Nobody ever gets their ideal candidate

For the most part, when you read a job description, it’s describing what the “ideal” candidate would bring to the table. Guess what: the ideal candidate rarely exists, and even more rarely do they apply for that specific job. Know what that means?

A less-than-ideal candidate may get the job. All of a sudden, not having the perfect credentials and experience doesn’t matter, and shouldn’t be an impediment to applying. You might not be a perfect fit, but if nobody else is either, then you’re on an even playing field.

Now, I should point out that there are some caveats here. You should’t apply for something for which you don’t believe you could actually do competently. That’s especially dangerous territory for engineers, since people’s health and safety could be affected by their work. That being said, if you believe you can actually do the work, and you can prove it objectively, fill your boots and apply.

Another note is that you don’t need to – and should never – lie about your credentials and experience. Don’t pretend to be the ideal candidate to get the job. It’s unethical, and my point here is that you don’t need to be ideal in the first place. 


The hiring manager doesn’t even know what they want

In many cases, the person hiring for the role doesn’t have a 100% clear idea of what they need for their team. There may be more than one way to skin a cat, so to speak. If you put your name forward, even if it doesn’t fit the job description, then you may bring to mind a new and innovative way for the manager to solve their problem. It’s more important to offer them a solution than the solution they think they need.

Suppose you have expertise that can fill part of the hiring manager’s need. Maybe that’s good enough. Maybe you can fit into the team in such a way that the manager gets an even better configuration than they were looking for. Maybe you have some experience that the manager didn’t ask for that could still be perfect for helping them solve their problem. They’ll never know, and you’ll never know unless you put your name out there.



You might be the best applicant

Even if you’re not 100% the perfect fit for the role, you may still be the best of all the applicants. This is what I call the “Multiple Choice Effect”. Remember doing multiple-choice tests in school? The instructions at the top of the test almost always read “Chose the best answer”, and not “Chose the right answer”. You may be the best answer to a hiring manager’s problems. You don’t need to be perfect, you just need to be the best option.


Moving Forward


Tell us about your experience in applying for “stretch” jobs. What worked? What didn’t work as well? Use the comment form below to share your story. We promise to read every comment and offer whatever advice We can.

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Kenya Engineer is the definitive publication of Engineers in East Africa & beyond and the official journal of the Institution of Engineers of Kenya. Kenya Engineer has been in publication since 1972.

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