How to Know If You’re Qualified For A Job Before You Apply

There’s a lot of advice out there that says to go ahead and apply for jobs even when you’re not sure you’re qualified.  This can be great advice in some situations. But let’s be honest, no amount of passion or positive thinking is going to land you a job requiring skills you just don’t have. For instance, even though you might like to manage an office, it will be hard to land a job as an office manager if you’ve never even managed to pay your taxes on time.

This isn’t to say that you should always read a job description literally. In fact, knowing how to interpret them accurately (i.e. read between the lines) is the best way to understand what an employer is really seeking. Because underneath all that official language lurks the real heart of the job – the rest is icing.

So how do you know whether to go for it or not? Here are some tips.

Decide if You Have the Skills

Skills are skills. You either have them or you don’t. And no amount of enthusiasm can make up for your lack of them. Just because you’ve created a simple blog on WordPress doesn’t necessarily qualify you to build websites for Fortune 500 companies.

But just because you’ve never managed a team at work shouldn’t dissuade you from applying if you’ve gained those skills elsewhere –for instance, managing a group of volunteers for charity.

The key is to be able to recognize the same skill in different guises. Look closely at your abilities and experience and determine if they’re transferable to the job you’re seeking. Even though many of your skills can be applied to the job, do you have the experience and know-how to accomplish the goals of the position?

It also helps to know if the position will allow for on-the-job learning. Typically, the more advanced a position, the less flexible it is.

Know What’s Negotiable (and Non-Negotiable)

At the very least, you should be able to fulfill the minimum requirements of a job description. If the job requires fluency in JavaScript or French, obviously you’re not qualified if you’ve only dabbled in both.  

Know the difference between requirements and preferences. Requirements are non-negotiable. Preferences represent a kind of wish list. This can include years of experience or supplemental skills such as knowledge of certain computer applications or programs.

Obviously, a candidate who’s the closest match has an advantage over those meeting fewer requirements. The burden is on you to prove why you’re the better candidate despite having fewer qualifications.

What unique traits can you bring to the table that others cannot? If you’re unable to answer this question for yourself, you’ll be hard-pressed to convince an employer. Stick with jobs where you can make a compelling case for yourself, regardless of the job description.

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Nicole Cavazos writes about the job market for ZipRecruiter.

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