I've recently seen quite a few job descriptions where the description will say something like:

"Candidates without extensive experience in [X] will not be considered" or "Candidates must have [X] experience." In this example, X is a tool used on the job, not the knowledge required to do the work. X is never a degree, certification or knowledge area that takes years to learn. Sometimes the tool will have only been in use for a very short time, so extensive experience is not really accurate.

If I don't have X, is it even worthwhile applying to such jobs?

Edit II: Updated the question and title again. This question is about the tools used to apply knowledge - a specific SDK - not the knowledge itself. Thank you to the people who have provided answers so far.

  • 4
    I am sorry, I cannot tell what your question is. If the description says applicants without X will not be considered, and you don't have X, why do you think you could apply for the job? Are you, maybe, asking how you could convince them to remove the restriction? – Masked Man Feb 26 '16 at 2:24
  • Because it's sometimes assumed that the list of qualifications on a job description is more of a wish list rather than an actual list of true requirements. Sometimes job descriptions will have requirements that conflict. What I'm talking about here would be a job description that says must have experience with Brackets, where as you've only used Sublime Text. Literally something that's very similar and could easily be learned in a week. – user70848 Feb 26 '16 at 3:00
  • 4
    @user70848 Asking for multiple skills is not "contradictory". If you think it can be learned in a week, you could also try to arrange for an interview in the next week, and then take that lead time to learn it. – Brandin Feb 26 '16 at 7:38
  • @Brandin The example I'm giving is not contradictory. I'm actually talking about job descriptions that list skills that are literally in conflict. For example, something that says be able to prototype in JavaScript, while also stating that the job does not require the ability to code. As far as learning skills in a week, this is why I'm asking the question. To me, the strict job description(s) seem arbitrary, but they are there. – user70848 Feb 26 '16 at 14:49
  • If they want "extensive experience in <insert text editor here>" I would probe more deeply. Do they just want you to use said text editor, or do they want you to be able to work on the source code, design plugins for it, etc. – Brandin Feb 26 '16 at 16:33

Short answer: It very much depends on the employer, the level of the other candidates, and what else you have to offer.

Some companies may see a CV that doesn't have X, but can see you have some very similar skills or experiences and take that as worth having a chat to you. Others will have strict adherence to their requirements. But unless you apply, then you won't know which type of employer you have encountered.

So while it may be a waste of time, it also may not be. There may be an employer who is suitably impressed with what you have to offer (for example, it's a close match on 5 out of 5 other skills), had no candidates that do have X so it's worth applying in most cases even if you are missing that one skill.


No. This is a way of signaling that many people have applied with similar skills, but the company, for better or worse, is not willing to invest in on-the-job learning. Your resume will be thrown away without consideration.

In the late 90s, two years after java was first published, a famous NJ real estate developer (not one running for President) wanted a programmer with 5 years java experience. There was literally no sentence a human could form to convince him this was impossible. "There is someone, there is someone." He also paid way less than market value for everyone, so even someone with 2 years experience was out of reach. Not surprisingly, it only took him 3 years to find someone. People don't have to ask for something rational, and they are under no obligation to act rational or listen to reason.

  • Similarly the other day I saw a job for a Scrum Master wanting minimum 15 years in the role, but I guess Jeff Sutherland was busy... (mind you don't think even HE has enough when I think about it...) – The Wandering Dev Manager Feb 26 '16 at 15:46
  • 1) I know who you're talking about, 2)If I had a dime for every time I have seen a job Req for more experience than the tech has existed, I could retire. – Richard Says Reinstate Monica Feb 26 '16 at 18:54

Don't be so quick to assume that extensive experience in new technologies is impossible to find. Often there are early adopter or "private beta" programs that give selected developers access to technologies that are still years away from general release. That may be the sort of developer they're looking for.

Generally it is not worthwhile to apply for positions that say "must have experience with [X]" when you don't have experience with [X]. Often these descriptions show up because the personnel department doesn't really understand what level of skill is required or available. Still, if you send in your resume they'll look for experience in [X], and simply reject you if you don't have it. If they aren't finding any candidates, the hiring department will eventually force the personnel department to change the requirements to something more in line with their actual needs.

Sometimes though these descriptions are written by someone technical, and they really do need someone with extensive experience in [X]. If you apply anyway, they'll quickly reject you, but they will also wonder why this person is wasting their time, and why they'd ever want to hire someone who ignores direct instructions. Not only have you been rejected, but you've annoyed someone who might eventually be reading your resume for a job for which you are qualified!

  • As I mentioned in the comment above, what I'm talking about is a job description that says, for example, extensive experience with Brackets, while you've only had experience with Sublime Text. I mean something simple like that. I actually do not believe companies will change the requirements. (It's tangental but I've been reading a lot about how companies would rather claim they can't find workers and/or let a position go unfilled than change the description or train someone on the job.) – user70848 Feb 26 '16 at 3:03
  • I can only offer that some years ago, when I was working for a small development shop, we realized we needed an experienced C++ programmer. We got a bunch of applicants who claimed to be experienced C++ programmers, but their real background was that they felt they could learn C++ in short order. Well, yeah, but so could any of the folks we already had on staff. We asked for an experienced C++ programmer because we really needed an experienced C++ programmer, and we didn't appreciate having our time wasted by folks taking a shot in the dark. – Charles E. Grant Feb 26 '16 at 4:16
  • 1
    I can see that. On the other hand, at least you considered them. And it's a little unfair to denigrate applicants who's only crime is have a little bit of hope. Maybe the lesson was that the job description should have been re-written to be more clear about what "experienced C++ programmer" really means since you were attracting unqualified candidates. – user70848 Feb 26 '16 at 14:55
  • 1
    "Don't be so quick to assume that extensive experience in new technologies is impossible to find." You have a point, but through the years I've seen a few ads asking for experience that would be impossible to have. A couple that stand out in my memory: "Must have 10 years of Java experience" in 2000, or "15 years of Ada experience required" in 1990. – GreenMatt Feb 26 '16 at 15:24
  • Following up @user70848's comment: Yes, "experienced" or even "expert" can be in the eye of the beholder. Years back I took a night class to learn Java; several students were totally lost trying to learn OOP - apparently their previous classes hadn't prepared them for it. I especially remember one guy who claimed to be a "C++ expert" on the basis of getting A's in three(!) C++ classes; nevertheless, he'd never seen classes or objects and was struggling mightily with Java. – GreenMatt Feb 26 '16 at 15:30

If I don't have X, is it even worthwhile applying to such jobs?

Only if there is a big shortage of people who fit the criteria, if you don't fit the bill you may still be considered if they can't find anyone else.

In some industries in countries I have worked in, when they start asking for specific experience and suchlike it can also mean that you have zero chance of getting the job, they're tailoring the requirements to someone they already know and will be giving the job to. They're just advertising because they're required to.

I will apply for a job if I'm close to fulfilling requirements, but not otherwise.


The answer is that it depends. First you need to assess if you have some experience that is a close analog to the experience they need such as an experienced Oracle dev might not get eliminated for a job that asks for SQL Server skills but someone with no database experience would if the skill is a large part of the job.

Next you need to understand the relative importance of the skill given the job description. A position for a web developer who needs to be able to some database querying is far different from a job for a data scientist in terms of how much a company is going to be willing to invest in someone without the skill.

Next you need to look at how many qualifications the job has. Those with a long laundry list of skills are less likely to require every single one of them. But you should have a good percentage of them and those you do have should be the ones most likely to be critical skills.

Next you should assess whether the people with this skill set are going to be common. The usual stack for a C# or Java dev is a relatively common skill set and so there is little chance they would consider people without the usual skills because they will have plenty of people who have all the qualifications to choose from. Looking for work is a competition, if you know you won't be in the running, then there is little point in wasting everyone's time.

Next you need to assess whether, you have some other skill that might mitigate the skill that is missing. For instance, if the job was in the health care industry where there are many regulations that you need to understand to create the software, then missing a technical skill may easily be made up for by having the business domain skill.

So yes there are times when you can be missing some of the skills and still be considered. However, and it is a big however, your chances of being considered are significantly lower than if you had what they are asking for. If you are not even close, your resume will likely never even be read by a human being as many are filtered through automated systems. So don't get your hopes up when applying out of your qualification level.

Another thing to understand is that years of experience counts in at least a general way. I might look at someone with 2.5 years of experience when I need 3 but probably not at an entry level person. Companies do not hire potential except at entry level and they do not hire entry level people for jobs that are beyond the entry level unless it is a really bad company.

If the job requires 5 years of experience and you have none, it is likely a job that you will not be able to do and if the company hires you, then they will stress you out because you can't deliver. Read some of the questions about people who took jobs at startups that should have needed experienced devs and they hired entry level instead and this person straight out of college was expected to perform tasks that might have been daunting for an experienced person. If the job needs a certain level of experience and the people with that experience won't touch it, then there is something wrong. You don't want to be so far out of your skill level that you can't do the work. It's bad for your health and well-being and it is bad for your career.

So my advice to you is to stop dreaming about jobs you would love to have and concentrate on the ones you can do with just a little bit of stretch (always try to have some room to grow in a new position) and getting the solid experience you need to get to that dream job later. In five to ten years you will be able to do the more exciting things and do them successfully rather than failing miserably now because you tried to do something you were no qualified to do.

  • "Companies do not hire potential except at entry level and they do not hire entry level people for jobs that are beyond the entry level unless it is a really bad company." Can you elaborate on this? Also, I appreciate you're trying to help, but your advice is unsolicited, a big judgmental, and inaccurate. I suggest focusing on what you do know, and avoid making assumptions about things you don't. – user70848 Feb 26 '16 at 22:33
  • 1
    user70848, I have done hiring. I have reviewed, over the years, thousands of resumes for many different types of position. I have taught resume writing at a technical school. I also have almost 40 years of work experience. I do know what I am talking about. Incidentally I did elaborate in the next paragraph. You said 'And it's a little unfair to denigrate applicants who's only crime is have a little bit of hope.' That is an unrealistic attitude and I told you why in my answer. People will eliminate unqualified applicants because they don't meet the business needs. – HLGEM Feb 26 '16 at 23:06
  • 1
    I described the circumstances where it was ok to apply if you don't meet the criteria, but thinking you should be considered because you had a hope that they would hire you is simply a bad idea. Businesses hire because they have work that needs to get done. They are not there to make your dreams come true. They can't afford to spend time while you get up to speed above the entry level because they have work that needs to get done. – HLGEM Feb 26 '16 at 23:07
  • It is patronizing to say to someone, "stop dreaming about jobs you would love to have..." This is a disrespectful attitude. I have a legitimate question about job descriptions. It doesn't mean I'm "dreaming", and I do not need to share my work history, field, education, or years of experience in order to qualify my question. – user70848 Feb 27 '16 at 16:42
  • Also you've added a reply to comment that wasn't directed towards your answers and is completely out of context. That comment is: 'And it's a little unfair to denigrate applicants who's only crime is have a little bit of hope'. I provided this comment in response to another user's comment. Using it here takes it out of context. – user70848 Feb 27 '16 at 16:54

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.