Top 7 Reasons Not to Apply for a Job

Anxious woman during business interview
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Employers list job requirements when they advertise open positions for a reason. They want to hire the person who is the best-qualified applicant for the job. For most jobs, hiring managers have a good selection of qualified candidates and aren’t interested in those who don’t have the qualifications.

The employer has determined that those skills are necessary for success on the job. In addition, the employer wants to reduce the applicant pool so they can review the credentials of only the most qualified applicants for the job.

So, sometimes it can make sense to save your time and not apply to a job. Here's when to consider other options.

Top 7 Reasons Not to Apply for a Job

If any of the following describe you or your situation, it may be best to save your energy for other job openings.

1. You're Short on Skills

If you don’t have the skills and qualifications the employer is seeking, think twice about submitting an application. Many job postings list the skill set required for the position, and if you don’t have at least most of them you won’t be considered.

2. You Don’t Have the Experience

Most employers require a certain amount of experience when seeking applicants. That information should be clearly listed in the posting.

For example, these employers require a minimum number of years of experience:

  • 5+ years experience with SQL
  • 2 - 3 years experience in an office environment
  • 4 - 5 years or more of proven experience
  • 10+ years of sales experience, preferably within the high tech industry

If you’re close you might be considered but if you fall significantly short you won’t be.

3. You're Short on Educational Requirements

In some cases, employers list educational requirements. You’ll need to meet those requirements in order to be chosen for an interview. Here are some examples:

  • Bachelor's Degree in a related field (e.g., English, Math, Chemistry)
  • Master's degree in Student Personnel Administration, Counseling, or another appropriate field
  • High School Diploma required

As with experience, if you’re close you might be considered. If you have the degree, but a different major and appropriate work experience it’s worth applying.

4. The Job or Company Isn’t a Fit

Sometimes, the job or the company simply isn’t a match for what you want for your next job. It could be that you don’t have the job requirements or that you have a different concept of fun than the company does. Here are a few examples of what you might see in job advertisements:

  • Looking for someone with a progressive career and would have some good tenure at each employer (spent at least 5 years with each).
  • You like the idea of coming to work in jeans.
  • We try to do a team activity every week, often friendly video games, basketball games or yoga.

With these types of requirements, the employer is looking for a certain type of person who will be the best fit for the job and the organization. These aren’t always as definitive as some of the other job requirements. However, do be sure that the requirements and the company culture make you feel like you’d love to work there rather than making you cringe at the thought of having to do some of the on-the-job and extra-curricular activities.

5. You Live in the Wrong Place

Because there are three applicants for every job it can be hard to get hired for a job in a different location. It’s easier for employers to hire locally than it is to relocate a new hire. However, it can be worth applying if you have the flexibility to interview and relocate on short notice. For higher level positions, there are even more opportunities to get hired because the expectation is that the top level candidates may not be local.

6. You Can’t Work the Schedule

If the job says that travel is required or that you need to be available for flexible hours that is what you’ll be expected to do. Here are some examples:

  • Must be able to work the scheduled/assigned times and required overtime for the position.
  • Ability to travel greater than 50% or as required.
  • Must be able to work nights, weekends, and holidays.
  • Expect shift work, including weekends and holidays, on rotation.

Don’t expect an employer to change those requirements for you. In most cases, it won’t happen. Be sure that you have the flexibility to work the job schedule before you apply.

7. You're Short on Connections

For some jobs, especially sales, you’ll be expected to have a network of contacts and clients that you can tap. Be sure that you have the client base or connections you’ll need for success on the job.

More Reasons Not to Apply for a Job

Not every job opening is right for you. Here are a few additional reasons why you might decide not to apply for a position.

Avoid Job Search Rejection

Some of the toughest things about job searching are getting rejected or being ignored and not hearing back. That can happen anyway, but it’s much more likely when you’re applying for jobs that aren’t a good fit. From a personal perspective as well as a professional one, you’ll minimize rejection if you apply for the jobs you are the most qualified for. 

Focus Your Job Search

When you apply for jobs that are a stretch, at best, you’re not only wasting the employer’s time – you’re also wasting your own. For example, one job seeker I know really wanted to work for Microsoft. He applied for every job he could find online and there are many, of course. He was rejected from all of them. There are ways to get hired by your dream company, but that’s not one of them.

Here's more on how to decide what jobs to apply for and how to decode a job advertisement so you know what the employer is looking for.

When It’s a Close Call

If it’s borderline and you have most of the qualifications, it’s different. In that case, all you have to lose is your time. If the applicant pool is small, you may have a chance of getting an interview.

More Factors to Consider When Applying

There are other factors involved in determining whether to apply for a job. These are more flexible, and it can be easier to tailor your application materials to enhance your credentials. You can mix and match your qualifications for the job.

Equivalent Experience and Educational Requirements

In some cases, having experience equivalent to the degree requirements is acceptable. For example:

  • BA required. In lieu of degree, 5+ years of relevant experience.
  • Will also consider three years of progressive experience in the specialty in lieu of every year of education.

These requirements offer some leeway, so if you’re not sure apply and let the employer decide. Here’s how to mention equivalent experience in a cover letter.

Requirements May Be Preferences

When employers list preferred requirements, you’ll have a better chance of getting hired even if you're not a perfect match. Do be sure to list your closest qualifications in your resume and cover letter.

  • A High School Diploma or GED is preferred but not required.
  • Minimum four (4) year college degree strongly preferred.
  • Must have High School Diploma or GED.

Paid Work Experience vs. Other Experience

One thing to remember when you’re deciding whether to apply is that your experience doesn’t have to all be paid work experience. Internships and summer jobs count. So does volunteer experience and other activities. Be sure to include them when you’re making the case for getting selected to interview.

Match Your Qualifications to the Job Description

Even when you have all the right stuff, it’s essential to match your strongest qualifications to the job. You need to show the hiring manager that you’re qualified. They aren’t going to figure it out for themselves.

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