Thinking You Are Underqualified Makes You Underqualified

Many students don’t apply for internships or jobs because they either see or believe that they do not fit all of the job criteria, automatically taking themselves out of the applicant pool and guaranteeing that they will not receive that particular job offer. This can be potentially harmful to an individual’s career-related self-esteem, but it is a problem that can be rectified with a simple change in mindset.



The thought process behind not applying for a job that you’re not confident in getting is logical. In fact, many job applications intimidate applicants by having both a “required” and a “preferred” section of qualifications that an employee should have. When these lists span half a page and include phrases such as “1-2 years of industry experience preferred” or “CPA (or CFA) qualification recommended” or “grad student preferred,” it can be really difficult as an undergraduate student who may not check all of the boxes to put yourself out there and apply. It’s scary and it seems embarrassing to throw your resume in, knowing that you will likely not get a call back. That being said, those lists of impossible standards (for students our age) are there to deter you and are not absolute guidelines. 



It is hard to apply for a job thinking that you’re facing imminent rejection, but you must remember that no opportunity that you apply for is ever a lost cause. In fact, seriously under qualified people get hired all the time. It might be luck or it might be some very good interviewing/personable skills, but people get into industries and roles that they know nothing about all of the time. All it takes is for one person to like your resume enough and call you in, so why not apply even if you meet a few of the requirements or qualifications preferred? In fact, if there are requirements set in stone (such as a necessary requirement, or a minimum requirements section) and you don’t meet the educational level that the company is looking for, it still doesn’t hurt to apply. If someone is looking for college juniors and seniors, but you’re a sophomore or first-year, still apply. If you want the opportunity, you must apply and get your materials out there, even though there’s a risk that nobody will look at them.



There are several benefits to applying, even if you’re completely sure you won’t get an interview. 

  1. First, you may actually get an interview or the job. Sometimes, hiring managers put requirements to control the number of applications or the quality of applicants that they receive. While these are quite effective, as many people believe themselves to be underqualified and do not apply, if you end up applying, there’s a chance all applications are being combed through, and you may just stand out. If it’s a job you really want, there is no embarrassment or shame in applying – the worst that can happen is that you don’t get it, but since you didn’t think you were anyway, why not just apply?!
  2. Getting yourself into that company’s system shows interest and may open up other doors/give you opportunities to their talent network in the future. Once you submit an application and/or connect an email, there’s often a chance to sign up for updates or communications from the company’s recruiting department or talent network. Not to mention, having your name in whichever system the company uses to find new talent and get information from applicants is almost always a plus, as the timestamp from your application can later prove that you have long been interested in the role, industry, and company.
  3. Finally, applying for jobs that you previously thought you weren’t good enough for can calm your nerves and make you realize nothing bad can happen. It can also help convince yourself that you are worthy of those jobs and therefore improve your confidence. Confidence is so important when applying to positions, because it allows you to play the game better, from interviewing to negotiating to waiting for a decision or offer. Having more confidence in yourself and your career-related abilities will reflect in all areas of your life. 



Applications are often seen as the biggest hurdle when trying to get a job, but if you move along at a good, focused speed, you can crank out many applications during an hour of your time, especially if you’re quickly altering and tailoring resumes and cover letters. The effort that you put into an application should not ever deter you from trying, because it’s truly unpredictable which applications won’t get you anywhere and which ones will call you back within a week. To truly and statistically maximize your chances, apply to every position you’re interested in because there’s no way to tell what companies you will personally find success with.



Finally, here is the simplest way to think about the mindset switch and something that may help you get past the mental block of not applying for that job: if the previous mindset was that you weren’t going to get the job anyway or that the employer would find it funny that someone under qualified would apply, so therefore it doesn’t matter or make sense to apply, why not think,

I’m probably not going to get the job anyway, but there’s a small chance I might, and there are no negatives in this situation, so I should just do it.

You have to realize that if an employer isn’t going to pursue employment with you, your qualifications end up not mattering, as you previously thought. But since the probability of you getting a job that you’re underqualified for is never zero, and it’s not illegal or looked down on to apply for jobs where you know you do not fit into the requirements, there’s truly no downside and you should go for the opportunities that you’re interested in, no questions asked.

We miss out on so much because we think that we’re not ready, not qualified, and not good enough. It can be a vicious cycle that ends up stripping us of other amazing opportunities and turns into a domino effect that can plague you in your post-grad career endeavors. For your professional sake, try to break this habit now and freely apply for jobs that you want and feel you are a good fit for, regardless of what others say.


If this wasn’t motivational enough for you, here is a Forbes article on why you should apply for jobs you’re not qualified for, and here is another article explaining the harmful mentality behind not applying for jobs simply because of the fears associated with them.


By Alina Minkova
Alina Minkova Creative Blog Curator Alina Minkova