I talk a lot about the value of job descriptions and how truly understanding a job description is a must before applying for a job. It serves many purposes: to help you talk about why you are suitable for the job, to enable you to know if you really want to do the job, and most importantly, determine if is it worth your time to apply for the job. When it comes to job qualifications people often wonder, “How much should I reach?” and “Am I qualified enough to apply to this job?”
It’s a really good question. If you just miss hitting the job qualifications should you still apply? Do you have a shot?
As always, it’s a complicated question and there is not a cut and dry answer. There’s no rule of thumb I can give you and say “if you are missing a qualification by X years, then yes, apply!”
The reason for this is that every company is different in the way they think about qualifications. Some approach from a very literal way: the qualifications you see are completely non-negotiable and necessary to do the job. Some approach in a way that is more “loose”: This is what we want in a perfect world, but if we can’t have that, we’d be open to something/someone close.
There is no real way to know which camp a company falls into and those are just two ends of the spectrum, and companies can fall anywhere in between. While I can’t give you a rule, here are a few things to think about when you are considering a “reach”.
When it comes to years of experience, numbers aren’t everything
The one problem with qualifications that say something like “must have at least 5 years of experience in entertainment marketing” is that it doesn’t account for top performers who’ve been fast-tracked for great performance. It also doesn’t take into account the level of responsibility you have held and things you’ve worked on. In some unique situations, it’s possible that someone with 3 years of experience could be a better candidate that someone with 7. My point is, if you see a qualification like this and you’re 1-2 years short, ask yourself if you are in the special exception category of someone who has done a lot in less time.
When it comes to years of experience, stretch within reason. You don’t want to come across as wasting someones time or not being aware about your skill set. Keep in mind that if you are entry-level it’s really hard to stretch. The gap between 0 years of experience and 1-2 can be pretty large. Where a 1 year gap might matter a lot at that level, the 1 year between 6 or 7 years probably doesn’t matter as much. Use your best judgement.
When a job description asks for a “skill”, go learn it
Skills are different than years of experience in that they are a lot more black and white. You either know how to use Photoshop or you don’t. You can build an Excel spreadsheet, or you can’t. Sure, skills like this get stronger as you practice and use them on the job… but when it comes to skills… if you don’t have it, go LEARN it. Do it now.
There are tons of ways you can learn valuable skills for free or for cheap and you should take advantage of them. If you are being focused and specific about your job search, skills that pop up on one job description are likely to pop up on other related ones. Either way, this is a good investment in your personal brand and there’s not much to lose. So go learn!
Put yourself in the person’s shoes. Would you hire you? Why?
I say this a lot, but on a topic like this you really have to use your best judgement and recruiters and hiring managers will respect that. Put yourself in the hiring managers shoes and ask yourself: Would you hire you? Why or why not? Can you close any of the gaps in your experience to get yourself there?
Some people don’t have enough confidence and undersell themselves and others can have a false sense of confidence. I’d say believe in yourself and what you’ve done but answer this question honestly since casting a wider net when it comes to job applications is not always a good thing.