Should you still apply for a job if you don’t have the required experience?
We’ve all been there. Give it a shot, but only if you can do these things first.
At one point or another in your job search, you’re bound to encounter this scenario: You’ve found the perfect job, and the description reads like it was made for you. It seems perfect. But here’s the kicker. You keep reading, and under the requirements, you read that dreaded line: “Must have three-plus years of experience.”
“Companies want to know that you have successfully performed the job duties in the past,” says Alexandra Levit, business and workplace author, speaker and consultant. “The less they have to train you, the better.”
Valid point. But it doesn’t stop you from feeling like all of your dreams have been crushed. You’re left wondering, “Is it even worth applying?” What’s the right call? We spoke with career experts to figure out what your next steps should be.
Consider whether you have applicable experience
Ultimately, experts agree that even if you don’t have the required numbers of years of experience, it is still worth applying for the position—within reason, of course.
“If the company is looking for 10 years of experience and you have one, don’t waste your time,” says Don Goodman, career management coach and certified resume writer. “But if you have one to two years of experience and they are looking for three to five, that doesn’t rule you out, and you could be just as qualified.”
Miriam Salpeter, a career coach and consultant in Atlanta, says that if a candidate has skills that could be especially appealing to the employer—this can include significant volunteer experience in place of “work experience”—that it is possible the company will overlook the number of years of work experience and agree to interview you.
Prove why you’re valuable
If you don’t have enough years of experience, experts say it’s your skills and ability to perform the job tasks that will help you land the position.
“You have to look at what the employer is trying to achieve,” says Goodman. “Ask yourself if you can you deliver what the employer is looking for. They won’t hire you if you can’t perform the skills needed to get the job done.”
Think about the skill sets you’ve acquired from other jobs, internships, clubs and in your volunteer work and prove how they helped you get a task or project done. Wondering what skills will give you a leg up on the competition? According to the World Economic Forum, employers are looking for the following skills from college graduates: complex problem solving, people management, critical thinking, creativity and judgment and decision making.
“Make a case for why you are a good fit,” advises Salpeter. “You need to be able to answer with specific accomplishments demonstrating how you are going to be able to do the job.”
Get someone on the inside to vouch for you
So you have the skills and applicable experience, but what better way to sell yourself than with someone on the inside who can endorse you? Career experts say an employee referral, someone who can attest to why you’re worth considering—despite your lack of experience—is the icing on the cake.
“One problem I think many millennials on the job hunt have is that all their applications tend to sound the same,” says Goodman. “The best way to distinguish yourself is by networking. Follow companies on LinkedIn and see if you know anyone who knows someone.”
Don’t necessarily feel comfortable asking for a referral? Then ask employees for advice on how to stand out—that can be a great way to get an edge on your resume, and hopefully, your interview.
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Let’s say you’re applying for a new job, but you have limited relevant experience. You’ve cleaned up your resume and crafted a beautiful cover letter outlining the value you hope to create for the company and how you see the skills you’ve built transferring to this new position. In other words, you’ve taken exactly the right approach .
But before you hit send, stop and ask yourself: Are you making this common, but damaging, mistake?
One mistake I see all the time in this scenario is calling out your lack of experience for the hiring manager. You might not even notice you’re doing it, but you are any time you start a sentence like this:
- “Despite my limited experience with marketing…”
- “Although I do not have experience directly managing people…”
- “While I only have work experience doing administrative tasks…”
The reason this mistake is easy to make is because it seems like a seamless transition from why you’re interested in the position into how you are qualified beyond the typical relevant work experience recruiters look for. Problem is, when you write this, you’re essentially saying that you’re not a great hire, that you’re not quite the right fit for the role, or even that you would be starting from square one. And that’s just not the case!
Whatever your previous experience , you will likely be bringing with you tons of transferable skills. So, instead of drawing attention to your weaknesses, a better way to move on to your qualifications is to state your skills and ability to contribute directly. Stay positive, focus on your strengths, and immediately launch into your transferable skills and infectious enthusiasm for the position. Here’s how it might look instead:
- “I’m excited to parlay my experience in PR to a more analytical marketing position.”
- “I’m ready to take the next step in my career—management .”
- “I’m eager to translate my success in this administrative position to a more client-focused role.”
Sure, the question of how you’ll translate your skills to the ones required for the position may still come up in later conversations—and you should be ready to respond. Until then, don’t do the work of throwing out your own application for the hiring manager!