Q: Should I apply to jobs that require 3 years of experience when I have less than that?
A: Yes, you should absolutely apply! Here’s why:
You lose nothing if you apply, but you lose out on the opportunity to land the job if you don’t apply. What is the worst thing that could happen to you if you apply? Aside from getting a response from the company, nothing. Really. And for your information, some companies don't respond at all. It's bad form but it happens.
Candidates rarely if ever match every single criterion on a job description. If you are a truly outstanding candidate and you satisfy most of the requirements listed on the job description, there’s no way that a hiring manager would look at you and say “Oh, you only have 2.5 years of experience. Sorry!" If you can demonstrate that you have the skills to take on the job, you'll have a shot at it. Trust!
Job descriptions don't always accurately reflect the responsibilities of the actual job. As a hiring manager who’s looking to fill an opening, you obviously want the best candidate possible! As a result, a lot of hiring managers try to cram as many requirements that the job might require into the job descriptions. It's their dream candidate. But like all dreams, it's not based in reality.
Here’s a suggestion: instead of viewing job descriptions as the minimum requirement to get a job, treat them as the maximum requirement. The purpose of a job description is really to provide job seekers with a general overview of what the role entails and what the expectations are of the employer, and not to discourage candidates from applying!
If you are still not convinced, check out Job Descriptions: How to Hack this Career Enigma.