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How can I tell which job requirements matter in software offerings?
How can I overcome “years of experience” requirements when applying to positions?

I've come late to coding, been doing it under 2 years and trying really hard to gain ground in my own time and at work.

However, I've found a position via StackOverFlow that gives me quite a strong emotional charge when I consider it. It's exciting, complicated and matches a second, deeper obsession with Neuroscience that I have and had before I ever coded.

My dilemma is they appear to need someone with much higher math knowledge and data analysis than I can offer just yet. In two years, I've gone from nothing to understanding why I'd want to mix functional and OOP code, fair fluency in VB and enough understanding to mix F# with R and slot the lot into a simple WPF project. So I'm confident I can learn what I need, fairly quickly. However, I'm on the fence as to whether I should chance applying.

I don't need a different job - this particular role has just seemed to spark something off that makes me want - perhaps - to tilt at windmills a bit and go for something that is way beyond what I've done. Meaning, I think, that I don't want to waste their time I guess. I don't think my CV is sufficient to get me past any gatekeepers; though I think I can give a far better interview than I can CV.

Should I still apply to a job even if I don't have the requested amount of experience?

Update: As requested, I did get my first development job and I'd only gone for a handful of roles. The place I got into didn't do tests or ask silly interview questions. Instead they looked at the few samples of code I'd already done whilst they discussed different project types I'd worked on and generally chatted. Both are my immediate superiors and deeply experienced. So couldn't ask for better really, no ducking and diving through "please the executives and shrinks" stuff. Just could I learn, had I done enough to get started and would I get on with the group. Been there nearly two months, learnt a fair bit of T-SQL and Oracle, on top of legacy C#/VB - and about migrating these.

So not bad at all. And thank you all for your encouragement!

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    Welcome to The Workplace. This site is a Q&A Site that is different from many internet forums in that we have standards for both our questions and answers. One of them is that questions must have an actual problem to face and not just be soliciting opinions. However I think there are a few questions already on the site that could be of help to you. I urge you to read the FAQ and continue to join us here at The Workplace. Commented Jan 18, 2013 at 14:12
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    Your question looks like a full-featured cover letter. It shows both your experience (including a fair list of any possible gaps) and your attitude. Go ahead and send them the link. Good luck! :) Commented Jan 18, 2013 at 14:18
  • @bytebuster - thank you, that is encouraging. I didn't quite mean to write a cover letter, but in the spirit of perhaps "don't ask don't get" maybe I should. My original draft letter was far stodgier and lengthier.
    – Richard
    Commented Jan 18, 2013 at 14:39
  • I applied for 40 jobs. I did not care if I was qualified enough because there will always be someone out there who is more qualified. I have heard back from five of them.
    – crh225
    Commented Jan 18, 2013 at 15:24
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3 Answers 3


You won't know if you are qualified unless you apply.

From what you say you seem to be in a position where even if you get rejected there would be no consequence - you are in a current job and will not be losing it by simply applying elsewhere.

In other words - what have you got to lose? Nothing. What have you got to gain? An exciting job in a field that you are highly interested in.

So - apply. The worst that could happen is that they say no. You can ask for feedback, and if you are lucky they will tell you exactly what you are lacking in - this can give you a chance to work on that side and apply to them again at a later date (even if they are not actively looking at the time).

  • its uncertainity that's led me to ask I think. I'll work it out over the weekend I think. Btw, you pretty much said mostly what my other half keeps saying. My uncertainity is a knowing that <2 years develpment experience is quite a downer for most development jobs. And I don't want the embarrassment of my over estimating my skills either-at least not in a slightly more public setting! :P In fairness, this is the answer. Thanks.
    – Richard
    Commented Jan 18, 2013 at 14:17
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    @Richard - Perhaps this will give you some perspective: hanselman.com/blog/ImAPhonyAreYou.aspx
    – Oded
    Commented Jan 18, 2013 at 14:19
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    all I can say, if you saw the reaction that article sparked as I read it-you might have been shocked.... anyway, thank you. I've heard of Hanselman before now and did'nt expect to read what I just read. So, thank you. A LOT. And I'm very very glad I posted here.
    – Richard
    Commented Jan 18, 2013 at 14:45
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    And sometimes even if you aren;t qualified yet, they may havea a differnt position opening up that isn't being advertised yet that you would qualifiy for. We have hired people for a new position when they applied for a different position that we didn't think they were qualified for. Sometimes just getting people to know of your existance helps.
    – HLGEM
    Commented Jan 18, 2013 at 15:14
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    And... don't overlook enthusiasm. Certainly skills and experience matter, but 1 candidate with true enthusiasm and enough skills to get by can be the biggest win in some cases - you won't know until you get farther in the interview process if this happens to be one of them. Commented Jan 18, 2013 at 21:10

If your goal is to try to get that job, then (as others have said) go ahead and apply. The first resume screen is effectively free; when I screen resumes I don't remember the ones I rejected unless there was something astonishingly noteworthy about them. "Doesn't have enough experience" isn't astonishingly noteworthy; that happens all the time. So you aren't harming your future chances at that point.

If you proceed to the next step, where you actually have a conversation, it's important to be very clear about what you can do now and why you think you can do this job (despite the written requirements). If anyone in the process (phone screener, hiring manager, other interviewers) has reason to believe you're faking it, that will not only doom your application but will be a black mark against you. Interviewers remember candidates who tried to pull something like that, and we compare notes with colleagues.

But all that said, there is another option you might not be considering yet: if the field or company is exciting but you don't fit that particular job, it does no harm and can do quite a bit of good to contact them and ask about other positions. Emphasize that you're excited by (whatever you're excited about) and would love to work with the team and grow into that kind of role later. (Wordsmith this, of course.) I've gotten two jobs by doing something like that. In one case I was proposing a related job, which they hadn't yet realized they needed. (For example, a software team with no QA has a gap. Are they ready to fill it? How about with you?) In the other case the role was ill-defined; I aced some criteria and totally lacked others, but it sure looked to me like they needed two different people. After the interview they agreed with that assessment and I became one of them.

  • you remind me of my other half saying that. That is actually what happened to him in a totally different industry. I've got a bit of time to decide what to do, as there are some logistic issues with location to figure out on top of what I'm asking here about. Thank you.
    – Richard
    Commented Jan 18, 2013 at 16:15
  • Yes, sometimes organizations will change their "requirements" if they think you're a good fit overall. In my last job, they hired me, even though my direct experience wasn't what they were advertising for. However, they already another person with some experience for the advertised job and who wanted it, so they moved him into the vacant position and gave me his job.
    – GreenMatt
    Commented Jan 18, 2013 at 16:47

Well there are two parts to this I guess.

Should you apply?

Absolutely, you have nothing to lose by doing so and the worst that can happen is your CV ends up in a bin somewhere, nothing ventured, nothing gained. You are obviously enthusiastic and what you need to do is try and get that across to the first point of contact, i.e. the person reading your CV, however that won't be the appropriate place to do that so you need to include a covering letter which gets this across in the best way possible.

Will you get the job and can you cope?

This will be the hard part, I have been in software development for 15 years or so and have found moving between different languages not much of a problem, however I think you may struggle with the math knowledge, that's not really something you can pick up as easily in my opinion. With code you can look at snippets and work out how it differs from what you already know and translate but with the math you either know or don't.

Good luck with it and hopefully your enthusiasm will get you the job.

  • The math side does worry me a little; I've about 18 different maths books here of all kinds, where I've basically, from time to time, set out to teach myself. I get basic calculus and a few other things, but it's not a proper A level worth of understanding. I'm 80% sure I can ramp up to the level they need; but whether it's fast enough for their business benefit is a different question. And thank you.
    – Richard
    Commented Jan 18, 2013 at 15:17
  • Recent weeks, partly due to my nephew, free time and other things I've finally gotten somewhere with differential calculus. I'm up to using the chain/product/quotient rules and I think not far off looking at linear algebra, vector calculus etc. We'll see! :)
    – Richard
    Commented Dec 5, 2013 at 13:29

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