3 Reasons You Should Apply for That Job You’re Under-qualified For

3 Reasons You Should Apply for That Job You're Under-qualified ForIn my engineering career, I’ve had a lot of luck applying for roles that I was technically under-qualified for. I’ve been surprised each time at the fact that things went as well as they did for me in those situations. I’ve landed positions for which I didn’t have the “right stuff” according to the job description, but ended up being not only a good candidate, but the best candidate.
Most engineers wouldn’t do this. They’d never apply for something for which they weren’t 100% qualified to do according the the job description. Either they wouldn’t feel right doing it, or they would write it off as a waste of time. Most engineers would be shooting themselves in the foot for taking this approach, and could be much further along in their career if they took a different view.
Today, I want to offer 3 reasons why you should go ahead and apply for that job you’ve been ogling for weeks now, and try and convince you it’s not at all a waste of time. Keep these reasons in mind, and you may just find yourself in a much more satisfying job (with a much better salary) than what you would have ever expected you could at this stage in your career.
Now, without further ado, here are my three reasons:

Nobody ever gets their ideal candidate

For the most part, when you read a job description, it’s describing what the “ideal” candidate would bring to the table. Guess what: the ideal candidate rarely exists, and even more rarely do they apply for that specific job. Know what that means? A less-than-ideal candidate may get the job. All of a sudden, not having the perfect credentials and experience doesn’t matter, and shouldn’t be an impediment to applying. You might not be a perfect fit, but if nobody else is either, then you’re on an even playing field.
Now, I should point out that there are some caveats here. You should’t apply for something for which you don’t believe you could actually do competently. That’s especially dangerous territory for engineers, since people’s health and safety could be affected by their work. That being said, if you believe you can actually do the work, and you can prove it objectively, fill your boots and apply.
Another note is that you don’t need to – and should never – lie about your credentials and experience. Don’t pretend to be the ideal candidate to get the job. It’s unethical, and my point here is that you don’t need to be ideal in the first place. 

The hiring manager doesn’t even know what they want

In many cases, the person hiring for the role doesn’t have a 100% clear idea of what they need for their team. There may be more than one way to skin a cat, so to speak. If you put your name forward, even if it doesn’t fit the job description, then you may bring to mind a new and innovative way for the manager to solve their problem. It’s more important to offer them a solution than the solution they think they need.
Suppose you have expertise that can fill part of the hiring manager’s need. Maybe that’s good enough. Maybe you can fit into the team in such a way that the manager gets an even better configuration than they were looking for. Maybe you have some experience that the manager didn’t ask for that could still be perfect for helping them solve their problem. They’ll never know, and you’ll never know unless you put your name out there.

You might be the best applicant

Even if you’re not 100% the perfect fit for the role, you may still be the best of all the applicants. This is what I call the “Multiple Choice Effect”. Remember doing multiple-choice tests in school? The instructions at the top of the test almost always read “Chose the best answer”, and not “Chose the right answer”. You may be the best answer to a hiring manager’s problems. You don’t need to be perfect, you just need to be the best option.

Moving Forward

Tell us about your experience in applying for “stretch” jobs. What worked? What didn’t work as well? Use the comment form below to share your story. I promise to read every comment and offer whatever advice I can.

About Pat Sweet

Pat Sweet is a Professional Engineer working in Ontario, Canada. He’s a lead engineer focusing on commuter train electrical systems and is the author behind the Engineering and Leadership blog. There he shares his thoughts and experiences on leadership, productivity and career advice for engineers. Go to Pat’s blog now to get your free copy of his free career guide –”The 7 Habits of a Highly Ineffective Engineer.”

Photo credit: Flickr/ bgottsab