quite have the skills or level of experience I was looking for but I really like their passion and willingness to learn’ they are more likely to consider your applicationBe realistic but don’t create a negative first impression by referring to requirements you do not meet. If you are genuinely interested and believe you have lots to offer in other respects, why not take a risk and submit an application?

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