What Does Qualifications Mean on a Job Application?

by Tia Benjamin; Updated September 26, 2017
Job Application

When asked about his qualifications, one applicant responded "I have guts, drive, ambition and heart, which is probably more than most of the drones you have working for you," reports "JobMob." It's hard to imagine this was the answer the employer was looking for, although it can sometimes be difficult to tell exactly what the employer wants when it asks about an applicant's qualifications. Most job applications contain a section related to qualifications, although what the employer considers "qualifications" can vary considerably. Some employers include experience, education and overall values as qualifications, whereas others limit qualifications to particular certifications and professional licences.

Qualifications: The Basics

Businesswoman typing on laptop

Applicants should check the job announcement carefully because it will usually list the qualifications that are required. Candidates should fill out the application using the job announcement and description as a reference to ensure they showcase the skills and competencies the employer is looking for. Use contextual clues to determine the correct approach -- the type of qualification the employer is looking for can often be determined by the application itself. If the form has a "qualifications" section that provides a blank table with columns such as "institution" and "qualification obtained," then it is clear the employer is focused more on educational achievements and certifications. If the employer has a separate section for education, work experience and qualifications, then provides a blank box to enter text under the heading "qualifications," it is more likely they are seeking to identify the generalized skill sets, values, experience and competencies that qualify the applicant for the particular job.

Minimum Qualifications

Business interview

Employers may require an applicant to meet the "minimum qualifications" required for the job before granting an interview. The minimum qualifications are usually clearly identified in the application materials and job description and tend to be very specific -- requiring a certain number of years of experience, a degree in a particular field or some substitution of experience and education that otherwise equates to the minimum qualifications.

Preferred Qualifications

Job interview

Some applications will ask the candidate if she meets the minimum qualifications for the position but then also ask about "preferred" or "desirable" qualifications. These qualifications are typically not required to meet the minimum standard to be considered, but are something the ideal candidate would possess. For example, an applicant for a human resources manager positiion may be required to have a bachelor's degree and five years of experience, with a master's degree or human resources certification being the "preferred" qualification.

General Qualifications

Filling Application Form

Some employers consider "qualifications" to be the general listing of values, competencies, skill sets and education needed for all general positions within a company. For example, UNICEF's general employment qualifications require basic values such as "diversity and inclusion, integrity and commitment." Other qualifications include core competencies -- skill sets in particular areas such as communication -- and particular educational and language requirements. If a company with a general set of qualifications asks about "qualifications" on the application, the candidate should discuss how his past work experience and community involvement demonstrate his core values and competencies.

About the Author

For more than a decade, Tia Benjamin has been writing organizational policies, procedures and management training programs. A C-level executive, she has more than 15 years experience in human resources and management. Benjamin obtained a Bachelor of Science in social psychology from the University of Kent, England, as well as a Master of Business Administration from San Diego State University.

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