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Not Qualified for the Job or Not Confident? How to Tell the Difference

A photograph of an Asian woman wearing a green blouse sitting a desk across from a man in a light blue shirt.

“I don’t have that certification, but I could rock this job if someone gave me a chance. How can I get the experience if no one will give me the opportunity?”

We’ve all been there. You find the perfect job only to realize you’re missing one of the preferred qualifications. Your excitement deflates as you wonder how many other applicants have that magical thing you lack.

So, do you apply anyway and hope for the best, or do you move on and stay in your lane?

While you may lack some qualifications, it’s possible that you’re lacking something else entirely: confidence. As a former recruiter and current career coach, I often work with clients who want to apply for a job for which they don't feel entirely qualified. But when I review their resume, I see nothing that should prevent them from being a great candidate. Some of the most qualified clients I work with aren’t held back by experience at all, but by low self-confidence.

Start by asking, "Am I truly not qualified for this position, or am I hesitating for a different reason?"

Are you missing qualifications and certifications legally required to do the job, or are you just feeling a bit insecure? As long as you’re not attempting surgery without a degree in medicine, chances are, low self-confidence is the only thing in your way. Apply for the job. You’re ready.

Consider whether the qualifications are necessary or negotiable.

Here’s some insider information from a former recruiter:

Many job requirements may be flexible for the right candidate.

Closely read the job description to see if it includes the words equivalent experience.

Here's an example:

  • Job description includes four-year degree in nonprofit leadership or equivalent experience, and you have a two-year degree in English and no nonprofit experience. This job may not be a fit.
  • Job description includes four-year degree in nonprofit leadership or equivalent experience, and you have a two-year degree in English and you’ve led successful nonprofit programs. You may have the knowledge they’re seeking

Try to intuit which qualifications are necessary and which may offer some flexibility. Remember that a description is merely a guide to help recruiters and hiring managers gauge your skill level.

If you don’t have all of the qualifications, is it worth applying anyway?

It takes courage to apply for a job. If you cringe at the thought of making a case for why you’re right for this position, it may not be worth your time. But if you get excited at the idea of landing the job and going to work on day one, go for it!

Get honest with yourself about whether this job is worth the extra effort that you'll likely have to put in. In Part 2 of this two-part series, I'll offer concrete ways to increase your chances of landing the job.


About the Author | Amy Everhart is a certified coach who helps difference-makers find purposeful careers. She has led nonprofit programs that empower and inspire teachers and students to tell their stories through writing and has served as a recruiter and job placement specialist. Amy is passionate about coaching, storytelling, and the ripple effect women’s empowerment has on the world.

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