At one point or another in your job search, you’re bound to encounter this scenario: You’ve found the perfect job, and at first glance the description reads like it was made for you. It seems perfect. But then you keep reading, and under the requirements, you read that dreaded line: “Must have three-plus years of experience.”
“Companies want to know that you have successfully performed the job duties in the past,” says Alexandra Levit, business and workplace author, speaker, and consultant. “The less they have to train you, the better.”
Valid point. But it doesn’t stop you from feeling like all of your dreams have been crushed. You’re left wondering, “Is it even worth applying?” What’s the right call? We spoke with career experts to figure out what your next steps should be.
Ultimately, experts agree that even if you don’t have the required numbers of years of experience, it is still worth applying for the position—within reason, of course.
“If the company is looking for 10 years of experience and you have one, don’t waste your time,” says Don Goodman, career management coach and certified resume writer. “But if you have one to two years of experience and they are looking for three to five, that doesn’t rule you out, and you could be just as qualified.”
Miriam Salpeter, a career coach and consultant in Atlanta, says that if a candidate has skills that could be especially appealing to the employer—this can include significant volunteer experience in place of “work experience”—then it is possible the company will overlook the number of years of work experience and agree to interview you.
If you don’t have enough years of experience, experts say it’s your skills and ability to perform the job tasks that will help you land the position.
“You have to look at what the employer is trying to achieve,” says Goodman. “Ask yourself if you can you deliver what the employer is looking for. They won’t hire you if you can’t perform the skills needed to get the job done.”
Think about the skill sets you’ve acquired from other jobs, internships, clubs, and volunteer work, and prove how they helped you get a task or project done. Wondering what skills will give you a leg up on the competition? According to the World Economic Forum, employers are looking for the following skills from college graduates: complex problem solving, people management, critical thinking, creativity and judgment, and decision making.
“Make a case for why you are a good fit,” advises Salpeter. “You need to be able to answer with specific accomplishments demonstrating how you are going to be able to do the job.”
So you have the skills and applicable experience, but what better way to sell yourself than with someone on the inside who can endorse you? Career experts say an employee referral, someone who can attest to why you’re worth considering—despite your lack of experience—is the icing on the cake.
“One problem I think many millennials on the job hunt have is that all their applications tend to sound the same,” says Goodman. “The best way to distinguish yourself is by networking. Follow companies on LinkedIn and see if you know anyone who knows someone.”
Don’t necessarily feel comfortable asking for a referral? Then ask employees for advice on how to stand out. That can be a great way to get an edge on your resume, and hopefully, your interview.
This article originally appeared on Monster and is reprinted with permission.