Dear Matt: I’ve applied for jobs where I had more experience than required, but didn’t get an interview. I also interviewed for a job requiring 5-8 years of experience and I have 12. When it came time to negotiate salary they wouldn’t budge and would not increase it to meet my experience level. Why?

Matt says: It’s important to understand that the specific requirements listed in a job description are the qualifications the employer wants in a candidate. If you skills don’t match, or you have too little or too much experience, you won’t get contacted.

Hiring managers know that job seekers who have more experience than a job requires are going to want more money — or will be looking for that next higher-paying job as soon as they are hired. “When you apply for jobs below your experience level you lessen your value and potentially waste your and the hiring company’s time,” says Stacey Stratton, President of TrueTalent Group (, a Twin Cities-based marketing and creative staffing firm.

A common mistake job seekers make is thinking the next employer must match or exceed one’s current salary to show they truly want you. Even if you are the best of the best, this isn’t always possible.

“Only apply for opportunities that you are willing to accept a salary in the stated range,” says Stratton. “It is rare that a hiring manager will hire someone outside of the salary range. Even if you feel you have mastered all of the requirements, will be a terrific cultural fit and will really stand out above other candidates, realize hiring managers most likely won’t be able to budge on salary. Even if it does happen, these sorts of outside-the-scale hires wind up failing to deliver for you or the company.”

When reading a job ad there are three key areas where it’s crucial to be a match, says Stratton:

Skill set. Are you truly qualified? Have you actually done the work using the skills they require?

Experience. If you have 15 years of experience and they are asking for 5-10, be prepared to take a pay cut or skip applying. If you have four years, still apply; if you have one year, you’re not qualified.

Industry background. The more you can match the industry the business is in, the better fit you will be.

Most people will apply for jobs of interest to them, perfect match or not. But instead of applying for every job you “might” be a fit for, try something else.

Ever wonder how people got jobs they weren’t necessarily qualified for?

“It’s still who you know,” says Stratton. “Networking, volunteering, and building relationships will take you a long way in this small town.”

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