You can still get a job you’re not qualified for. Here’s how

Applying for jobs that you're technically not qualified for may bring surprising results. Getty

When Lindsay Angus finished a post-graduate program at college, she began her job hunt.

The 25-year-old Toronto resident was fresh off a co-op when she applied for a full-time operations manager position — a job she wasn’t qualified for.

“It called for three to five years experience in operations and project management,” Angus told Global News. “I had about six months at the time.”

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Still, Angus’ resume got the company’s attention. She was called in for a group-style interview with people who had “way more” experience than she did.

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Angus says she made it through several rounds of interviews, and eventually the job was down to her and one other candidate.

“In the end, they went with the other candidate,” she said. “He had slightly more experience in operations while I only had the project management background. They said it was an extremely difficult decision, and they had no feedback for my interviewing skills.”

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Even though she didn’t get the job, the experience was a good lesson in applying for roles that are seemingly out of reach. Angus now works as a project coordinator for a furniture manufacturing company — another position that asked for more years of experience than she had.

“I was able to secure the job because I could speak to my experience and it aligned with their needs,” she said. “I think companies now are looking for employees that fit the culture of the team and would work well inside it.”

The importance of applying for jobs outside of your qualifications

According to B.C.-based career coach Irene Giesbrecht, Angus has the right idea.

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“Generally speaking, yes, you should always apply for something that you are not 100 per cent qualified for if that’s the job you want,” Giesbrecht told Global News.

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“If you’re an employer, you want someone who can do the job, but you’re not looking for an exact [qualifications] match… you’re looking for someone who you can see growth potential in.”

Giesbrecht says that employers also want to hire someone who has genuine interest in their company and sector. This means that a passionate person with five years experience may get a job over a more senior candidate with less zeal.

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Angus believes this comes down to making it clear to an employer what you can bring to the table.

“It is amazing what skills from school will transfer over to jobs, [and] it is just a matter of identifying those and communicating them well in a cover letter and interview,” she said.

Aligning with company culture is also important. Giesbrecht says she advises clients to put themselves in the mindset of the employer to try to understand what qualities they’re looking for. If you think you’d be a natural fit, convey that.

Another tip? If you don’t end up landing a job but made it to the final round of interviews, Giesbrecht suggests calling the workplace back about four to six weeks later.

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“About 10 to 15 per cent of the time, the person who was number one on the list, for some strange reason, doesn’t work out” she said. “It saves the company enormous legwork to take a look at number two, seeing that number two just called and is still interested.”

When not to apply for a job

While Giesbrecht encourages people to be ambitious and go after the jobs they want, it’s also important to be realistic. If you just graduated university, for example, you’re probably not going to get a job that requires at least 10 years of experience.

Giesbrecht says a good rule of thumb is to have around 75 per cent of the experience listed on a posting.

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“So if an employer is asking for five years experience, and at the beginning of your career you’ve got three, then you should be applying,” she explained.

“That changes at different stages of your career, but if you’re in the first decade of your career, that’s a good formula to use.”

The career counsellor also says that you need to be honest with yourself about the jobs you’re applying for. “It’s about knowing who you are, and knowing whether or not you can do the job to begin with,” she said.

This means looking at your experience and transferable skills, and seeing if they’ll set you up for success at this job. “If you have nothing [relevant], applying is wasting your time.”

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Learning from the job hunt process

Angus believes that applying for jobs outside of her experience level has been a good learning opportunity. She said she now encourages her friends to adopt this mentality, too.

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“There are a lot of people out there who may not have the perfect qualifications, but they can speak to their experience,” she said. “Sometimes it is amazing what you have dealt with in six months at a job that will prepare you for tasks ahead that you didn’t necessarily need ‘three to five years’ to learn.”

“My dad wrote in my [graduation] card, ‘Never discount your accomplishments over the last four years,’ and I carry that with me every day.”

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