Ask LH: Should I Apply For Jobs I Know I Won't Get?

Dear Lifehacker, I am currently looking for a new job and have been applying for positions that I know I won't get as I don't have the experience or knowledge for that particular product or area. Does this damage my chances with the same company or recruiter for when a job turns up that I am qualified for? Thanks, Eager Beaver

Rejection picture from Shutterstock

Dear EB,

Yes, this does damage your chances, in two ways. Firstly, if you're applying to an individual company, your name will quickly become familiar. In previous roles when I've been responsible for hiring, I've learned to recognise the people who apply for every single job. Re-applying is fine if the role is similar, but when the same name showed up for wildly varying posts, I tended to reach the conclusion that if the applicant could not be bothered reading the ad, I couldn't be bothered reading their application. (That could also happen with a recruiter, though the odds are lower as much of the early process of selection is automated and the volumes are much higher.)

The second reason it damages your chances is that it means you're wasting time applying for jobs you definitely won't get rather than focusing on ones you might have a chance at. Writing a decent job application takes time; you need to customise your resume and your cover letter to match the role as closely as possible. If you're applying in a scattershot way, you're probably not doing that. You may be applying for jobs you know you won't be hired for, but you co uld also be applying for roles you might be considered for if you put more effort into the application. Either way, you need to stop. Focus on jobs it's reasonable to apply for. If you lack skills or training, consider the steps you need to take to fix those problems. Don't just fire off another automated letter.

Job hunting always requires a modicum of chutzpah, and stretching the criteria occasionally can be a worthwhile exercise. Once you're making a habit of it, it's definitely time to reassess.

Cheers Lifehacker

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    Why the hell would you even apply for a job for which you know you don't have the relevant knowledge or experience? That's just wasting both your time and the employers'.

      If you are applying for jobs that are totally irrelevant to your studies and knowledge then yes it is.

      But what if you are applying for jobs where they might want experience but you have none but have the qualification for the position? That is when you should apply anyway

      This. If your resume supports it then you should definitely apply - even if you still know you wont get it (usually due to them already having someone in mind for the role, or asked by upper management to go with an outside hire), but if you don't have any experience or any basic knowledge about how to perform in the role, you shouldn't be applying..

      Seems fairly obvious heh..


    Apply anyway, as mentioned though as long as your not applying for every single job the company has open what's the worst that could happen, they say no but have your resume on file if a job does appear which might be more suited to you.

    You are not going to get a job by not applying because you think you wont get it. I know people apply for jobs that want 3 years experience where they have none and have A - either got an interview B - got a second interview but they really needed the experience C- actually got the job.

    The add is there because they can't find somebody to fill the role within, if you have a decent resume ( even lacking in experience ) you will get looked at, the worst that could happen is they say no, your not expecting anything to begin with so there should be little to no disappointment applying for jobs where you think you are out of your depth.

    Your not going to get a job if you don't apply. Even one that isn't a perfect match.

      In some industries the ad is there because they are obliged to advertise all vacancies. Which means it may very well be the case that the company has already identified someone within or is courting an external applicant and that anyone else's chances are virtually zero.

    Yep. So, if you're on NewStart and have 10 jobs/fortnight to apply for, (and are actually waiting for your job to start) pick your bridges to burn!

    I almost didn't apply for my current role because i didn't think i had enough experience and i was just short ion the qualifications they wanted. That would have been a huge mistake. I love my job and am great at it. best risk i ever took.
    if you think you can do the job then its someone else's decision to hire you or not.

    It really depends on whether or not you have the skills for the job. If the job is totally outside of your skill set then yes I think you're probably doing yourself damage.

    But if you apply for two completely different jobs and you have the skill sets to justify the applications for both then I'd say"Go for it!"

    As an employer I would see the applications for the two diverse jobs as being indicative of a person who is both enterprising and versatile. It would also mean that you would get in front of the same organisation more than once which means you would be more than likely to be front of mind when it comes to other opportunities.

    I think every job application is an opportunity to showcase your skills. And every job application can work for or against you to depending on how relevant and attractive you can make it look

    Absolutely, apply for a job if you want it, for sure. Be realistic of course, don't go applying for a wildly out of your league job (eg, you work on a help desk, don't apply to be the CIO of a bank), but certainly make leaps to that next level even if you don't meet the qualifications. You don't know for sure what things are important to the employer, and what are simply there because of industry norm (things like MCSE's and CCNA's in IT come to mind).

    It also may actually help your chances later on down the line if a job come up you are qualified for. If they remember your resume from before, it may cut down on the recruitment time, which everyone likes.

    I just interviewed for a job today that I thought was way out of my league. Was surprised to get the interview but it went pretty well so fingers crossed!

    My philosophy is keeping knocking on the door until they let you in!!

    You also need to take into account the job market, to determine your success on this tactic.
    When there is less talent available, companies will often compromise in settling for less than they wanted. Once the job market starts to stall, however you will notice that employers provide long lists of 'must have' skills and experience, sometimes to a ludicrous degree.

    If you are able to show how your skills are transferable for the role, and will be an asset to the employer, then go for it. I have made some big steps upwards and sideways in my career choices, but it has always been when I have dealt with the company direct, not through agencies.
    In fact,don't bother trying it with recruitment agencies.
    Even if your CV does make it past the agencies filters, the agent who reviews your file will most likely dismiss it if it does not have a strong match - after all, they are trying to get the commission for placement, and some of those commissions have a cool off period of several months, meaning that if you are found to be not suitable after x amount of months, they don't get paid.

    For those of you currently in the market, there is always this old but golden response...

    Dear Sir or Madam,

    Thank you for your letter of rejection.
    After careful consideration, I regret to inform you that I am unable to accept your refusal for the position advertised.

    This year I have been particularly fortunate in receiving an unusually large number of rejection letters. With such a varied and promising field of candidates, it is impossible for me to accept all refusals, and despite your outstanding qualifications and previous experience in rejecting applicants, I find that your rejection does not meet my needs at this time.

    Therefore, I will fulfill the position without further delay, and I look forward to seeing you then.

    Best of luck in rejecting future applicants.


    If you apply and get rejected, the reasons for not getting the job may help you work towards that goal. e.g if you got knocked back for not having specific experience, then you know what you need to do, to get where you want to be. Learn from the rejection and power through it. So basically, apply anyway.

    Many of the comments above are recommending that EB "go for it" and it's true that you won't get a job you don't apply for and that you might still have a chance even if your resume is just short of perfect for the role.

    BUT, this is ignoring the key aspect of the question: "Does this damage my chances with the same company or recruiter…?"

    It's not just about applying for jobs that might be out of your league but applying for many jobs at the same company that are all out of your league. And I would say, yes, this does carry the risk of damaging your chances with the company. (I can't speak for recruiters, who are rarely used in my field.)

    If the company is large enough to have distinct departments, but not so large and "corporate" that everything has to go through a centralised HR department, then you might be ok if the jobs are across those different departments. But if the company is small or uses HR as a gatekeeper, then you will become known and for the wrong reasons.

    A young person applying for many entry level positions at the same company is different: that just gives the impression that you're eager to work for this particular company or in this particular industry and you're happy to start out in any of a range of roles. But if we're talking about jobs that are out of EB's league, then these are probably not entry level. And an applicant adopting the scattergun approach at this higher level will just come across as unfocused and a bit desperate.

    Unfortunately this applies even to applicants who have a very diverse set of qualifications and experience and who can make a legitimate application for several quite different roles. When this happens the person gives the impression that they don't really know what they want to do. So again, they come across as unfocused and a bit desperate (unless the different departments aren't talking to each other).

    So I'd recommend great caution. If EB is doing this because he or she is really keen to work in a particular company, then perhaps the smarter move is to organise informational interviews there with a view to finding out the kinds of jobs might make the best match or allow speediest growth into the role and also where the greatest need might be. That's a better way to get your name known in the company and should mean that any multiple applications will be received in a different light.

    Last edited 16/05/13 12:57 am

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