Why You should be Less Fearful of Job Requirements

Why You should be Less Fearful of Job Requirements

When you look at the listed job requirements and see a gap, do you move on? Most do. And it’s because they fear rejection and do not want to waste the employer’s time and their own.

This is a big mistake and could potentially hold your career back.

A job posting describes a fictional (and usually unrealistic) ideal which companies don’t expect to find. In short, that ideal candidate doesn’t really exist.

“A lot of times when companies write job descriptions, they include everything that they dream of having,” says Scott Purcell, a Silicon Valley-based technology recruiter at Jobspring Partners. “It’s a list of things that they need, then things that they want to use in the future or are thinking about using. They put in everything that’s in their environment, every sort of technology.”

Hiring managers do get overexcited and list too many items, even though only a few parts of the description are truly essential. But the term “requirement” gets read very literally, and scares people off from jobs they could actually get.

This isn’t all bad news for the candidate.

Things like relationships, confidence, less definite skills, and proper presentation of experience make a difference and often can help candidates overcome a perceived shortage in qualifications.

To put it in a different way, if you were to ask most hiring managers to choose between one who has every skill listed, versus someone who has 4 or 5 relevant skills plus a good attitude and work history, they are all going to go for the latter.

…the issue isn’t a lack of confidence, but a lack of information about how the hiring process really works.

When professionals were asked why they didn’t apply for jobs they felt unqualified for, in a survey by the Harvard Business Review, few said they felt they couldn’t do the job well. The reasons had more to do with our tendency to take intimidating job postings at face value. Hence, the issue isn’t a lack of confidence, but a lack of information about how the hiring process really works.

Purcell says separating out what’s truly required from what’s optional takes time and market knowledge. A good rule of thumb is that the further you go from the job’s core function, the further down a list of skills something is, and the newer the technology or the skills term is, the more likely it’s a “nice to have” rather than a true requirement.

For example, if you look at just about any Facebook job posting for an engineer, you’ll see a B.A. or M.A. in computer science listed as a “requirement.” It isn’t, according to Serkan Piantino, who heads Facebook’s New York office.

He says that their recruitment strategy is pretty agnostic about the things that don’t matter. A person’s background, whether they graduated successfully from school or not is generally small compared to whether they can be a good fit for Facebook.

Discerning the list of requirements calls for some judgement. While companies generally want to check off as many boxes as possible, much more of a job listing than many realise falls into the category of nonessential.

Additionally, it’s definitely worth asking a friend who works in a similar position or someone who works in the company, or reaching out to a larger network to get some extra information.

At the end of the day, while getting rejected or receiving no response is undesirable, not taking any chances is actually worse – it prevents you from seizing the opportunities out there.


Image courtesy of Lynn Friedman. Article inspired by Quartz.
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