top of page

Job Applications – how to strike a balance between hope and reality.

How do you know whether to apply for a job or not?

Do you feel that you must meet all the criteria in order to be considered,

or is it worth sending in an application anyway, even if you don’t?

The case against applying if you don’t meet the criteria:

Are you being unrealistic and setting yourself up for rejection (or not hearing back at all) and the whole emotional rollercoaster that comes with that? It must be said that this is a possibility.

Minimum criteria are often quoted on the job advertisement for a reason. Perhaps there is a minimum qualification that you need, or a minimum level of previous experience that is required for the role (and hopefully a salary to match). After all you would want your doctor, accountant, mechanic, beautician etc to have a certain level of expertise and knowledge, wouldn’t you?

Are you simply applying for jobs out of you league? And if you got a job like this, would you feel at sea, stressed and an imposter. Perhaps you might make a mistake due to lack of knowledge or experience. That’s possible too.

So, you could save yourself a lot of time and heartache by letting some of those jobs go by.

In the recruitment process, you can imagine how many applications are sometimes received, so minimum entry requirements are often a way of simply narrowing down the selection. I receive 100 applications and 40 of them don’t meet the minimum requirement – cull, and I’m now down to 60. You don’t have it? Do not pass go, do not collect $500. So, you might simply never get the chance to interview, even if you feel you would be well suited to the job.

Bear in mind that repeated rejection can be hard to take and can distract you from other opportunities out there.

Perhaps your energy might be best spent applying for jobs where you have a more realistic chance of getting to interview and getting to offer. Focusing your time and energy on roles more realistically within your grasp may yield you better results.

Oh, but what if there is even the tiniest chance that I could get this role?

Shouldn’t I apply and see what happens?

The case for applying for a role where you don’t meet all the criteria:

You may have heard it said that a job specification is a wish list and that often it’s a very lofty one too. Could one human being possess all these attributes? Maybe not. And if you have some and not all of what they are looking for, what’s the harm in applying anyway?

I have to say, I often advise clients who are wavering “If you’re not in, you can’t win”. Your dream job isn’t going to land in your lap, you must go out there, apply for it and compete for it. If they don’t know you’re interested, it’s highly unlikely that you are going to receive a job offer by invitation.

And I have been proven wrong in the past with candidates who got interviews for jobs that I thought were outside their reach.

So, let’s say there’s a job advertisement and no candidate meets 100% of the criteria. What happens then? Perhaps they re-advertise, or perhaps they choose from the pool of applicants. In this case, the more criteria you meet the better and you DO have a chance of getting through to next round (but you won’t know that until you apply). So, to have that potential chance, you need to throw your hat in the ring.

There is also the matter of stretching and challenging yourself. Is it better to grow into a role and keep learning? This attitude can certainly set you apart from other applicants. You may have heard it said that if you meet all the criteria, then you're overqualified!

You may also subscribe to the theory of “what’s the worst that can happen?”. The worst that can happen is that you never hear from them, and you still hold out some hope, or put off making other decisions because you are waiting (in which case, follow up). A rejection is much better (at least you know) but not hearing back is the worst and I’m afraid it still happens. Anyway, this is the worst that can happen, in my view.

Do you agree? So, if you’re willing to accept this, or accept rejection, then go ahead and apply.

That little je ne sais quoi

Another time that applying for something where you don’t meet all the criteria can be successful is if you can give something else, something extra that makes you stand out from the other applicants.

Perhaps this is your dream job, your passion, your ‘once in a lifetime’ opportunity that you don’t want to let pass.

In this case your energy, enthusiasm, passion and just sheer audacity in applying for the job can make the employer sit up and say ‘Hey, I really need to see this person’.

If you feel like you have something like this to offer, then your cover letter is extremely important. It needs to make them want to read your CV and want to interview you regardless of their minimum entry requirement. You might even consider pointing out that you don’t meet the criteria and giving them reasons to give you a chance.

Hope v Reality

Some people say that hope isn’t a strategy, but every time you make a job application, you must have a little bit of hope inside, and you must invest something of yourself in the application. If you don’t have hope that your application can get you the job, then you probably shouldn’t apply for it. Temper your hope with realism and this will help you deal with any rejection.

Give them reasons to interview you and hey if you’re not in you can’t win!

30 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page