horse chest piece on chess board

Don’t rule yourself out

Have you ever decided not to apply for a job because you read the job description and felt like you didn’t already have every single required qualification?

I have some inside scoop for you: That long list of “requirements” is the hiring manager’s wish list. They’ll often include every possible skill and qualification they’d like to see in the perfect candidate.

But hiring managers also know it’s unlikely this unicorn-person exists. They approach a search knowing they may have to compromise. “If they have requirements X, Y and maybe also Z, I’ll be flexible on A and B,” they’ll tell the recruiter.

You, the candidate, don’t get to know which ones are flexible.

horse chest piece on chess board
Photo by schach100 on

Women – bless us – tend to view these requirements as necessary to be hired, where men generally view them as things they need to be *able* to do (or learn). In a self-reported survey conducted by Tara Mohr and published in the Harvard Business Review, women “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.” More to the point,

“What held [women] back from applying was not a mistaken perception about themselves, but a mistaken perception about the hiring process.” Share on X

Indeed, once the hiring manager starts interviewing candidates, the process becomes more about the candidates’ potential to succeed in the job and fit with corporate culture and the team. For example: Does the job “require” 10 years of experience but you have seven? Perhaps you have another qualification that the hiring manager finds valuable enough to flex on the years of experience. Does the job “require” experience in a government contractor setting? It’s possible the skills you gained in the same job in a private industry position are readily transferable.

And something else can happen: You might be selected to interview for the job that was posted, but once they talk with you, the employer might envision you fitting into some other role – possibly a modified version of the one that was posted. 

This is why it’s critical that your resume gets you in the door – once you start talking with an employer, anything can happen. Share on X

Most job listings also include some “preferred” qualifications. These are not requirements! Please don’t rule yourself out based on an optional list of attributes. Remember, the hiring manager is creating their ideal avatar in a make-believe laboratory. 

Often, the hiring decision comes down to two well-qualified candidates, and one will get the edge based on some intangible factor. The chosen candidate is deemed to be a better fit. If you’re the one who wasn’t selected, do not despair. Your resume got you the interview, and luck of the draw was the only reason you didn’t get the offer. It’s not you, it’s them.

Think about this:

You cannot even be in a position to be considered for a job if you rule yourself out preemptively. Share on X

So: Submit your resume and let the employer decide, especially if you really think you can do the job. After all, the worst thing that can happen is you’ll hear no. But you can’t hear yes unless you ask.

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