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How to Write a Cover Letter if You are Over or Underqualified

Recently, we shared a four step approach to writing the perfect cover letter. This week we’re focusing on solving the “Goldilocks” dilemma: What if you are applying for a job that you have too much experience for — or not enough?

Regardless of whether you are over- or under-qualified, the first step you should take is the same.  Focus on the job listing itself, and then plug information into your cover letter.

Here’s how to do it:

Start by reading the job description and making a list of what’s needed for the job. If you want to do this electronically, list out all of the requirements in the first column of a spreadsheet.

Then add a column for “exceeds requirements,” another for “meets requirements,” and where you “fall short.” List a final column that details alternative information on what you offer — and the strategy you can take in your application process. Here’s an example of how to do this. (Our sample is written for a candidate for a junior position in Marketing.)


















When you map out the job requirements and the skills you have, you essentially create a strategic plan you can write to apply for the job and create talking points that demonstrate to the employer that you have thought about the job — and how you could do it.

Plug these points into the second paragraph of your cover letter. Your cover letter will practically write itself. Here’s an example using our four step plan on how to write a cover letter:

Through my former colleague, Austin Baker, I learned that you are currently searching for a Marketing Coordinator for your healthcare startup. I write to express my interest in the position and submit my applications for your consideration.

Based on the job description posted, I understand you seek three+ years of experience in a related field, a B.S. degree in Marketing, and proficiency in Microsoft Office. I offer you five years of marketing experience in a government communications office, a position which included budget management and compliance. Based on conversations I’ve had with individuals in healthcare, I understand that there’s a lot of overlap between marketing for government programs and healthcare in that both fields require a strong understanding of regulatory compliance and a respect for following rules. I offer you this experience as well as a Bachelor of Arts in Communications, and completed coursework in Principles of Marketing, Product Management, and Brand Management. I’m also quite adept with Microsoft Word and PowerPoint, and know how to create and manage spreadsheets in Excel.

See the correlation between our table and our letter?

When you focus on the job description, you focus on what the employer needs — not how you exceed the job requirements or fall short! It’s an easier way for employers to see your fit for the job.

Good luck and let us know how this approach works for you.



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