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Illustration by Kiersten Essenpreis

How many times have you not applied for a job because you thought you lacked the "right" experience? It's not unusual to feel enthusiastic about finding that perfect position, but then too intimidated to hit “send” on your resume.

Fear of not being experienced enough is keeping thousands of hireable candidates from considering new professional opportunities. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are 325,000 discouraged workers in the U.S. right now – people who are “not currently looking for work because they believe no jobs are available for them.”

However, on the American market, there are seven million positions waiting to be filled in 2020. One of these jobs could be yours, even when your skills don’t measure up to the requirements.

The one thing entrepreneurs will overlook in new hires

To get more insight into what the hiring process is really like, we talked to three entrepreneurs who have evaluated thousands of candidates throughout their careers. The one bullet point they’re willing to overlook when they hire? It might be surprising, but the answer is...experience.

Here's what they mean — and how to use this insight to your advantage.

Remember that experience doesn't equal raw talent

"This may come as a surprise, but after a consistent near-decade of running a million-dollar business and doing all the hiring myself, I can tell you that time and time again, the flaw that I end up overlooking is experience.

How crazy does that sound, in a world driven by ‘how many years have you done this?’ Hear me out. Experience does not equal integrity. Experience doesn't equal humility. Experience doesn't equal raw talent. If anything, many times, experience sometimes (not all the time) brings in arrogance, a know-it-all attitude, and an inability to change.

So, in the end, I'd rather hire a talented, willing novice and teach them everything I know in order to become great. It works out so much better that way. Bonus: If you bring on a newbie and mentor them into greatness, they're much more likely to stay loyal for the long haul!”

Julia McCoy, founder and CEO of Express Writers

If you're not an expert (yet), then show off your ambition

As an entrepreneur, you prefer attitude over aptitude if you can’t get both. You can support new hires in acquiring a certain skill set, but you can’t really influence and change their behavior.

In the startup environment, we need bold people who are willing to go all in and push through, no matter how hard or impossible the task at hand seems. Whenever I recognized this in someone, I hired them, even though they weren’t all experts in our niche industry. For the most part, I wasn’t wrong: their ambition and stamina have helped us evolve exponentially.

Once the business moves into growth mode, we value aptitude more as we need specialists to be able to scale, and later, with enough net profit, we look for both.”

Liviu Tanase, founder and CEO of ZeroBounce

Let them know you're a fast learner with potential

Our startup evolves on a monthly, sometimes even weekly basis. What we're looking for in potential hires is how much they can adapt to new situations and how much they can grow as the company grows.

People like that may very well have some minuses, especially on the hard skills side. For instance, someone in a customer success position may not yet know the tools the company uses, and someone on the finance side may have to learn the latest accounting practices. But these are the kinds of things one can learn quickly.

Between someone experienced but less flexible, and someone who wants to grow and has the potential to be great 12 months from now, we'll always go for the latter.”

Emmanuel Straschnov, founder and co-CEO of Bubble

Here's what to do when you're faced with impossible job requirements

The feedback from these CEOs is encouraging, but what about all the job descriptions that sound almost impossible to handle? There are two additional tactics you might find helpful:

  1. Ask yourself how quickly you could achieve the skills you don’t possess. In many cases, employers are willing to bend if they sense your willingness to learn. This way, you don't have to "fake it 'til you make it."
  2. Assess your transferable skills. For example, you may not have extensive experience in public relations, but if you worked in the press, your writing and communication abilities are gold.

And it never hurts to toss your hat in the ring. “What matters even more than checking the boxes is that you can do the job," says Sara McCord, a writer and editor who covers the career beat. "If it turns out that you don't possess a critical skill learned over time, you'll get screened out. But if you have what it takes and are just a bit light on experience, you'll have a shot you wouldn't have had if you'd kept yourself from applying the first place."

Remember that you might be exactly who your dream company is looking for, even if they don't know it yet. You owe it to yourself to let them get to know you.

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