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How to Apply for a Job When You Don’t Have All the Qualifications

Sometimes, you may not look qualified for a posted job even when you know you can do it well. Employers may hire you if you can show you’re capable.

If you’re sure you can do the job, you should apply. Here are some special situations you may face and things you can do to improve your chance of getting hired.

You’re missing a degree or diploma

If you’re sure you can do the job, explain:

  • How your education and experience relate to the job
  • Any courses you’ve taken that would interest the employer
  • Your experience as well as your education, even if it’s volunteer experience

Your credentials are from another province or country

Get your credentials evaluated. This can be done by a university, professional association, or agency such as the International Qualifications Assessment Service. Include the assessment with your resumé or say that you’ll bring it to an interview.

Each province and territory in Canada has different laws and regulations for the professions and trades. Get up-to-date information on certifications in your field.

You don’t have a high school diploma

If you have a lot of job experience and great skills, list this in your resumé before your education. When listing your education, use a heading such as Education and Development and list workshops and seminars you’ve taken.

If you didn’t finish high school, have no post-secondary education, and haven’t completed any other training, don’t mention school in your resumé. In some cases, education may not be an issue. But be ready to talk about your work experience in a positive way to lessen the focus on the education requirements you’re lacking.

If you have any post-secondary at all, you do not need to say that you didn’t finish high school.

You have not finished your post-secondary education

Be clear with the employer that you plan to finish.

For example, you can write “Marketing Research, University of Anytown—Business Administration Diploma Program—2015 to present, to be completed by July 2020.” This tells the employer that you’re in the process of finishing.

You’ve been out of the workforce for a long time

Use the heading Relevant Experience and describe your volunteer work and life experiences. Include the names of places you’ve volunteered and the dates—just as you would for a paid job.

A combination or functional resumé works best for this. It allows you to highlight skills such as communication, teamwork, problem-solving, computer skills, and so on.

Your best experience is not your most recent

You can point to your past work experience with a one- or two-line statement near the top of your resumé. Use a heading such as Profile or Highlights and say something positive that is relevant to the job. For example:

  • “Extensive customer service experience”
  • “Strong computer systems design and consulting skills”

You can list your past work under headings such as Most Relevant Professional Background first, followed by Other Professional Background. Using a combination or functional resumé will allow you to highlight your skills rather than the dates of your jobs.

You lost your last job

Ironic but true: employers often prefer people who already have jobs. If employers can tell from your resumé that you’re not employed, they’ll wonder why.

There are many reasons why you may not be working that are not your fault: company mergers, temporary positions, downsizing, and so on.

If you list employment dates, think carefully about how to let the employer know about your situation:

  • If you were working in a contract or temporary position, explain by saying “temporary project position—completed.”
  • You can explain other situations in your cover letter, such as “company went out of business” or “downsizing resulted in 33 layoffs.”
  • If you were fired for doing your job poorly or because of a conflict, don’t say so in your resumé or cover letter. Explain in your interview instead.

You are worried about discrimination

Human rights laws protect you from having to give your:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Gender identity or expression
  • Marital status
  • Number of dependants
  • Religion
  • Nationality
  • Ethnic background

Give this information only if you feel it will help you get the job.

There are other “protected grounds,” or areas where employers cannot discriminate against you. Visit the Alberta’s Human Right Commission to learn about protected grounds and other areas of human rights.

Here are some tips for handling discrimination:

  • If you think the job you are applying for is usually held by another gender, you may want to use only your first initials and last name on your resumé.
  • If you know the employer is looking to bring people of your gender into non-traditional work, you’ll want to use your first name.
  • Don’t give your age if you feel it might not work in your favour. If your high school or university graduation year reveals your age, don’t give the date. You also don’t have to include your early years of employment in other jobs.
  • If an organization is trying to diversify its workforce, you may choose to let the employer know if you’re an Indigenous person, a member of a cultural minority, or a person with a disability. Give this information subtly in your cover letter. For example, “In addition to meeting your requirement for customer service experience, I have an undergraduate degree in economics earned in my native country, Nigeria.”
  • If you’re looking for work in Canada for the first time, talk about your situation with someone you respect who understands what Canadian employers’ expect. For example, a new Canadian might, because of language differences, ask a native speaker to read over their resumé and make sure the spelling and grammar are good.

Hiring managers often make wish lists of all the experience and qualifications they’re hoping for in a candidate. Often, these lists are not realistic. If you think you can do the job, try to write an application and resumé that will get you an interview.

 

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