Not Qualified for the Job or Not Confident? How to Tell the Difference

woman on train platform

“I don’t have that certification, but I could rock this job if someone gave me a chance. How can I get the experience if no one will give me the opportunity?”

We’ve all been there. You find the perfect job only to realize you’re missing one of the preferred qualifications. Your excitement deflates as you wonder how many other applicants have that magical thing you lack.

So, do you apply anyway and hope for the best, or do you move on and stay in your lane?

While you may lack some qualifications, it’s possible that you’re lacking something else entirely: confidence. As a former recruiter and current career coach, I often work with clients who want to apply for a job for which they don’t feel entirely qualified. But when I review their resume, I see nothing that should prevent them from being a great candidate. Some of the most qualified clients I work with aren’t held back by experience at all, but by low self-confidence.

Start by asking, “Am I truly not qualified for this position, or am I hesitating for a different reason?”

Are you missing qualifications and certifications legally required to do the job, or are you just feeling a bit insecure? As long as you’re not attempting surgery without a degree in medicine, chances are, low self-confidence is the only thing in your way. Apply for the job. You’re ready.

Consider whether the qualifications are necessary or negotiable.

Here’s some insider information from a former recruiter: Many job requirements may be flexible for the right candidate. Closely read the job description to see if it includes the words equivalent experience.

Here’s an example:

  • Job description includes four-year degree in nonprofit leadership or equivalent experience, and you have a two-year degree in English and no nonprofit experience. This job may not be a fit.
  • Job description includes four-year degree in nonprofit leadership or equivalent experience, and you have a two-year degree in English and you’ve led successful nonprofit programs. You may have the knowledge they’re seeking

Try to intuit which qualifications are necessary and which may offer some flexibility. Remember that a description is merely a guide to help recruiters and hiring managers gauge your skill level.

“Many job requirements may be flexible for the right candidate.”

If you don’t have all of the qualifications, is it worth applying anyway?

It takes courage to apply for a job. If you cringe at the thought of making a case for why you’re right for this position, it may not be worth your time. But if you get excited at the idea of landing the job and going to work on day one, go for it!

Get honest with yourself about whether this job is worth the extra effort that you’ll likely have to put in. In Part 2 of this two-part series, coming soon, I’ll offer concrete ways to increase your chances of landing the job.

Amy Everhart headshot

About the Author: Amy Everhart is a certified coach who helps difference-makers find purposeful careers. She has led nonprofit programs that empower and inspire teachers and students to tell their stories through writing and has served as a recruiter and job placement specialist. Amy is passionate about coaching, storytelling, and the ripple effect women’s empowerment has on the world.

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  1. Pingback: Not Qualified for the Job or Not Confident? How to Tell the Difference - Aim Blog

    • Shanna H.
    • January 25, 2017

    Divinely appointed timing for this post and that the it spoke to my current predicament!!! Now I know the question I should be asking myself when I feel drawn to an opportunity and am hesitant to take action. Thank you Amy!

      • Amy
      • January 25, 2017

      Of course, Shanna! I’m so glad it resonated with you. If you are feeling any little lack of confidence, of course you are going to feel hesitant about taking action! The big thing for me is understanding what is underneath my hesitance. : )

    • R.Beek
    • January 27, 2017

    The reality is that in many cases, even though you may be perfectly qualified without ticking all the boxes, your CV will never make it to the desk of the hiring manager because either a software program or a staff member from HR will weed out all the CVs which don’t tick all the boxes as described in the job specs.

      • Amy
      • January 28, 2017

      That is a great point, R! Part II of this post is coming out on Wednesday. We’ll talk about some ways of increasing your chances of getting attention and wowing your interviewers-even if you aren’t completely qualified. : )

    • Kim
    • January 31, 2017

    This was an excellent article! These are questions I was just asking several of my friends. Thank you for sharing.

      • Amy
      • February 1, 2017

      Thank you, Kim! I am so glad it was helpful!

  2. Looking forward to part 2 of this series!

      • Amy
      • February 1, 2017

      Thank you! It’s posted today.

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    • Eboni D Rhone
    • February 9, 2017

    What if you know you quailfy for the job. Will they not hire you if you do not fit their image? I applied for a job and was interviewed by a panel of all white, males. They liked my experiences and education but one said he was not sure if I would “fit into the culture of the workplace.” His opinion was enough to give the job to someone else with less qualifications than me. As an African American female, that lowered my confidence extremely where I stopped applying for jobs for a month. Idk if I was not confident enough and they though that or they just wanted to keep the office space “status quo.” How do you tell the difference if the employer lacks the confidence or you do?

      • JuJu
      • February 15, 2017

      Hi Eboni,

      I think it was okay for you to feel the way you did…it was basically aftershock. However, do not and I repeat do not ever feel you were not qualified, that job just was not for you be lucky they were honest. Discrimination comes in all forms and I have experienced it as a black woman however I fully understand that there are some very hateful people in the world however they don’t make it go around. Eboni I am forming positive network a group for women feel free to shoot me an email…..Good luck with your job search and what field are you in?

      • Amy
      • February 17, 2017

      This is a great question, Eboni, and I hate that you had to experience that. If you are truly qualified and truly confident about your abilities, it has to feel really frustrating to interview and then not be chosen, so I’m not at all surprised that it took the wind out of your sails! Regarding your question, I want to bring it back to what would make your feel happy, proud, and like you are contributing to the difference you want to make in the world. When evaluating employers, especially if you know you have what it takes, look at them with a critical eye, too. See if you can inuit whether or not these are people you actually want to partner with. Even if they recognize your qualifications, if they can’t accept the wholeness of you, they may not be the right company for you, and it’s okay to move on.

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