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Does it matter whether you’re qualified for the job?

Why Women Don’t Apply for Jobs Unless They’re 100% Qualified

Source: Harvard Business Review
By Tara Sophia Mohr

qualifiedYou’ve probably heard the following statistic: Men apply for a job when they meet only 60% of the qualifications, but women apply only if they meet 100% of them. The finding comes from a Hewlett Packard internal report. I was skeptical, because the times had decided not to apply for a job because I didn’t meet all the qualifications, faith in myself wasn’t exactly the issue. I suspected I wasn’t alone. So I surveyed over a thousand men and women.

People who weren’t applying believed they needed the qualifications not to do the job well, but to be hired in the first place. They thought that the required qualifications were…well, required qualifications. They didn’t see the hiring process as one where advocacy, relationships, or a creative approach to framing one’s expertise could overcome not having the skills and experiences outlined in the job qualifications.

What held them back from applying was not a mistaken perception about themselves, but a mistaken perception about the hiring process.

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Nick’s take

This article is an oldie but goodie (from 2014) about being qualified for a job — and it’s very relevant today! The hidden message in Mohr’s article is that women and men miss great job opportunities because the “job qualification requirements” scare them off. That is, they have the wrong perception about how hiring decisions are made. Read the article to understand why you should reach farther than the job ad says you should!

Do you under-apply for jobs because the “requirements” say you’re not qualified? How do you know whether you should apply? How do you handle jobs that are a stretch for you?



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  1. Minor rant: If you are a hiring manager, your goal should be to get the best person for the job. That is why you list requirements of the job. If you turn around and ignore your own requirements, then you hurt yourself in two ways. First, you weed out potentially better applicants who did not apply because they honestly self-evaluated that they did not meet the qualifications. Second, you are hiring a person who’s first interaction with your company is to assume (rightfully so) that your written documents should not be trusted. That does not sound like a reasonably hiring strategy.

    I find that in my industry the opposite it true, there are secret job requirements not listed in the posting that they use to weed out people. Also dishonest, but for other reasons.

  2. Nick,

    This article (by Tara Sophia Mohr) might be an old one, but certainly not a “good” one. The very first paragraph “quotes” a statistic that’s not a statistic. Hewlett Packard never publishes “internal” documents without a specific political and/or business agenda. That doesn’t make it a statistic, it’s just propaganda.

    Ms. Mohr also misquoted the report, since she probably didn’t read it. The HP report was focused on candidates for promotion, not for candidates for jobs (other than internal promotions). As I’m sure you’re aware, there is a very big difference between a promotion (where the promotion candidate has a very good view of the management political and social environment), and an initial job candidate who has zero or very little first-hand knowledge of how job candidates are vetted.

    Sheryl Sandberg is an interesting author, but she often quotes questionable sources and presents them as fact, even though the original source may have been opinion or speculation. Mohr also further obscured the original premise for her article by loosely referencing an article promoting one of Katty Kay and Claire Shipman’s books. No attribution, entirely opinion-based. No facts there.

    Mohr also quoted an article published by Joanna Barsh and Lareina Yee, of McKinsey, on promoting women in business. Barsh and Yee (along with Mohr) speak about conclusions reached by McKinsey reports, but without attribution, and zero information on the actual reports. Apparently, Moh, Barsh, and Yee expected their respective audiences to take their hearsay and opinion without referencing a single fact.

    The purpose of Mohr’s HBR article appears to have been to promote her book, published in 2014. Not a lot of facts here.

    • I stretch and apply for jobs where I’m not qualified, and the vast majority of the time organizations don’t even bring me in for an interview. She’s wrong.