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In Your Head
4 Ways to Tell a Job Is Actually a Fit *Before* You Apply
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Heather Taylor
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Have you ever found yourself applying for a job that you knew wasn’t a fit for you? I’ve definitely done this during previous job hunts. My “why” varied. Sometimes I applied because I felt I could do some of the items in the job description with a bit of training. There have also been listings I applied for that were not a fit for me in any way, shape or form. However, I justified the decision as a means of getting my foot in the door and my name on somebody’s radar. This company could always have a need for someone like me in the future. That approach always works, right?

In retrospect, I shouldn’t have used either of these reasonings — and neither should most job applicants. Before you apply for a job that you feel isn’t a fit, ask yourself these questions. If you can confidently answer them, the position may be right up your alley. If you struggle with your response, it may be a sign that you should move on and seek out a more fitting role.  

1. Do I have the hard skills needed to do this job well?

Hard skills, and a lack thereof, may make or break whether you can apply for certain jobs. If you’re underqualified for a specific position, you must ask yourself this question — and be honest about the answer — before submitting your application.  

“If the job is looking for a computer programmer and your only work experience is as a lifeguard, you probably don’t have the required skills to succeed,” says Caitlin Proctor, career expert at Zipjob.

Review the listing carefully to see if you hit the job’s requirements. Proctor says that while some hiring managers may compromise on certain qualifications, like slightly fewer years of experience, they will not be able to make exceptions for required hard skills.

2. Why do I want this job?

Why are you even applying at all for this job? Does this job posting make you feel excited and offers the opportunity for you to show off your talents? Is this a position at a company you have dreamed of working for? Or, are you going through the application motions for the money?

Ivelices Linares Thomas, founder of HR & Beyond, says that it’s not uncommon for individuals to become desperate in their job search and apply for any open position just to see if a resume will stick. She recommends looking beyond the need of having a job to uncover if this is a job you truly want and can do effectively.

“Once you understand the ‘why’ behind applying, it will set the expectations and perspective,” Thomas says.

3. How will I present during the interview?

Let’s say you make it to the first round interviews for this job. Unless you plan to ghost the HR representative that reached out, chances are you’re probably going to take the interview. However, you’re not likely to be the best version of yourself during it because you’re not passionate about the role.

Carlota Zimmerman, J.D., advises thinking about how you’ll present yourself if you do land an interview. First impressions are still everything for prospective interviewers. If your plan is to come in with a poor attitude or lack of understanding about the company, the position is clearly not a fit.

4. Am I applying for the job I want or what others want for me?

Is this a job that you’re interested in and want to make part of your long-term career plan? Or, are you applying for the position because it’s what your parents, partner or even social media followers want for you? Avoid submitting an application because it’s what everyone else wants. As Zimmerman points out, your career is your responsibility. Being less than honest with yourself about your motives only hurts your professional path in the long run.

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