Why You Don’t Have to Be the Most Qualified Candidate to Land the Job

We’ve all been there. You see a job listing for a position that perfectly aligns with your career goals. But then, you notice the qualifications and experience required, and your heart sinks. For LinkedIn job listings, the platform even goes so far as to tell you how many people have already applied for the job, and how many of your skills make you a good (or not-so-good) candidate. It’s meant to help you filter through job listings to find ones that are a good fit—but when your heart is set on a certain company or position, it can also be quite disheartening.

I’m here to tell you to set all that aside—at least for the moment. Granted, you can’t land just any job with no qualifications whatsoever—but contrary to popular belief, employers rarely choose a new hire based solely on qualifications, and you’d be surprised at how often employers pick candidates that don’t look as good on paper as others vying for the position. What I mean by this is that if it’s the job you want and you’re confident you can do it well, there are ways to position yourself as the candidate to beat even if others appear more qualified. Here’s why this is so.

Culture Fit Matters More Than Qualifications

Many employers prioritize finding candidates whom they see as compatible with the company culture rather than qualifications alone. The reason? If you’re a good fit, they can always help you improve your skills, but they also know that hiring someone who doesn’t get along with the team or doesn’t align with the company’s values can create a tense and unproductive work environment. As a candidate, you can demonstrate your cultural fit by researching the company’s values, mission, and work culture. Use this information to tailor your resume, cover letter, and interview responses to show that you share the company’s values and have the skills and personality traits that align with the team.

Soft Skills Are Just as Essential as Hard Skills

Skills like communication, teamwork, and problem-solving are considered “soft skills” that are important for many job positions. Being able to work well with others, adapt to changing situations, and handle conflicts–these are highly valued skills in most workplaces. These abilities might not readily appear on your resume under your work history or education, but you can work them subtly into your resume by highlighting your accomplishments in various jobs as opposed to just listing your job duties. (See my post on common resume mistakes for more on this.) When you’re applying for a job, make sure to highlight your soft skills during your interview and provide examples from your past experiences.

Passion and Enthusiasm Can Be More Important Than Experience

Insider tip: Employers aren’t that impressed with your experience–they’ve probably got dozens of resumes from highly experienced applicants. Nor are they that put off by your seeming lack of experience. They want to see candidates who are eager to learn, work hard, and grow with the company. They look for people who have a positive attitude, energy, and the determination to succeed. If you don’t have the experience or qualifications that a job posting requires, but you’re passionate about the role and industry, you can demonstrate this passion by demonstrating that you’ve done your homework on the company, asking thoughtful questions during the interview, and highlighting your transferable skills.

Networking Can Help Seal the Deal

Finally, don’t discount the power of a good job referral from someone in your network. Networking isn’t just about making contacts; it’s about building relationships. Connections can provide you with insider knowledge about the company and job, and even put in a good word for you. A strong recommendation can open doors that qualifications alone cannot. If you know someone who works in the company (or even someone who doesn’t work there but is well-respected), their influence can hold more sway than you think. It’s not uncommon for hires to be made based on the right person’s recommendation alone.

So…bottom line…if you get word about a job that fits your goals and passions but you’re insecure about how you look on paper–don’t let that deter you from going for it. You’ve likely got other qualities the employer is looking for, and by highlighting those qualities, you can still position yourself a real contender for the job. If you’re not sure how to do that, or if you just want some extra guidance in landing the job you want, I’m here to help! I’ll even talk through your goals with you in an initial consultation with no obligation. Just click here to access my calendar and set up a time.