It’s going to happen: You start to read about a job opening that seems to good to be true. The organization is a place you’re familiar with and want to work at; it’s in a city where you’d like to live; the money and benefits are appropriate for your experience level; the job description is relevant to your career interests; and it seems that there would be opportunity for promotions within the organization over time. Perfect—but then you read the list of requirements carefully, and you don’t have everything. Should you go ahead and apply anyway?
Maybe. First of all, take a close look at the requirements and see if they break it into skills that are required and preferred. Some job postings will even have a third category: desired skills. If they do, then you need to look at each category separately.
In most instances, the employer wants applicants to have all the required skills, they would be really happy if the applicants have those plus a lot of the preferred skills, and if they found someone who also had the desired skills, they’d be over the moon.
Just as required, preferred, and desired skill sets flow in a decreasing order of importance, employers will sometimes list the skills within each category in order of importance. If they list five required skills, and you only have three, don’t bother applying. But if you have four, and especially if you have the first four on the list, it may be worth your time to apply. That will depend on how many of the preferred skills you have.
If you have all but one of the required skills and most of the preferred skills, and especially if you also have most of the desired skills, you have a chance at getting an interview. Be sure you use their exact words for each skill on your resume, and make those skills obvious by emphasizing them in the top third of your resume.
If you do get an interview, be prepared to address the missing requirement. For example, if the requirement you don’t have is three years of experience in a particular job and what you have is a couple of four-month internships, be prepared to talk about the work you did at those internships that demonstrate your knowledge of the position and your willingness to learn. If the requirement is experience with a software program you’ve never used, tell them about an online course you’re going to take to learn that software or explain how it is similar to another program that you have used. Sometimes you can make the case that you have had comparable experience; for example, if they require that you have experience writing press releases, and you were an editor for your school newspaper, you can talk about all the press releases you have read (because as editor, you would have received lots of press releases), and demonstrate how that has led to an awareness of the key components of a press release.
You can get more advice on this topic in my book’s Tip 36. Read job ads and position descriptions carefully.