Employers have reported that in some cases as many as 75% of the applications they receive for a job are from candidates who aren’t remotely qualified for them. That is a dangerous game to play. It can give you a false sense of accomplishment that you’ve taken some action in your job search with the ‘long shot’ application.

In reality, you could be doing your career prospects more harm than good. Most employers will ignore or rapidly delete unqualified applications, considering them spam. A recent survey of 1,500 recruiters and hiring managers found that for 10% of them such unrelated applications were actually their biggest candidate pet peeves. (And of that group, 43% said they would go so far as to ‘blacklist’ those candidates from any other jobs as well – by suppressing their names from even coming up in future searches.)

So you don’t want that. From our internal research, Workopolis can see that only one third [32%] of candidates spend over a minute reading a job posting before moving on or deciding to apply – most make the call in less than half that time.

This is more consideration than employers give resumes – most initially review them for mere seconds. Still, 30 seconds to a minute is not usually enough time to carefully consider the full range of credentials and experience required to win the job – and more importantly, connect these specifically to the qualifications that you are bringing to the table.

We’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: you don’t increase your chances of getting hired by sending out more applications. You increase it by sending out better ones.

So, should you only apply for those roles where you meet 100% of what is asked for in the job posting – or fear being blacklisted by the company forever? No, not remotely. There is such a thing known as credential creep where employers are asking for more and more advanced experience, degrees, and certifications than the job actually requires. Often this is done as a filtering method, simply to receive fewer applications.

How to get a job you’re underqualified for

Only apply for jobs that you know you can actually do. Make sure that you understand the nature of the role, the industry, and the specific challenges a person in that job would face day-to-day. Then write a resume that demonstrates how what you have learned, accomplished, and experienced would allow you to be an asset to the company in that role.

Think about your transferable skills that can apply across industries, such as project management, communication, research, and relationship-building. Are you a skilled and effective writer or public speaker? Have you led a successful team or taken a project from plan to fruition? Can you manage a budget or schedule multiple tasks for a team of people? All of these are highly in demand and not specific to any one industry.

What accomplishments do you have that demonstrate how you are able to generate successful outcomes? Describe them as examples of what you can achieve in your targeted field.

Aside from highly technical skills that require years of study and advanced education to acquire, anything else can be learned. Showing that you are a stand-out candidate who has consistently accomplished what others might not have in previous roles will get employers attention.

One thing that can trip you up right out of the gate are the keyword filters in applicant tracking systems. If your resume doesn’t include the relevant keywords that the employer has targeted, it will never even be read by human eyes. Make sure that you read job descriptions for postings in your targeted field carefully, and include the most relevant keywords employers are looking for in your resume.

Here are the keywords most commonly sought by employers in resume searches for ten hot sectors.

Above all, write a resume that shows how you can do the job – and be prepared to back this up in the interview. Employers want to hire someone who can deliver on what they need accomplished. In most cases specific credentials are less important that the clearly demonstrated enthusiasm and ability to excel in the role.


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