How often have you considered the requirements in a job posting and found that you were missing a few of the desired qualifications? While it’s definitely possible to be that “perfect” candidate on paper (particularly after you’ve been in your industry for a while), it’s common to fall short in at least a few areas that an employer lists.
If your background is only a partial match for a job listing because you lack some of the desired experience, should you throw your hat in the ring anyway, or move on to other opportunities?
Research suggests that your tendency in this situation might differ depending on your gender. An oft-quoted statistic based on an internal report from Hewlett-Packard found that men are more likely than women to apply for a job when they lack full qualifications. The report showed that men will apply when they only have 60 percent of the needed skills, while women remove themselves from the running if they don’t feel they have 100 percent of what’s asked for.
As Tara Sophia Mohr points out in Harvard Business Review, this gender-based discrepancy was initially attributed to differences in confidence levels. The assumption was that women had less confidence than men that they could perform the job if they couldn’t tick off every box in the job description.
But in Mohr’s own research, only 10 percent of women who declined to apply for a job for which they didn’t meet all the qualifications responded that they didn’t think they could do the job well.
Instead, most indicated that they declined to apply in such situations because they didn’t think the employer would hire them without full qualifications. More than 40 percent of women and 46 percent of men respondents thought they were being strategic in saving their time and energy to apply only for jobs in which they were a perfect match. Notably, almost twice as many women as men didn’t apply because they were “following the guidelines about who should apply.”
You can’t land a job that you don’t apply for, and clearly, men are increasing their opportunities by being less rule-bound than women in such cases.
The lesson for both genders is that while a list of job requirements may seem “set in stone,” you don’t necessarily have to interpret the company’s wish list of ideal qualifications so literally.