Job Requirements Aren’t Fact: In Fact, They’re Often Fiction!

Hockey superstar Wayne Gretzsky once famously said, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”

Karen Rae Horwitz, JobGiraffe, jobs, job hunting, resumes, applying for a job,
Karen Rae Horwitz

This adage can also be applied to your job search. The unfortunate thing is that most job seekers often view themselves as unqualified for positions, when they actually are well qualified. By not applying, they deprive themselves of even the chance to be considered for the position.

After many, many years in recruiting and staffing, I feel this is not the correct way to approach a job search because frequently hiring managers, especially when writing a job description, list too many requirements and tend to include the experience and skills that they’d want the ideal candidate to have, as opposed to listing the core abilities that would actually lead to one being considered for the position.

Sound familiar?

OK, in defense of employers for just one moment, it is partly understandable; why wouldn’t an employer try to hit a home run and find that “perfect” candidate? Yes, there is a chance that the perfect person is out there, but the problem becomes these well-intended ‘top talent scouts’ inadvertently alienate and intimidate the really good, really qualified candidates!

This has actually become a substantial problem, as a recent Harvard Business Review study concluded that 41% of women and 46% of men report that feeling as if they are unqualified for a position is the number one reason they won’t even just send in their resume for consideration. They express sentiments like, “I didn’t think they would hire me since I didn’t meet the qualifications, and I didn’t want to waste my time and energy.”

It is never a waste of time or energy to apply for a job!

As recently explained in a similar GovExec.com article, “Hiring managers get overexcited and list too many things, even though only a few parts of the description are truly core. But the term “requirement” gets read very literally, and scares people off from jobs they could well get.” The author continues to say that people often forget how much of the hiring process is a human experience. This is a fact that should never be overlooked; you can often make up for not meeting certain requirements by bringing other things to the table. A steady work history, applicable education, strong references, prior professional accomplishments, a trainable nature and the right personality for a certain company culture; these things influence hiring managers just as much as your quantifiable skills!

At JobGiraffe we deal with this reality all the time. We often have to curtail the long “wish lists” from employers when writing our public job descriptions, understanding that by really only focusing on the core requirements we will actually be able to see more and better qualified applicants. We’d rather interview people to ascertain the totality of both their actual work experience and their unquantifiable qualities when deciding if they may be a good fit for a position.

But beyond JobGiraffe, the truth is, daunting job descriptions may not change, but your actions can!

Reconsider those positions you didn’t apply to because you felt you didn’t have the listed requirements. Even if it’s something that is seemingly concrete, such as a certain type of degree that’s being required. If you have the same experience and skills but not the right type of degree, do you really think an employer wouldn’t be willing to consider you for a position? Feeling like you could contribute to the success of the company will trump any kind of “perfect applicant wish list”.

A final side note; interestingly enough, women and men differ greatly in how often they let a fear of under qualification effect what jobs they apply to. Is it said that men apply for a job when they meet 60% of the qualifications, but women only apply if they feel they meet 100% of them.

This is an important lesson that all job seekers should learn; job descriptions are not rules written in stone, just wishful guidelines of the employer. Most all of us harbor a fear of being rejected, which is very normal, but when you let this fear effect how you job search you are only doing yourself a disservice.

Remember what “The Great One” said – “you miss 100% of the shots that you don’t take”, and you won’t get a job that you don’t apply to!

Karen Rae Horwitz
President
JobGiraffe

1 thought on “Job Requirements Aren’t Fact: In Fact, They’re Often Fiction!

  1. Karen Rae, your article makes so much sense!!! I worked for Paige Personnel all through college, and had an extremely successful teaching career. After having another child I’m looking into temp work again… but I’d like a completely different work environment and experience than education. I know I possess skills that employers will find useful but that aren’t documented in my “education” resume. I’m in Texas now and I’m hoping the recruiter I meet with next week will have your insight. Hope all is well with you…

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