How to Handle It When a Job Interviewer Points Out Your Flaws

Advertising Disclosure: When you buy something by clicking links on our site, we may earn a small commission, but it never affects the products or services we recommend.

Stressed applicant worries while employer reads resume
fizkes /

Editor's Note: This story originally appeared on

You made great introductory small talk and aced the first three questions, but then the job interviewer blindsided you about your educational background not matching the qualifications listed in the job ad.

Take a deep breath before you allow your enthusiasm to deflate.

If a hiring manager bothered to interview you in the first place, they’re obviously interested in learning more.

In fact, it can be an opportunity to show off your problem-solving skills and demonstrate that you’re the right person for the job, despite any lack of experience or skills.

And realistically, this is most likely what the interviewer is hoping to see.

Discussing Opportunities for Growth

Gutesa /

It’s important to remember that even if you don’t have all the qualifications listed in the job ad, you likely have other skills and qualities that make you an excellent fit for the role.

Don’t be afraid to focus on those instead.

So, what do you do when an interviewer points out where you don’t match the qualifications perfectly?

Consider using the following strategies.

1. Stay Calm, and Don’t Take It Personally

Young female candidate laughing at job interview
Mangostar /

It can be easy to take things personally if the interviewer points out a skill set or qualification you lack.

However, it’s important to remember that the interviewer is simply doing their job and trying to ascertain whether or not you’re the best fit.

After all, they may have to justify their hiring choice to someone else. They’re not trying to make you feel bad or put you on the spot.

So, what should you do if an interviewer points out a qualification you don’t have? Help them explain to their boss why you would still be a good fit for the job despite not having that particular qualification.

For example, suppose you’re applying for a job that requires experience in a specific software program you don’t have experience using.

In that case, you could explain how your extensive experience with other programs has given you the transferable skills needed to learn new software quickly.

Your ability to think on your feet and provide a well-reasoned explanation will help balance out one missing qualification.

2. Always Be Honest

Woman and man talking across desk.
AshTproductions /

Being honest is always the best policy, especially regarding job interviews. If an interviewer asks you about a particular qualification you don’t have, there’s no need to try and fudge your way through an answer or make up a fake experience.

The interviewer will see right through it, and it will only reflect poorly on you.

Instead, use the question as an opportunity to demonstrate your willingness to learn and grow. Talk about how you would acquire the necessary skills and why you think you would succeed in the role despite not having all the required qualifications.

Being open and honest will show that you’re a person of integrity — something that any employer would value.

3. Refocus the Discussion

woman doing a job interview
Zivica Kerkez /

Instinct may rouse your defenses, but a better tactic is briefly acknowledging the issue and moving on. You’ll demonstrate honesty and respect for their concern without dwelling on the negatives.

For instance, if the interviewer states something like:

“We’re looking for someone with three years of experience in this field, but your resume only shows two. How do you think that will affect your ability to do this job?”

Your response might sound like this:

“You’re right. The ad does call for three years of experience. I only have two, but in those two years, I’ve gained a lot of knowledge and skill in [X, Y, and Z].

“Plus, I’m confident that I can learn anything else I need to know on the job. Can you tell me more about what the day-to-day work would entail?”

How Refocusing Works

two women meet in a professional job interview
mentatdgt /

Here, you’ve included a few key components.

First, you admit that the interviewer is right — you don’t have the required experience.

However, you quickly follow up and discuss the skills and knowledge you do have that will make you successful in the role.

Finally, you refocus the discussion on the job itself, demonstrating your eagerness to learn more about the position.

4. Ask for Clarification

Meeting with HR
baranq /

If you’re unsure about what the interviewer is looking for, don’t be afraid to ask for clarification. This will allow you to gather your thoughts and ensure that you give a well-reasoned answer.

For example, if an interviewer mentions they’re concerned that you don’t have lengthy experience problem-solving a complicated issue, but you’re unsure what they consider to be “difficult,” you could say something like:

“Can you give me an example of the type of customer service issue you’re talking about?”

By doing this, you’ll give a more relevant and detailed answer about how you would address it.

5. Highlight Your Strengths

Two men discuss a professional matter
Pressmaster /

Even if you don’t have all the qualifications the job requires, you bring a lot to the table, which is why you landed an interview in the first place.

When an interviewer points out a flaw in your qualifications, use it as an opportunity to highlight one of your strengths instead.

For example, suppose you’re applying for a job that requires excellent written communication skills, but your experience is primarily in face-to-face customer service.

In that case, you could explain how your experience dealing with people one-on-one has helped you hone your communication skills.

Focusing on your strengths will show the interviewer that you’re still a qualified candidate despite not having all the required qualifications.

How to Highlight Your Strengths: Example

A man and a woman in a job interview or meeting
fizkes /

Another way to respond is to highlight your relevant skills and experience, even if they’re not directly related to the job. For instance:

“I may not have direct experience working in the [X] field, but I’ve gained a lot of valuable skills through my work in the [Y] field that I believe would transfer well. In addition, I have a strong interest in [X] field and have been keeping up with industry news and developments.”

This response shows that you understand what the job entails and have thought about how your skills and experience can be applied to the role, even if they’re not an exact match.

It also demonstrates that you’re proactive and resourceful — two qualities that any employer would love to see in a potential employee.

6. End on a Positive Note

An older worker shakes hands at a job interview
fizkes /

No matter how you respond, it’s essential to end on a positive note. For example, you might say:

“I appreciate your time today and am eager to continue discussing this opportunity further. I’m confident I have the skills and abilities needed to excel in this role and would love the chance to prove it.”

You’re showing that you’re still interested in the job, despite any flaws the interviewer may have pointed out. It also opens the door for further discussion, which is always good.

Fine-Tune Your Interview Skills

African American man in video call.
Andrey_Popov /

If you have an interview lined up for a dream job, one of the best ways to ensure you’re ready to stand out from the competition is with mock interview practice.

You can try it with a friend or family member who has experience interviewing, a professional career coach, or even someone in your university career center.

Preparation can make all the difference in landing the job or not.

Get smarter with your money!

Want the best money-news and tips to help you make more and spend less? Then sign up for the free Money Talks Newsletter to receive daily updates of personal finance news and advice, delivered straight to your inbox. Sign up for our free newsletter today.