The Elite Career Blog

Love the job posting but don’t meet all the criteria?

Cassandra Hooimeyer
Cassandra Hooimeyer
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June 14, 2021
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6 minute read

Interest piqued.

Listing clicked.

You scroll down to the desired and mandatory requirements to do a keyword scan: It fits! Mostly...
You scroll up to see what the company’s About. Will they be worth working for? Oh, yes.
Back down to the selection criteria. You definitely meet at least 80%. There are just a few things there which are a little unfamiliar.  

Should you apply?

Ever since that famed Hewlett Packard statistic reported that women won’t apply unless they’ve met 100% of the criteria, but men apply when they meet 60%, it’s generally accepted that it’s ok to step up into a role – or across into a new career.
The job advertisement is the pirate code of human resources: more what you'd call 'guidelines' than actual rules. However, a guide still has a purpose in the hiring process and your documents, as well as your interview, will certainly be measured up against it.

So how can you ensure you are not found wanting?

There are three steps to identify whether this 80-percent-er may be just the job for you and preparing throughout the application process.

Download our free Application and Interview Preparation Template to help work your way through these steps.

Step 1: Identify what the employer needs

There are times where an employer is not really invested in whether you have the exact experience. Their real investment is in what that experience should mean:

  • That you can perform the role with excellence
  • The transition will be smooth as you’ll ‘hit the ground running’
  • They won’t lose another employee to educating you in the role for too long

Companies want to hire competence.
Sometimes you only know how to perform a role if you have been directly trained in it.
Other times you have exposure, knowledge and the capacity to apply yourself to start strong, own the role and excel. Whether your competence arises from specific experience or in leveraging existing skills to excel MAY NOT be a sticking point.

So is this the role for you?

Maybe! If you really love the look of a role, scan it for the experiences, skills and training which are critical to the role. Then identify the aspects in which you have no direct prior experience – or less than you would like.
Don’t worry about the little gaps, but hopefully you have identified less than three core areas of little to no experience. Now move on to Step 2.

Step 2: See if you can convince yourself

Go on, give it a go. Download our free Application and Interview Preparation Template and use it to talk yourself through how to be what the employer is seeking. Trying to convince yourself that this is the right role for you has three useful functions.

1. It helps you BRAINSTORM

List the requirements contained in the job advert that you’re not 100% on. Detail what you do bring which supports what the organisation needs. It may seem simple, but often when we’re pursuing jobs anxiety and hope can cloud our thinking. Being clear on what we bring to the table is key.

Ask yourself:

  • What’s the requirement?
  • What specific competencies am I missing from the listed requirement?
  • What relevant skills and experiences do I bring that might help achieve this?

I can hit the ground running because…

2. It helps you STRATEGISE

Tasks and responsibilities often sound simple on the surface. Break the requirement down into its practical elements and map out how you would perform it from end to end. Sometimes new responsibilities are simply a new mesh of tasks and skills already aced.

Google is helpful here. Search the task/skill/experience. Once you know the steps it takes to perform the responsibilities of the role you can identify any pre-employment preparation which might take some of the load out of the first six months.

Ask yourself:

  • What practical steps I be taking to perform this requirement on the job?
  • How could I prepare myself to really excel in achieving this criterion?

3. It helps you SCREEN

New jobs are always full of unknowns.

New faces and new places.

A new desk to call your own.

A new coffee regime.

New systems and processes to navigate.

When you don’t have the full experience for a role, your new responsibilities are another uncertainty to deal with. This can, at times, wear us thin and it’s important to protect our mental health as well as the people we come home to after a long day. Is all this 'New' something you are comfortable coping with through the adjustment period?
Have you demonstrated the ability to adapt under this sort of pressure in the past?
Will you be ok?

Ask yourself:

  • Am I convinced?

Bonus function: It helps you PLAN

If you just love the look of this job but can’t convince yourself that it’s right for you right now, then clearly identifying the gaps that can’t be filled with transferrable skills and experience is a great starting point for personal development.  Review the ‘How could I prepare?’ question and sketch out some SMART actions that you could take to prepare yourself for future opportunities.

So, still keen on the role?  Move to Step 3.

Step 3: Prepare positive written and verbal responses  

So how do you convey that you can rise to the challenge in your cover letter and at interview? Though it’s really a subject for another, longer post, here are some starting phrases and sentence structures that can help you express your suitability with clarity and confidence.

In writing:

In a cover letter, you want to address perceived gaps. Use the information you pieced together with the questions in Step 2 and try filling in these gaps.  

  • I bring to this role experience in ___ which would help me produce ___ and achieve the ___ required for _____.
  • My skills in ___ underpin my management of ___ and would be of great value in ___.
  • My ability to ___ would contribute to the ___. 
  • I am frequently relied on to ___. This experience in ___ would prove an asset to the ___.

At interview:

Interviews always contain the one question you don’t want to hear, so why not embrace it?
The questions that exposure the gaps are an opportunity to demonstrate why you’re excited about this role and why you’re convinced that you can excel.

The key is sandwiching. Start by referring to a relevant experience which you do have, briefly acknowledge lack, then strongly demonstrate how your experience still meets the need.

  • I've done ____ before and while I don't have specific experience in ____, I'm excited about applying my skills in ___ to achieving this outcome.  

For added conviction, step out a brief example of how you would apply your skills to the criterion. This demonstrates an appreciation of the role as well as a thoughtful and prepared approach to the opportunity. 

  • I have thought about this carefully. My experience in ___ would be key to achieving ____. I would ___ and ensure that I was ____.

A job won’t always be the right job. However, when we pursue new opportunities with clarity using the position description as a tool to prepare, sometimes that between-tasks-skim of the Most Recent job postings can end a bit like this:

Document sent.

Interview aced.

Offer accepted.

Don't forget to download our free Application and Interview Preparation Template before applying for your next role!

If you're not sure if your resume is ready to submit for your next job application, you can make a free enquiry and receive feedback on your resume.

Alternatively, answer 10 quick questions to make sure your resume is 2021 ready. We also have a busy Facebook page where we regularly post tips and tricks to help you with resume writing. 

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