3 strategies for landing a job that feels just out of reach

by Jul 12, 2019

So you want to apply for a job but you don’t tick all the boxes listed in the job ad? If you’re still not confident about applying, read this article first to determine if you are qualified enough to apply.

It might seem logical to only apply for jobs you’re qualified for, but it’s a very limiting strategy and you’ll hold yourself back from potentially awesome opportunities! Not only have I given this advice to my own candidates, but I’ve had HR professionals and hiring managers back me up on this. You don’t need to be 100% qualified in order to be the best candidate for the job, but you do need to keep in mind the human element and share your enthusiasm, passion, and soft skills. Job ads are often a wish list rather than absolute requirements.

Get your foot in the door with these 3 strategies:


Your professional brand needs to be on point so that YOU make sense to your target audience. Simple rule: The easier you make it for them to “get” you, the better the odds that they’ll want to know more.

No one in HR is going to spend time deciding how or why you “may” make sense for any particular role or career path. You need to make it “smack in the forehead obvious” on your resume, your LinkedIn profile, your cover letter—why you make perfect sense for this role.

Your job competition, at least some of them, are going to look great on paper, because they’ve been in that industry already or worked in similar roles. So how are you going to brand yourself in a way that not only makes you seem logical, but actually positions you as a top candidate to bring to interview stage? What are your top selling points for this role? Here’s how to focus your personal brand:

Identify your relevant transferable skills

Carefully consider which of your transferable skills you should highlight. Start by examining the job ad and picking out the requirements you do meet. Ask yourself, “Which of the skills that I have developed to date would help me with this job?” Think about strengths you’ve gained from casual roles and hobbies too – these are equally valuable!

When choosing words to describe your transferable skills, bear in mind that applicant tracking systems that many HR teams use to screen resumes rely heavily on keywords. If you match your wording to the language used in the job ad, you significantly improve your chances of being identified as a match and landing an interview.

Change up your resume format

Separate out your relevant skills and experience. If you’re concerned your transferable skills might get lost on your resume, then make sure you highlight them. Start with a career objective at the top of your resume. Specifically address the fact that you’re looking to break into this specific career and highlight how your transferrable skills will help. Don’t make the recruiter guess why you’ve applied for the job. Trust me, they won’t take time to guess….they will move on to the next resume. A super enthusiastic career objective which clearly explains your motivations & top transferrable skills will absolutely positively impact the way recruiters read the rest of your resume.

Shift the focus of your cover letter

Good news is, if you’re battling to communicate how well your skills translate in your resume, you have another chance to do so in your cover letter. Just remember to concentrate on the skills you do have and show off any additional bonus skills you might have! Maybe you think a particular experience or skill set you have would really help someone in this role and they didn’t even think of it when writing the job ad.  

It may feel necessary to acknowledge your lack of industry experience in your cover letter, but rather than focusing on the negatives, use it to highlight the value you can bring. Show how confident you are about your ability to do the job by getting straight to those transferable skills. Pick three or four key transferable skills and organise the body of your cover letter around them.

Update your LinkedIn Profile

Make sure your LinkedIn Headline, Summary, skills, groups, etc. match everything highlighted above and make you make logical sense as a candidate they should consider for role!


This might seem like a strange one. When I was a recruiter, I used to prep all my candidates before their interviews. I’d always make sure they knew ALL of their weaknesses before going into an interview. If you know what your weaknesses are for the specific job, you can prepare yourself if they come up in an interview setting. Know what you don’t know, show off your potential, take initiative. Share a story of a time you’ve been tossed in the deep end. How did you manage, what initiative did you take? How fast did you adapt? Did you hit the ground running to solve it?

Interviewer: We really need someone with SalesForce experience for this role.

You: Yes Mr. Interviewer I did see that in the job ad and while I’m not a SalesForce guru, I’d love to tell you about a time I was thrown in the deep end and very quickly needed to learn how to use Xero for an office administrator role I had at XXX company. XXX was on annual leave and they needed someone to step up in their absence. I did xxx and xxx and the outcome was xxx. 

The interviewer was expecting to call you out for a weakness, something that would potentially put another candidate in the running in front of you for the role, but suddenly you’ve impressed them by showing a can-do attitude and approach, not being afraid of a challenge and someone who will rise to the occasion when they need you to deliver.


Use positive language! If you know you’re an underdog, qualification-wise, my number 1 strategy is to try and offset any boxes you don’t tick with a bold and fearless strategy designed to get the recruiter’s attention. Candidates who tick all the boxes can get by with a stock standard application, but you’ll need to think outside the box and come up with something fresh and creative to really stand out. 

You’ll need to fill your resume, LinkedIn, cover letter and interview strategy with super bold statements that show how passionate you are about this job. You are great to work with as shown by colleague recommendations on your LinkedIn profile. You have awesome ideas to improve the business or team. You have work samples or a portfolio and you will bring this to the interview on an ipad/laptop. You have a wicked sense of humour. You have glowing references from previous bosses or senior colleagues that you include as written references with your application even though they haven’t asked you for them yet. You have a story as to why you want this job. Or anything else you can think of that might change the game and get this employer to give an underdog a chance, since you know you’re going to get that automatic rejection email if it comes down to a stock standard CV comparison.

Of course there are jobs that you’re straight-up not qualified for. You won’t catch me applying to engineering or accounting jobs anytime soon. But if you really believe you could be a great fit, and you’re not the most qualified, apply anyway. You’ll never know if you have a chance unless you take that chance. Don’t let a few missing qualifications stop you from applying for your dream job. You may be the best person for the job! 

By Steph Miller

By Steph Miller

Alumni Career Coach

Steph Miller is an experienced recruitment professional and the Alumni Career Coach in UTS Careers. She helps alumni meet career goals through career facilitation and recruitment guidance one-on-one providing resume development, personal branding, networking, negotiation and interviewing techniques while staying up on the most recent career trends.