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Asked by Jorge on May 10, 2018

Should I only apply to jobs that I feel I’m qualified for? Or are some employers more interested in the person rather than a perfect match on paper for the open position?

Answered by Phil, Hiring Expert at Merck & Co., Inc., on May 10, 2018

Hi there - great question! My advice is to apply for positions where you meet the basic qualifications - these are typically listed in the job description. This is by far the most important thing that you can do to increase your chances of moving through the process and getting an interview. These requirements are determined by the hiring manager and are typically required in order to move forward through the process. 

Once you've determined that you meet all of the basic qualifications, I suggest tailoring your resume for the specific role that you're applying for. Match specific keywords and terms from the job description and incorporate them into your resume's bullet points. Best of luck! -Phil

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Answered by Tom, Hiring Expert at VF Corporation, on May 18, 2018

I would say many employers are "interested in the person rather than the perfect match on paper" as you say it.  Essentially we describe that as hiring for potential vs. past experience.  More often than not, employers need to do both.  Rarely is a perfect match on paper, the perfect match for a job because of the things you can't know for sure base on paper.  For example, someone may have all the basic qualifications we are looking for, but they can only thrive in a highly-structure environment or a highly-creative environment and so on.  If we don't offer that kind of environment, than they are not a fit for us, even though they looked good on paper.

The trick is being able to highlight your potential.  If you don't meet the basic qualification of the job, your application/resume will often quickly be ruled out be a recruiter or even artificial intelligence.  Additionally, I won't go into the details, but considering someone for a job who does not meet the minimum qualifications of the job, creates a legal risk for any employer.

So, what do you do?  For any job that you apply to, look closely at the qualifications and tailor your resume as best as possible to those qualifications.  If there are qualifications that are "nice to have" or "strongly preferred" and you have them, highlight the heck out of them.  That will help make up for any of the basic qualifications you may not be as strong on.  You might be tempted to add a cover letter to explain more, which you can certainly do, but my experience suggests most recruiters will not read you cover letter unless something in your resume sparks their interest and most AI tools will not analyze your cover letter well.  Stick to having the best resume possible.  Also, and maybe most important, don't rely only on employer application processes.  Leverage friends, family, co-workers, anyone that you can network with to give you an edge.  If a recruiter hears from someone that they trust, that they should take a look at your resume because "...he/she may not be a perfect match on paper, but he/she would be a great cultural fit and I think they have great potential..." it will go a long, long way to giving you a chance.

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