How to nail the job interview when you’re not 100% qualified
You might not be perfect on paper, but you can still wow them in person.
After hours of searching online, you’ve finally spotted it: The perfect job. It’s so right for you, you’re already planning where you’ll eat lunch with your new coworkers. Then you get to the last few bullet points of the job description and—oh no!—you realize you don’t meet all of the job qualifications. Drat!
But don’t give up on it just yet!
Although a Harvard Business Review study found that 46.4% of men and 40.6% of women didn’t apply to jobs because they didn’t think they had the qualifications to get hired, the truth is, that’s often a false perception. You can land the job even if you’re not 100% qualified.
“Remember, they are job qualifications, not always job requirements,” says Tallia Deljou, co-founder and president New Orleans-based professional development company of Mavenly + Co. Hiring managers aren’t expecting a candidate to meet all of the qualifications, says Deljou, so you shouldn’t expect yourself to either.
“Keep in mind that so much happens during the hiring process that sheds light on other qualifications you have,” Deljou says, “so show them what they’re missing, and explain why you are the best fit for the job.
If you managed to score an interview, chances are the recruiter and hiring managers know you’re missing one or two qualifications, but they saw something special in your resume and want you to wow them. Follow these steps to use your in-person powers of persuasion to convince the hiring manager that you can do the job and do it well.
1. Explain how your existing skills can apply to the requirements
Think of the job description as your guide for interview preparation by doing two exercises recommended by Jaime Petkanics, founder of the New York City-based job search consultancy The Prepary.
“Go through the job description line by line and, for any qualification you don't meet, think of a time from your past where you did something similar or relevant,” Petkanics says. “Then, brainstorm three additional reasons why you'd be amazing at doing that particular task” and practice your responses in advance.
Maybe a requirement is experience training new employees, and you don’t have hard skills for that—but you coach soccer in your spare time, so you know a thing or two about teaching skills to new learners.
So now you’ve got answers in case they ask about these skills. But you don’t necessarily need to bring them up unless someone else does. You can “focus your responses to interview questions on the parts of the job where you can demonstrate your knowledge, experience and expertise, as well as the results that you’ve brought about,” says Alyssa Gelbard, founder of New York City-based career consulting firm Resume Strategists.
2. Get some new skills—fast
Just because you’re not a pro at every program or skill they’re asking for, that doesn’t mean you can’t learn what you need in time for the interview. Getting proactive about professional development now will go a long way.
“If there is a program in the skills section that you're not familiar with, take a tutorial online so you can understand the basics,” says Petkanics. “Then, if you're asked about it in the interview, you'll be able to show that you took initiative and have the knowledge required—double win.”
In some cases, just letting them know you’re learning that skill will be enough to impress them.
3. Show them you know how to rise to a challenge
Another way to overcome a skills gap during an interview is to prove that you’ve come from behind before. Talk about a time you adjusted to a new job or new responsibilities in a role where you previously had zero experience.
“Discuss what you did to become familiar with the problem and how you figured out a solution and plan,” Gelbrand says. “The objective is to show that you are a quick learner and proactively took steps to get up to speed.”
If you’re still early in your career, chances are you’ve had to wear a lot of hats before—hats you hadn’t worn previously. Maybe you were hired to project manage a team, but you were also asked to write press releases. Maybe you were hired as a graphic designer, but you found yourself writing copy taglines, as well. Show that you’re scrappy and willing to do whatever is needed, even if you have to learn some new skills.