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Don’t Be Intimidated By “Qualified Applicants Only” Position

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When you’re looking for a job, it’s easy to feel intimidated by some of the language you come across in job descriptions:

  • “Requires elite-level skill”
  • “Looking for a rock star”
  • “Must have "x" years of experience”

Then there’s the catch-all — “qualified applicants only.”

How much weight should you give these “requirements” to make sure your job search is realistic without closing the door on potential opportunities?

To start, it’s helpful to understand why these qualifiers exist. Hiring managers want confident candidates — individuals who know they’re up to the task — and imposing certain requirements can cut down on the number of “unqualified” applicants applying to roles.

The takeaway? Don’t sell yourself short!

Here are some tips to keep in mind the next time strong job description language makes you think twice about applying for an open position.

Screening is changing, but the description looks the same

Remember that the job description is just the front line of a whole hiring process, so thinking ahead to the next steps will help you keep the proper perspective.

In the current job market, soft skills such as reliability, positive attitude and learning capacity are becoming just as important to employers as demonstrated technical proficiency. Make sure to highlight those attributes on your resume, citing examples whenever possible. It’s easier to train a dedicated, hard-working person who asks the right questions than it is to motivate a ho-hum employee with all the right credentials.


And keep in mind that many openings aren’t listed. If you make a favorable enough impression while applying to a position that an employer determines is beyond your level of expertise, you might still wind up in a job at a lesser level of responsibility where you can develop the skills necessary for promotion.

Evaluate the relative importance of qualifications in a job description

Look at the responsibilities and expectations of the position. If every item on the list sounds like something you could do, or maybe have done in some capacity, then you’re probably qualified for the position! 

Assume that the required qualifications are listed in order of priority. The first three items are probably the most important, but after that, there may be room for negotiation. 

Look for softer language, and take your cues about requirements from a broad interpretation, especially with regard to amount of experience. It turns out that experienced candidates are among the most difficult to find.

For example: if a job description lists “5-7 years of experience preferred,” the “preferred” is a giveaway that they’re not exactly holding their breath. A candidate with 4 years of experience could win the job if you sway them with your soft skills and knowledge.

Similarly, “salary commensurate with experience” offers another potential opening for interpretation. Focusing compensation discussions on salary range, as opposed to a specific salary, keeps you in the process, and may open up the position at a more junior level than is listed in the job description.

And if you’re working with a recruiter…

It’s tough to see the big picture of the job market on your own, especially as it applies to your own particular skills and background. A little advice can go a long way.

If you are currently working with a recruiter, use them as a resource to explore your options and learn about what you qualify for in the current job market. And if you’ve had success in previous assignments with your recruiter, there’s a good chance they can get you in the door for an interview based on their recommendation alone.

Remember: you may be more qualified than you think!