Main image of article Should You Apply For Tech Jobs You're Underqualified For?

If you’re currently on the job hunt, you’ve no doubt stumbled onto a job posting that excites you. There’s just one little problem: the job’s experience and skill requirements might seem a little out of your reach, especially if you’re a relatively new tech professional. Should you still apply?

Given the demand for tech talent (and the historically low tech unemployment rate), you might have a shot at a job that initially seems like it’s out of your reach—provided you can convince a recruiter and/or hiring manager that you not only have at least some of the skills necessary for the position, but also an aptitude for growth. More than one company has hired someone relatively inexperienced based on their potential.   

Before you dismiss any position, there are several compelling reasons to aim high:

  • Faster Growth: Stepping into a challenging role can accelerate your learning curve. You'll be pushed to develop new skills and gain valuable experience that might take years in a more familiar position.
  • Career Advancement: By demonstrating your ambition and ability to adapt, you position yourself for quicker promotions and career progression within the company.
  • Higher Earning Potential: Seniority often comes with a significant pay bump. Landing a stretch role can jumpstart your earning potential and set you on a trajectory for long-term financial success.

When sitting down to actually work on your application, here’s how you can position your skills in the best possible way:

  • Highlight Transferable Skills: Focus on transferable skills (such as communication, problem-solving, adaptability) that are invaluable no matter what the position. Describe how you used those skills to achieve outsized results in your previous roles.
  • Quantify Your Achievements: Speaking of results, make sure to draw a bright line between your actions and outcomes. Did you help your company achieve 50 percent cost-savings via your coding? Did you figure out a whole new line of business? Remember, pretty much any kind of positive data is useful.
  • Learning Agility: Show you can grow in any role. Tailor your resume, cover letter, and other application materials to portray you as someone who adapts quickly to new circumstances. If you’ve had to quickly adopt a skillset or knowledge base to succeed, make sure to mention that.
  • Personalize: You’ll need to show the recruiter or hiring manager that you care deeply about that specific job. Why are you a great fit for this particular role? What can you add that nobody else can?

Beyond the Resume: Alternative Credentials for Newcomers

If you're fresh out of school or transitioning careers, traditional work experience might be scarce. Here's how your non-traditional background can still impress a recruiter or hiring manager:

  • Personal Projects: Showcase your skills and initiative with well-documented personal projects. Open-source contributions or freelancing gigs can demonstrate your real-world capabilities.
  • Academic Achievements: Highlight stellar grades, academic awards, or research projects that showcase your problem-solving skills and subject-matter expertise.
  • Online Courses and Certifications: Demonstrate your commitment to continuous learning by showcasing relevant online courses and certifications that have equipped you with valuable skills.
  • Volunteer Work: Did your volunteer work involve using technology to tackle a social issue? Highlight how you adapted your skills to a new environment and delivered measurable results.

While companies seek experienced candidates, they also value ambition and raw talent. By effectively showcasing your transferable skills, passion to learn, and potential for growth, you can land a "stretch role" and jumpstart your career.