How to Decide Whether to Apply for a Job

I hear some people saying they don't want to apply for a specific job because they don't think they really want to work at the specific workplace. Maybe they've heard negative things about it from former employees, or they think it's too big or too small, or for some other reason.

Yet they identified the job as something of interest. There was an element in the title or job description or both that attracted them.

Now, if someone says they don't want to apply for a job because the pay is much too low or it turns out that they don't have at least 50% of the required qualifications, or it's in a city to which they will not move - then by all means, don't apply. That wastes your time and the employers'.

However, if there is no concrete reason not to apply, then I urge people to go ahead and apply.

Applying for a job is beginning your end of the conversation. It is not a commitment to accepting a job. It is simply the start of a possible longer communication and maybe relationship. Your application is your expression of interest in what the employer has to offer, and indicates your willingness to engage with them.

Use the job description for the position to figure out whether you have what it takes to get an interview.

"...job descriptions are high-level overviews of basic skills a person needs to perform the role's functions....The tasks and experience data outlined in a job description is comprehensive enough to give a candidate an idea about whether they are qualified." Source: Ellen Raim, Coraggio Group, November 28, 2008

The implication for a job seeker is to pay attention to the job description. Are you in fact qualified? If you don't know, look at my post about comparing your skills and experience to the posted responsibilities and requirements. Employers use key words now, so you won't make it past "go" if you don't have key qualifications included somewhere in your resume or cover letter (preferably resume or both).

A simple grid is a very easy, relatively low-tech way to figure out if you have the qualifications for a specific job.

Cut and paste the distinct pieces of the responsibilities and requirements (put both sections in, as both contain vital information), one per left box. Once you have all the responsibilities and requirements in their grid boxes, start writing in the right column how you match those with your credentials and experience. BE SPECIFIC! Give numbers, measurable impact, kinds of people you worked with, type of projects. Include EVERYTHING you can think of.

Think outside the box, too, for experiences and accomplishments that you can translate into the employer's language. Sometimes we may need to convince ourselves that we are qualified before we can convince an employer.

This grid will help you decide whether it's worth it for you to apply. If you do, the grid then serves as a basis for creating a very targeted cover letter that markets you effectively as having what it takes to meet the employer's needs.

If you get an interview, you will have an opportunity to gather more information about the job and employer. Prepare for the interview by creating your own "must have list" of what you must have in order to do your best work. Most people "must have" a certain role and perform specific kinds of activities, work in a specific kind of culture and physical environment, get a definite compensation. Having your own sense of how and where you do your best work - meaning where you are happiest - allows the interview to be two-sided. You are checking out the employer just as they are checking you out.

You won't have that opportunity if you never apply. So go for it! The worst that can happen is you don't get called for an interview. In that case, the job wasn't for you anyway.

Julia Erickson coaches and teaches people to find and do their "right fit" work - work they love and want to do again. Visit her blog,, for practical guidance and tips about job search, career management, and how to be happy in your work. Follow her on Twitter @juliaerickson for useful tips on job search, careers and leadership. Her e-book, available on her website, will guide you on your own search to find and get your "right fit" work.