This Is What Makes Hiring Managers Fight for Under-Qualified Candidates

Remember the last time you read a job opening that was practically made for you? The description was a perfect match based on your interests, and after doing some research, you deemed the company culture a good fit, too. You were on cloud nine—or, at least, you were, until you scrolled down to the list of qualifications.

Sure, you could check most of the boxes, but by no means could you check all of them. There’s no sugarcoating it—as an applicant, you’d be considered a little under-qualified for the job. But that doesn’t mean you should give up hope.

I recently reached out to Muse recruiter Amanda Corrado, former executive recruiter, Jaclyn Westlake, and HR expert, Dorianne St Fleur to find out the best ways for under-qualified candidates to capture their attention.

According to all three, there are plenty of ways you can make an impression without being 100% perfect.

Show Genuine Enthusiasm for the Role

Hiring managers are looking for team members who truly care about what they’re doing. That’s why it’s so important that you show genuine enthusiasm, both for the position as well as the company at large.

“All things equal, given the choice between a candidate who is totally qualified yet unenthusiastic and a candidate who is less qualified but genuinely excited about the opportunity,” Westlake explains, “I’ll probably go to bat for the less qualified person.”

Not sure how you can really make your excitement clear? For Westlake, this can show up differently depending on the applicant, and can include “asking lots of great questions, demonstrating in-depth knowledge about the organization, sending prompt thank you notes, responding to interview requests in a timely manner, or taking classes or attending seminars to grow their industry knowledge.”

Emphasize What You Do Bring to the Table

For Corrado, one key thing to do throughout the process is to make things personal, starting with your cover letter. According to her, that means focusing less on “how great you are in general,” and more on “what you see in the job description, emphasizing that although you don’t have the exact background, you’ll still provide tons of value in the role.”

If you really do your homework and interpret the needs of the role, then you can articulate how your unique skill set can fulfill—and maybe even surpass what’s being asked for. (For example, bring up your additive skills early on.)

Even if you’re not an exact match on paper, Corrado explains why applying’s worth the effort: “I find that it’s easier to sell a candidate [to the hiring manager] who has done his research and thought this through,” as opposed to someone who’s a match on paper but isn’t prepared or knowledgeable about the role and company.