Two years of professional experience, expert-level proficiency in Adobe Suite, and the ability to fluently speak every dead language—job requirements have a tendency to ask for extreme, sometimes seemingly impossible requirements.
And depending on your gender, you likely have different ways of approaching those expectations. In fact, women tend to apply only for jobs that they’re 100 percent qualified for, while men are happy being just 60 percent qualified. But guess what? According to recruiters, that 60 percent is qualified enough.
Many of us have allowed ourselves to miss out on career opportunities because we think we aren’t qualified enough—but gender dynamics aside, you don’t need to be 100 percent qualified to get the position.
Here’s how to interpret a job listing to determine if you’re qualified for the job—and why you should consider applying either way.
How to determine if you’re qualified for the job
Certain job requirements are set in stone. If your experience is in accounting and you’re applying for a culinary position, then you might want to build up your resume before applying for a head chef position.
But say, for example, you’re looking to make the jump from sales to HR. Odds are, you have a relevant degree and plenty of transferable skills.
In order to figure out if you’re qualified, you’ll need to take stock of what you bring to the table.
Take inventory of your transferable skills
For example, maybe you’ve never managed a team, but you’ve spearheaded several boards or committees in previous positions. Since the job market is evolving so quickly and new positions are constantly being created, transferable skills like these are becoming more widely accepted. In fact, it’s estimated that 65 percent of children in school today will end up working at jobs that don’t even exist yet!
Tap any and all experience
Think of every job you’ve ever had, including internships and summer jobs. As long as you held the position within the past 10 to 20 twenty years and its relevant to the job you’re applying for, it's fair game for your resume or cover letter.
What about your soft skills? They can be as valuable as technical skills (or more so)
Great at communication? Have experience leading a team? Are you really good at finding unconventional solutions to problems? There’s more to a job than technical skills—your soft skills can also give you an extra edge. In fact, 57 percent of company leaders say that soft skills are a higher priority than technical skills.
Your connections will come in handy
While it doesn’t have anything to do with your qualifications for a job necessarily, connections mean the world during your job search. Research finds that 80 percent of jobs are filled not through the typical application process, but through networking. Not only that, but applicants given a reference by someone already in the company account for 40 percent of hires.
If you don’t feel like you’re quite qualified for the position, a connection can make all the difference.
Translating the job description
Once you figure out your arsenal, you’ll have to break down the details of the description. Some parts will be non-negotiable and others offer wiggle room.
Often listed as “experience” or “requirements,” these can be a little more flexible than they sound. In this section, you’ll find things like X years of professional experience, a college degree, and a variety of soft and hard skills.
What you lack in one area, you can make up for in another. Maybe you have two years’ experience when they asked for five, but you meet 60 percent of the requirements listed. It’s likely worth applying for. Maybe you don’t have experience in cyber security analytics, but you’re very experienced in financial data analytics. You definitely have some transferable skills.
However, if the job description asks for someone with 20 years’ experience and you have three, this might not be the job for you.
The responsibilities section of the job posting will help you determine if it’s actually worth it to you.
This section can be a little vague, since some employers use sweeping terms, i.e., Oversee the day-to-day operations of the department, but it can give you more information about what the company expects and if you’re up for it
Do they want someone who can bring in new clients or just keep existing ones happy? Do they expect someone who can manage a team and be an individual contributor at the same time? Are they looking for someone to build a department from scratch? Does it look like you would be the only expert in your area or are you working on a team with others who know the ropes too?
Why you should apply anyway
You lay out your skills, compare the listing, and decide you’re only 75 percent qualified. Does that mean you shouldn’t apply? Not at all! In fact, sometimes the best candidate on paper and the candidate who gets the job are two different people.
If you don’t check off all the skills needed for the position, you can more than make up for it in your transferable skills, competence, confidence, and enthusiasm. Remember—60 percent qualified is qualified enough.
In the end, all they can say is no. You’ve got almost nothing to lose and a whole lot to gain—especially if your new position offers you the opportunity to pursue a career you love.