Is “Experience Required” a Suggestion? Or a Rule?

LeagueI’m going to let you in on a little job searching secret…

The “years of experience” section of a job description is often a white lie. The job I got after graduating from college “required” 3 to 5 years of experience. (I had none.) The job I just got “required” 5+ years of experience. (How much experience do I actually have? 3 years.)

One of the often overlooked keys to searching for jobs is to not rely on the job description too heavily. Too many employers post long, hard-to-read job descriptions that you barely skim read before clicking apply; most post aspirational ads painting a picture of the perfect person for this role.

Now, if you’re in a relationship, think about what your single self would have outlined as your perfect partner. Does your partner have 100% of these aspirational features? No, because as humans, we all have flaws, and hopefully the person you’ve found exceeds some of those wish list items and has made you realize some of them are just not realistic.

The perfect job description does not exist, and by extension, neither does the perfect candidate.

This is why I urge you to apply for the job you want and can do, not the job that, on paper, you are 100 percent qualified for right now. Yes, you must apply out of your league.

The years of experience section as a suggestion… and not a rule.

That said, how can you communicate that you have what it takes? Here’s some tips to help get you that job interview, even when the job appears to be out of your league:

1. Let Stats Tell Your Story

The best way to prove you can do the job is to include statistics on your resume pertaining to specific tasks or actions you were responsible for. Instead of saying something like “managed social media presence,” make it measurable by saying, “Grew social media presence by 40% year on year” or other quantifiable information. The more you can show your commercial impact, the more an employer will see that you really do have what it takes.

2. Provide Physical Evidence

Showcase examples of projects you’ve done, even if you’re not a creative candidate. If you’ve built an excel tool or established a monthly report, black out or remove the confidential company information and show it as an example of what you can do. If you are looking at a creative/design-based role, you’ll need to prepare a proper portfolio. I have mine in the form of a website.

3. Sell Yourself in a Cover Letter

I know everyone hates cover letters, but this is an opportunity to sell yourself, not summarize your resume. Establish why you think you’re great for the role beyond your technical skills. So many employers are looking for candidates who are a good culture fit, not just a technical fit. Even if you’re lacking in a couple of skill areas, if you have the right personality and attitude that will mesh well with an organization, let that show through. They can train you on the rest.

4. Get Your References Ready to Sell

Even though it is no longer customary to include references on your resume or a statement of “available upon request,” it is important to have a qualified reserve of people who will vouch for you when the time comes. Ensure you have a mix of people – former supervisors, team members and even people who worked in different departments who were aware of your accomplishments. Showing that you have connections all across an organization will demonstrate that you work well within teams and have successfully built relationships outside of your immediate group.

So, next time you’re job searching, don’t let those “years of experience” deter you from applying from a job you know you are otherwise qualified for. Let us know if you’ve ever applied out of your league and how it went in the comments below.


For this post, YouTern thanks our friends at


ms career girl


Amanda KocefasAbout the Author: Amanda Kocefas is a marketing professional with experience covering global communication, corporate branding, trade show events, advertising, web content management, and business development support. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Advertising from Michigan State University and has internship experience in graphic design and non-profit event planning. Follow Amanda on Twitter!


Image courtesy of Thank you!



This entry was posted in Job Search and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.