How to get around education requirements in job ads
Don’t have the right degree for a job? You can still land an offer by following these tips.
Finally, you’ve found your dream job posting. More good news: You’re a perfect fit for the position—you’ve got the skills, experience, and passion to not only fulfill the role but also become a top performer. The bad news? You don’t meet the education requirements.
Don’t despair. “In many cases, job performance trumps education, so having great work experience and achievements on your resume can potentially help you overcome degree requirements,” says Mindy Thomas, a Philadelphia career coach and resume writer. Oftentimes it’s still worth applying to a job even though you don’t have the education credentials.
Of course, whether you should apply for a position depends on the degree and the type of job in question. If you don’t have an engineering degree, for example, applying for a robotics engineer job would probably be a waste of time. But if you don’t have a marketing degree, you might still be able to get a job in advertising.
“You should look at what’s listed as minimum requirements and what’s listed as preferred requirements,” says Thomas. If a particular degree is preferred, it’s still worth applying for the job, as long as you meet the other major job requirements.
If you know you’ve got what it takes to do a job well, these steps can help boost your odds during the application and interview processes—even if you don’t have that degree.
Highlight your relevant strengths
Though you’re starting off at a slight disadvantage, you can still compete with fully qualified job candidates by emphasizing what you do have. “Marry your knowledge, skills, competencies, and experience with your job search,” says Dan Ryan, founder of talent acquisition and development firm Ryan Search & Consulting.
Carefully reviewing the duties described in the job ad can help you determine the keywords that can give your resume a boost. If a job is looking for a development associate with experience acquiring and cultivating major gift donors, use that exact language in your resume.
Also, focus on transferrable skills from your work experience. For example, both teachers and sales professionals are highly adept at giving presentations. Both retail associates and hotel employees have top-notch customer service skills. Where do your talents overlap with the requirements of the job you’re seeking? “Like any job application,” says Amy Wolfgang, CEO at Austin, Texas-based Wolfgang Career Coaching, “you need to show how you’re a great fit for that role.”
Beef up your resume’s education section
Don’t have a college diploma? You can still showcase your achievements. Create an “honors and awards” section on your resume and list any professional certifications, training programs, or other education credentials that you have under your belt. Testimonials are another way to boost your resume. Reach out to former bosses or co-workers (three is a good number) and ask for a one- to two-sentence endorsement of your skills.
Connect with an employee on the inside
Getting a referral from an employee at the company could give you a foot in the door for a job interview, says Wolfgang. Start by combing your existing network. If you don’t have a first- or second-degree connection at the organization, there are other ways to find an advocate.
“Trade groups or professional associations can help you connect and build relationships with current employees,” Wolfgang says. Informational interviews can also give you the ability to make a friend on the inside. Once you’ve found someone on the inside, “you can find out from the person how firm the education requirements are for the job,” Wolfgang says.
Be prepared to talk about it during the job interview
Although you don’t want to draw attention to the fact that you don’t have the relevant education credentials, you should be prepared to discuss the subject during a job interview. If the interviewer says, “I see you don’t have a bachelor’s degree in communications,” the best reply, Wolfgang says, is something like, “You’re correct. I don’t have a bachelor’s degree in communications. But let me tell you what I do have that makes me well-qualified for this position.”
Come prepared with two or three anecdotes about specific professional accomplishments that would be valuable at this particular job. That might mean explaining how you solved a problem, how you went out of your way to close a sale, or how you were able to save money on a project.
Put a professional finish on your resume
Just because you don’t have a degree doesn’t mean you’re not a great fit for a job. Now it’s time to convince a hiring manager. Knowing how your resume should look is key when hoping to attract their attention—especially when you don’t have all the requirements. Could you use some help with that? Get a free resume evaluation today from the experts at Monster’s Resume Writing Service. You’ll receive detailed feedback in two business days, including a review of your resume’s appearance and content, and a prediction of a recruiter’s first impression. It’s a quick and easy way you can clearly and powerfully display the value you’d bring to the job.