Rejection isn’t easy.
But it’s something every job seeker has to make their peace with pretty quickly.
You won’t be successful with every application you make, however qualified and experienced you are. At the end of the day, only one person can get the job – and it won’t always be you.
With that in mind, it’s essential to remain positive and shrug off rejection, keeping the faith that you’re time will (soon) come. It can also be extremely beneficial to keep your options open and apply for positions that don’t fit your profile exactly.
Limiting yourself only to the positions you’re a perfect fit for will both make it harder for you to find work and decrease your chances of landing the job that’s right for you.
And, after all, if you don’t try you’ll never know.
That said, applying for every job under the sun, and anything that’s vaguely related to your skill set, could prove a mind-numbing and spirit-crushing experience – and may still get you nowhere.
This is our guide to when (and when not) to apply for jobs you’re not a perfect match for.
When to apply
As a job seeker you’ll want to get pretty good at deciphering job adverts to find out if the position is right for you.
While the required skills and ‘who you are’ sections will often tell you all you need to know about whether or not to apply, in some cases you’ll want to go further.
Here’s how to tell from an advert if a job is right for you:
- Job title: this should be a good guide as to what will be expected from you, and where you will sit within an organization.
- Role description: read this carefully for an understanding of the demands and challenges of the role, and for the company’s thinking in creating the position in the first place.
- ‘Who you are’ / ‘We’re looking for’ section: this may not sound like you, but you needn’t take that too seriously. In what areas do you differ? Do they seem crucial for being successful in the role?
- ‘What you’ll be doing’ / ‘Tasks and objectives’ section: work your way carefully through these, asking yourself if you’ve got what it takes to carry out the main duties of the position.
- Required skills: don’t underestimate the importance of these, but do consider how far away you are from having all or most of them. It’s not always necessary to have all the skills listed here.
- Desired skills: these may not be necessary for the job, but if you are able to boast all the non-essential skills you will strengthen your application overall.
Beyond the information contained in the job posting, you might also want to do some research and consider whether you are a good fit with the company:
- Company culture: looking at the company’s website, social media channels, and other content can give you a hint as to how much you might fit with the picture the company paints of itself. Candidates that feel right for the role can help sway uncertain recruiters. (This may also be because you’re skills, qualities, and experience are ‘different’ in just the right way to offer something of real value).
- Values and mission: if a company is doing something you’re passionate or extremely knowledgeable about you should always try applying. Consider your career goals and interests – if they harmonize with the company’s direction then you will probably prove a good fit.
- Current projects: do you have any skills, experience, or qualities outside those listed on the job advert that might contribute to a particular project or goal the company is undertaking?
- Future plans: try to find out where a company is headed in the long term, and consider whether you might be able to help them get there. Perhaps they don’t even realize how much they need someone like you.
If you are confident in your ability to take on the job, and believe you could be a good fit with the company, it’s well worth your time applying.
It’s worth the hiring company’s time too. As a surprise candidate you could stand out as a very interesting option. You might even raise important questions for the employer about what they thought about the position.
And even if you’re not successful in making it to interview, you may be approached by the company to fill a different position, or simply kept in mind for the future. Making a good impression may help you down the line.
How to turn a “meh” into a “maybe”
Once you’ve taken the plunge and decided to go for a job you might not be a perfect match for, you’ll want to ensure your application does you justice.
Here are a few ways to give yourself the best chance of success:
- Read the job advert carefully and make sure to demonstrate clearly how your skills, qualities, experience, qualifications, and ambitions prepare you for the role.
- Emphasize the areas where you are strongest. This may set you apart from the crowd and prove good enough to get you invited to interview.
- Make your weaknesses into strengths. Consider yourself as the candidate that brings something different to the role, who therefore offers more.
- Mention if you are taking extra classes or online courses to advance your knowledge in the areas where you may have gaps. Include one or two takeaways from those courses that you have found interesting so far.
- Highlight your transferable skills. You should always make it clear how you think your skills may be applied to the demands of the job, but especially if you have a skill set the recruiters were not expecting.
- Ask someone else to read the job description and quiz you on why you want the job. Make sure they’re convinced before sending your application.
- Oversell. Do not try to make up for your lack of knowledge by exaggerating your abilities. Don’t say anything you can’t back up.
- Undersell. It may be utmost in your mind, but you should avoid drawing attention to the limitations of your application. Do not highlight or apologize for what you can’t do – focus only what you can.
Even if you’re not successful in applying for a job you’re not a perfect match for, going for positions that are a bit different will challenge you to think more openly about what you can offer as a candidate.
Applying for a range of roles can simply improve you application skills.
When not to bother
While there are many reasons not to limit yourself to positions that are a perfect match for your profile, it can also be good not to waste your time.
It’s important to know where to draw the line. Here are some rules of thumb:
- You lack more than half the skills highlighted in the job description as “required”, “mandatory”, “crucial”, or “essential”. These keywords usually signal a non-negotiable requirement on the recruiter’s side, and boasting less than 50% of these is unlikely to get you hired.
- Your skill set, experience, and university degree are completely irrelevant to what the job advert describes. Especially when there is a large number of applicants for a position, a completely irrelevant degree is the best reason for a busy recruiter to eliminate you from the hiring process.
- You are more than 1 year away from the minimum work experience that is stated.
- You lack the necessary language skills.
- You haven’t actively used the programme or tool necessary for the job for a long time. Software often changes over time, and those more fluent with a tool or programme will be much better placed to hit the ground running. Two years without practice is probably the most you can get away with – if that.