What to do when you see a posting for your dream job but don’t meet all of the qualifications!

So you’ve found your ideal job but don’t meet 100% of the qualifications…here’s what to do!


For some reason, I find most people hesitate to apply for their dream jobs if they are not %100 qualified for the position. For example, the position asks for 5 years experience and they only have 3. Or the job description includes a list of 12 critical skills needed for job success and they only have 7. So they skip applying, thinking it’s a waste of time, and move on to to something they feel more closely qualified for. Seems like a logical approach. Instead, usually they unnecessarily shut themselves off from some potentially great opportunities! If this sounds like something you do, take note of the following:

  • Most employers write up a job description based on their idea of the “ideal” candidate. The requirements posted are usually guidelines and not necessarily hard and fast rules. Sure they’d love to have that engineer with 10 years experience in software design in their specific industry but will they also consider the candidate with 7 years experience who happens to be located nearby (avoiding relocation costs) and can demonstrate his/her ability to be a fast learner? Probably yes!
  • Do you have 70% or more of the qualifications or skill sets needed to be successful or only 10%? If you’re closer to the %10 it’s probably best to pass, but if you’re hitting %70 then think about what else you can offer the employer to make you a more attractive candidate. For example do you have a transferable skill you can offer? Perhaps you’re applying for a sales rep job and you haven’t worked in direct sales before, but you grew up working nights and weekends hustling to successfully get your family’s business off the ground. Could this hustle and tenaciousness translate into sales skills somehow? If so, make this pitch in your cover letter.
  • When you apply online, keywords are important. Look for the words in the posting that stand out and make sure your resume showcases your skills and experience using some of those keywords so you make it safely past the algorithms.
  • Once you’re resume makes it past the bots, remember that humans make the final hiring decision, not the bots! So if you can find out who the hiring manager is and make a direct pitch, then do. Or if you know someone in the company that can attest to your hard driving leadership skills, enthusiasm, or work ethic, then reach out and ask them the best way to make a connection. People hire people. In most cases, a hiring manager would rather hire someone who somebody can vouch for vs. taking a chance on a stranger with a few less qualifications.
  • You’re outgoing personality and enthusiasm can’t get you hired unless you get in for the interview so make sure you use language that conveys that in your cover letter. Don’t go on the defensive by using language such as “I don’t have all the skills but thought I’d apply anyway…” Do highlight the skills you do have and make your pitch. “Here are 3 strong skills I have that will make me immediately valuable to you…” as an example.

Although it takes work going for a position that feels a little higher than your reach, many people get ahead by going for it anyway. As the famous Frederick Wilcox quote goes, “Progress always involves risks. You can’t steal second base and keep your foot on first.”