Applications / Job market

What if I don’t meet the essential criteria for a job advert?

When an employer is seeking to recruit someone, they will often analyse the role and work out the criteria for someone to do well in it.  This will then be expressed in the job advert in terms of Essential criteria and Desirable criteria.  Essential criteria may include relevant qualifications or amount of experience for example, whilst desirable criteria are not critical to the role and could be learned on the job in some cases.  When the employer is shortlisting for the role, they will usually score applicants against these criteria.

So as a student looking at a job advert how do you decide if you meet the criteria or not?  Lots of factors will influence how you view an advert including your levels of confidence, whether you already know someone in a similar role, sometimes your gender (we’ll come back to that one later) or how interested you are in the role.  If you feel confident that you have a strong c.v. with good qualifications and evidence of a range of skills and competencies you are likely to look at job adverts in a very positive way – seeing how you could undertake the role. 

You may have talked to someone from that company at a careers fair or through LinkedIn and be feeling positive that you fit what they are looking for.  It’s common that if you really want a role you will bend your profile to fit the advert and so put in an application. 

But obviously if you are not feeling so good about things, perhaps having not got the grades you were expecting or not getting relevant work experience because of the pandemic, this might make you doubt your suitability for the role.  You may be looking at an advert in a field you don’t know anyone in, which can make it hard to judge if you are suitable.  Or your gender may impact your approach to job adverts.  Recent LinkedIn analysis showed that females were more likely to rule themselves out of applying for roles than males (yet went on to get more job offers).  So, were those females being more realistic or were they ruling themselves out of roles that in fact they could have obtained?

So how should you decide whether or not you are a suitable candidate for a role? 

  • If the essential criteria require a particular course or technical ability which you don’t have, it might hinder your chances of success.  Some employers will say that they accept equivalent experience so if you feel you can argue this then you should give it a shot.  But if the role requires a minimum of 3 years’ employment in the sector and you only have a month’s work experience it is unlikely that you will be shortlisted. 
  • Very few applicants meet all the desirable criteria and here you should focus on all the transferable skills you have gained from your course, work experience, volunteering, paid employment and extra- curricular activities.  The skills do not need to have been gained in the sector you are applying to – they just need to be the skills the employer is looking for.

If you are seeing lots of adverts for roles you really want and you feel that you haven’t got enough to convince the employer of your suitability then think about how you can fill the gaps.  Could you do a short course for example, or some relevant volunteering or work shadowing?  To boost your chances of success, make sure that you do lots of research into the employer and the role and that you demonstrate your motivation for applying really clearly.  Try to connect with the employer or alumni through events, online interest groups or LinkedIn.  And ensure that your LinkedIn profile is up to date and tailored to what you are targeting as lots of employers will look at it when shortlisting.

If you have moved out from home, remember the way that you decided where to live.  You probably had some essential criteria such as location and cost but maybe also some desirable criteria such as number of bedrooms or proximity to a train station.  In reality, however, when you viewed properties you may have been swayed by other factors such as the size of the rooms or the décor.  It is similar for employers – they have their criteria, and they can sometimes be swayed.  If you’re studying at Warwick you can get feedback on your applications by booking an Applications Feedback slot on myAdvantage and we can help you decide if your application is as strong as it can be in relation to the vacancy.

Good luck!

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