Dear Bossy 7: Should I apply for a job I'm not qualified for?

Dear Bossy,

I saw a perfect job. I know I’d be great at this job, but I don’t have the experience they are looking for. Should I apply? What should I do about being inexperienced? I really want this job.


Searching for my dream job

Dear Searching for my dream job

Yes you should apply! I believe that job listings are often a list of guidelines, but not hard and fast requirements. Very few companies find the exact perfect person for the job AND you may have other qualities or experiences that knock their socks off.

A few things to consider:

  1. How far off from the qualifications are you? If they are looking for 10 years of experience and you only have 2 that is quite different than they are looking for 10 and you have 8. Truly evaluate how different your experience is from the job at hand. Can you do this job? Do you have enough experience, at the right level, in the right areas, to be a great hire. Then go for it.

  2. There is a highly quoted study that men apply for jobs when they are 60% qualified and women only apply when they are 100% qualified. I find this HBR analysis quite insightful. Women tend to follow the rules - they assume the job qualifications are required and men tend believe they are guidelines. I believe they are guidelines. As someone who has hired many people, I’d say - hiring managers want great candidates and job descriptions are poor representations of everything we are looking for. If you think you are being too critical of your match for the job, then definitely APPLY.

  3. Get the discrepancy out there early - even in your cover letter. If there is something you definitely do not have in a list of requirements or skills, you might get it on the table early. “I know you are looking for someone who has worked overseas before, and though I have not done that, I have experience…” or "Though I lack a formal engineering degree, I have xx years of experience that gives me even more applied engineering experience than most graduates.” This may or may not help, but it shows them you understand where you don’t match up, but have other talents that will compensate.

  4. Do your research. Network - find someone who knows someone and ask about the job. How long has it been open? Who does it report to? What is the reputation of the team? All of these things can help you present the best possible resume and qualifications. Information is power. If this job has been open for a long time, they may have unrealistic expectations and you can steer them towards something else. If you have a connection to someone there, ask for an informational interview and ask pointed questions about the team and the skills required and ask for advice about how to position yourself for a role on that team that matches your criteria.

  5. And most importantly - believe in yourself. Put your best foot forward. There are many dream jobs out there, not just one, so keep at it - if it isn’t this job it will be the next one. It may turn out you didn’t want this job after all!

Good luck!


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