As someone who’s presently looking for a job, can I still apply for a job if it asks for a specific degree that I don’t possess?

A student sent me this question:

As someone who’s presently looking for a job, can I still apply for a job if it asks for a specific degree that I don’t possess?

Yes! The requirements that you see in job ads are proxy measures of what the employer thinks the ideal employee might have. So they’re more of a “suggestion” than strict requirements.

What you need to do is to ensure your cover letter and CV explicitly states that you have those qualities that they are looking for (or at least most of them).

Sometimes, you may not have the desired level of knowledge or skills that the hiring manager might want. That’s ok. If you can demonstrate how eager and/or passionate you are, and how fast you’re able to learn independently on your own through the cover letter, and through the competencies and achievements you’ve accomplished on your CV, the hiring manager will be more likely to want to interview you.

And if you’re called up for the interview, make sure you’ve done your homework. Make sure you know everything you need to know about that company and what they do, and try to know more about the interviewers (you can ask who your interviewers are). Use the interview to gain a better sense of the job and how you’ll fit in. Now, if you’ve done enough research prior to the interview, you should be able to make a case on how you can best use your talents to contribute well to the role and to the organisation. You should aim to present in concrete terms how you can add value to specific projects related to your role. (Don’t just say fluffy abstract things like, “I can think critically for you.” It won’t be convincing.)

As an interviewer, if I hear that you know my organisation so well that you can connect the dots and demonstrate how you can add value to the organisation, I’ll be very impressed. In fact, so impressed that even if I have found someone who is most suited for the advertised job, I might just create a new job position for you. Because – believe it or not – good talent is hard to come by, and organisations will do whatever they can to keep good talent if one happens to walk right in.

So to summarise, use your cover letter, CV, and the interview to make a case that you can add value to the organisation. And of course, be friendly and polite (I hate that I have to say this, but I noticed many students these days don’t practice this anymore even for important things like interviews).

Lastly, if this is your first interview, it ok to tell them that it’s your very first interview and you are a bit nervous. People are usually very understanding. (If they are not, it’s also good, because you can avoid joining a toxic company).

Author: Jonathan Y. H. Sim

Jonathan Sim is an Instructor with the Department of Philosophy at the National University of Singapore. He is passionate about teaching and he continues to research fun and innovative ways of engaging students to learn effectively. He has been teaching general education modules to a diverse range of undergraduate students and adult learners at the University.

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