You Can Apply--Can You Do A Job You're Underqualified For?

by Cathy Vandewater | July 26, 2013

Maybe it's a lack of jobs you are fully qualified for.

Maybe it's just one gig at a company you're dying to work for that you're not quite experienced enough to do, but can't bring yourself to pass up.

Should you go for it with a role that's out of your league?

Well, there's not too much to lose if you don't get the job. It's getting an interview—or maybe, just maybe, landing the job--that could throw you into a tailspin.

So, are you ready for it?

Here are a few questions to ask yourself before hitting "Apply":

1. Do you actually want to do the job?

Sometimes, we focus more on the glamorous title or getting our foot in the door at a company than do on the actual responsibilities of a role. Be sure, before you get in over your head, that you actually feel capable of (and want to perform) the duties of a high level job—including making tough decisions, having others report to you (and taking responsibility for their work), staying late or working erratic hours, answering to difficult clients or executives, and maybe taking on roles you're not comfortable with, like speaker at all your company's meetings, or sales point person when meeting with clients. Do your research, so there aren't any nasty surprises.

2. Can you make a compelling case for your ability to learn? For the indispensable skills you've already got down?

It's a good thing to tell a company you can—and fully intend to—grow with them. But you'll need to have justifiable evidence that you've learned on the job before, and quickly. You'll want to make a quick and strong story of that proof in your cover letter, before HR can look at your resume and see a lack of experience. Don't be afraid to reference bosses or coworkers that can attest to your above-and-beyond work record either. It never hurts to have a whiz-kid reputation.

Also: make a case for what you already can do. The concept of "hitting the ground running" is a pretty seductive one, even to progressive employers who think they want a young, fresh go-getter. Don’t forget to point out what you're already a whiz at—and can do immediately, while learning the other aspects of the job.

3. Can you handle having to prove yourself all the time?

Even if you make it through the first round of interviews, you'll likely encounter some pushback in your next steps. Or on the job, from your new coworkers. It's going to take a lot of positivity to overcome naysayers—especially if you yourself have doubts in your competence. If you do decide to go for it, make sure you've got a lot of support in your corner. You may need it.

Another thing to have in your back pocket: a plan B. Applying beyond your skill set is a risky move. It can pay off big, but on the chance that it doesn't, work on other leads at the same time. If nothing else, acing an easier interview will build up your confidence for the tough ones.

--Cathy Vandewater, Vault.com

Read more:

Find Your Employer “Culture Fit” With Social Media
5 Interview Questions Investment Banking Interns Need to Nail
3 Ways to Trouble-Shoot Your Resume

Filed Under: Interviewing | Job Search | Resumes & Cover Letters | Workplace Issues


Vault Honors the Best Law Firms for Diversity You Don't Have to Work on Wall Street to Work on Wall Street

Vault welcomes your views. Please stay on topic and be respectful of other readers. Review our User Guidelines.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Career Update Newsletter

Tips and tools to help you manage your ideal career.