I am geographically limited in my academic job search. I have seen some jobs I am qualified for, but might not be 100% fit. For example, I have the qualifications but only a few papers on the topic whereas most of my work is in other areas. Any insight would be appreciated!

  • 31
    You are looking for a job that suits you, not for a job that you are a good fit for. Commented Nov 29, 2022 at 12:29
  • 3
    This is a deeply personal questions that is unanswerable here. The answer entirely depends on your own personal preferences. Commented Nov 29, 2022 at 16:20
  • yes, yes, yes. Oh, to be sure: yes
    – EarlGrey
    Commented Dec 1, 2022 at 12:37
  • Unicorns can exist in both employers and employees.
    – DKNguyen
    Commented Dec 1, 2022 at 16:32
  • One aspect that I don't think many are considering here is you will have to ask your referees for a reference. They may not appreciate having to write a large number of references for jobs that don't seem like a good match.
    – Virgo
    Commented Dec 2, 2022 at 0:41

6 Answers 6


Not applying is suboptimal and self defeating. It is the university that you apply to that makes the determination of your "fit". They know things that you don't and there may be factors that make you seem better to them than you do to yourself.

Yes. Apply. Put some effort into it.

  • BEST Answer ! !
    – Yasir
    Commented Dec 1, 2022 at 18:56

Being a perfect perfect fit is unreal.

Many applicants may have abilities/experiences that you lack, and you may have many other abilities/experiences that they lack.

Applying is the only way to be considered to get the job. Skills that you need to get the job done may come with some time in the job.

Apply, and if you don't get the job, apply for the next offer you find.

  • 6
    In the 1980s, when he was just out of grad school (having finished both a PhD in cultural anthropology and a JD), my father applied for a teaching position. They were looking for someone with research experience on the Navajo Nation (which was my father's research area) who also had experience in the law (my father clerked for Justice Feldman, and then served as legal advisor to the minority party in the state House for several years). There were a bunch of other weird little details in the job description which exactly fit my father's experience. Commented Nov 30, 2022 at 0:19
  • 6
    It turns out that the job description had actually been written in an extremely narrow way so that they could hire a specific person (not my father). Boy were they pissed when they had to interview him, anyway (even if they didn't end up offering him the spot). Commented Nov 30, 2022 at 0:19
  • 4
    But this is the exception that proves the rule. In general, no one is ever a perfect fit for any position. :D Commented Nov 30, 2022 at 0:19
  • 1
    @XanderHenderson - You should really try to turn those comments into an answer... it is a good anecdote Commented Nov 30, 2022 at 16:26

If it's somewhere that you could envision yourself being successful and somewhere that you would like to work then you should apply.

Often the research areas specified in an advertisement are the result of an internal negotiation with different people having a different opinion about what is needed (or would benefit them the most). So they are not necessarily rigid requirements. Depending on how specific the requirements are there may be few, if any, people who are a 100% fit.

The panel can ask for anything they want but ultimately they will need to choose from the applications they receive. Just make a solid case for why your experience/future plans complement the department/university (and are viable there) in the application.


“Don’t put limitations on yourself. Other people will do that for you.”

— James Cameron (2010 TED Talk*)

*The quote is at the 16:10 mark, but do yourself a favor and watch the whole thing.


You should read the job ad in the broadest possible sense.

If you are working in a field, there is a natural tendency to read things like job ads (or other descriptions of qualification) in a very narrow sense: While you know something about X, you certainly know a few people who know significantly more about X. Nevertheless, you might be a real expert on X - not compared to those few people, but those might well not apply, but compared to the vast majority of other applicant - which might well make you both an expert on X, and the most qualified candidate.

Of couse, it also depends what the people who wrote the job ad had in mind. There is always the possibility that they had someone specific in mind, or a very specific field. But another possibility is that they thought that field X is fashionable, but they will be rather happy to hire someone who knows lots about X, even though he/she is not among the 10 leading researchers in the field.



Assuming you are actually interested in that job.

  • Because the other answers, simple as they are, were still too complicated.
    – fectin
    Commented Dec 2, 2022 at 15:36

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