Can I Land My Dream Executive Job Even If I’m Under-Qualified?

by Meg Guiseppi on October 9, 2017

3 things that may downplay your lack of some qualifications.

So many times when I first speak with my executive job-seeking clients, they feel compelled to discuss their shortcomings.

It’s a shame they’re so quick to focus on what they consider to be their negative qualities.

But they’re very concerned that they don’t have what it takes to land the kinds of jobs they want and, frankly, deserve.

Here are just some of the things they worry about:

  • They don’t have as many years of experience as required.
  • They don’t have an MBA, or lack specific hard skills.
  • They have little to no experience at the c-suite level, but aspire to move up.
  • They’ve made one or more lateral move in their careers, instead of moving up.
  • They’ve worked too long at one company – a rarity these days.

It’s no surprise that people anticipating job search have anxiety about whether they have what it takes.

After all, executive job search is a major life event. It’s usually an overwhelming, daunting challenge to undertake.

Compound that with the fact that most job-seekers don’t really understand how today’s job search works.

It tends to make people anxious, and question their qualifications . . . It keeps them from reaching out towards opportunities that seem a little off, but could actually be the right fit.

I can mostly ease their worry. There are ways to diminish most issues that appear, at first, to be roadblocks.

Of course, if they’re under-qualified on several fronts, they shouldn’t waste everyone’s time by throwing their hats in the ring.

In general, their best move is to embrace targeting and personal branding, and then network their way into the hidden job market.

With the right foundation, savvy job seekers:

  • Identify the companies or organizations they want to work for – instead of languishing on job boards,
  • Determine what makes them a good-fit candidate for those employers, and
  • Network their way into jobs there.

Why does this work – whether or not someone is a little under-qualified?

When you become at least a somewhat known entity to the employers you want to work for – not just one of the thousands of job posting respondents – you’re no longer a stranger. People usually hire people they know over complete strangers.

When your qualifications are not being compared to a job listing of theirs, and you’re at least somewhat known to them, you’re more likely to be very seriously considered.

In a Mashable article, recruiter Richard Moy confirmed this strategy.

“If you’re an awesome candidate, companies want you! And if they can tweak (or create) a position to make it possible to hire you, they will.”

You see?

That’s the bonanza of targeting, branding and networking into the hidden job market – your new employer may carve out a position specifically tailored to your unique set of qualifications.

How You May Land the Job, Even If You’re Under-Qualified


Richard goes on to reveal 3 things he and hiring managers consider when a good candidate is under-qualified . . . things that could lead these candidates to be called in for interviews and possibly hired.

1. Is this person’s previous experience relevant to the role?

He quickly learned he had to be flexible if a candidate didn’t have the required number of years experience.

“The truth is that even when candidates didn’t have the amount of experience we were hoping for, many of them did tasks that were far more advanced than the number of years they worked might have otherwise suggested.”

2. Is this person motivated to keep learning?

Richard said he had a soft spot for people who were motivated to improve themselves, with a long history of seeking out learning opportunities.

“It was hard to deny that person at least a phone screen to learn more about his or her future goals. And if that person also had a track record of previous successes in relevant jobs, it was even harder not to bring him or her in to meet the rest of the team.”

3. Can we support someone who’s not senior enough?

He sometimes would be very excited about a candidate who would need more help than anticipated growing into a role.

“I can think of a handful of instances when we met someone a little too junior who we just couldn’t let back onto the open market. Sometimes we’d just create a brand new role that fit that person’s profile — and develop a plan for him or her to grow into the senior version of the gig.”

My advice if you’re worried that you’re not quite up to snuff:

Go for it even if, on paper, you may feel you fall a little short. Hiring professionals may well see beyond these shortcomings.

More About Executive Job Search

7 Things Successful Executive Job Seekers Know

How to Network Into the Goldmine of Hidden Executive Jobs

5 Nifty LinkedIn Hacks That Make Executive Job Search Easier

Do Cover Letters Really Matter in Executive Job Search?

Essential Checklist to Optimize LinkedIn For Executive Job Search

Executive Job Search and Personal Branding Help

Land a GREAT-FIT New Executive GigNeed help with personal branding, your LinkedIn profile, resume and biography, and getting your executive job search on track?

Schedule a GET STARTED / GET UNSTUCK Executive Job Search Strategy Session with me, and move towards landing a great-fit new gig faster.

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