Haven’t you heard stories about a person who “met all of the requirements,” but was passed over at the final stages for someone who “seemed like a better fit”? Probably so – It is very possible that a company would hire someone with less experience who seems like they could hit the ground running, rather than someone with the requisite 5+ years of experience who doesn’t possess strong communication skills, as example. The reason companies use that dreaded number-of-years requirement, is to attempt to understand whether or not you have successfully performed the job duties in the past. The less they have to train you, the better – in most cases.
So as a job seeker who doesn’t exactly meet the years of required experience in the position description, should you still apply? How can you decipher between the mandatory requirements and the ones you could compensate for with your other amazing skills? What next steps should you take to make a case for yourself?
Can you DO the Job? – Prove Your Value
Okay, we didn’t say, “Do you want the job?” It doesn’t matter how passionate you are about the position or how intriguing you find the company; if the job requires translating documents from Spanish to English and you’re only conversational, you’re not qualified. However, if it’s the number of years that is standing in your way, our experts say that it’s your skills and ability to perform the job tasks that will help you land the job.
As you read through the job description, try to imagine how the person in this role spends their day and what the employer is trying to achieve. For example, break out “public relations experience” into writing press releases, pitching media, and representing a brand. From there, you can figure out that the employer is looking for someone who is organized, demonstrates time management, has the ability to write concisely and with proper grammar, and is capable of making decisions. Sound like you? If you can make a case for why you are a good fit based on those skills, you can snag an interview even though you may not have the 3-5 years of “public relations experience” required. In place of traditional on-the-job experience, include any internships, college credits, or volunteer work you’ve done where you utilized those aforementioned “transferable” skills.
Get Someone to Vouch for You
Include a written endorsement by someone who can attest to why you’re worth considering, despite your lack of the requisite years of experience. A great reference from a current employee at the company or an industry professional that you have worked with, is the icing on the cake – It can really set you apart from the other applicants. Don’t feel comfortable asking for a referral? Utilize LinkedIn connections to ask current employees for advice on how to stand out.
Ultimately, our experts agree that even if you don’t have the required number 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 a strong knowledge of Excel, and you have one year of experience and have never used the software, this is not the opportunity for you. However, if you have 2 years of experience but the job requires 3-5, you could include internships, college credits, or volunteer work in place of on-the-job experience. Often companies use the job description as a laundry list of skills they would love their “perfect” applicant to have. Truthfully, companies aren’t going to stall the hiring process until this figurative “dream candidate” rides up to their front door on a white horse. Solid, qualified applicants (like you!) get interviews too! So, if there appears to be a wish list of desired skills at the end of the description, see them as bonus skills, and focus your application on the core skills YOU have.