One of the biggest misconceptions that job seekers bring to their job search is how closely their qualifications need to match a job’s requirements before they can feel good about applying for the job.
The degree of similarity between a job seeker’s qualifications and the requirements listed in a job description lies on a spectrum, and most job seekers make the mistake of landing too far on either side of that spectrum when going about their job search.
On one side, you have what I call the “spray and pray-ers.” These job seekers haphazardly apply to every position they feel the least bit qualified for and shoot hundreds of copies of their resumes out into the talent universe in hopes that one of them will get noticed. This creates a huge burden on employers and especially recruiters, who have to spend much of their time sifting through all the irrelevant applications just to find a qualified candidate. By some counts, nearly 75% of resumes submitted to a job posting aren’t the least bit qualified for the role.
These job seekers are the reason your resume so often disappears down a black hole and why recruiters naturally approach resumes with skepticism and suspicion. By trying to be all things to all people, they end up being nothing to nobody and essentially sabotage their own job search in the process.
But landing on the other side of the spectrum presents its own set of problems. Job seekers who only throw their resumes into the ring when they match nearly all of a job description’s requirements can severely limit the number of jobs they can be considered for. This limited pool of potential jobs can prolong their job search and increase the pressure they feel when they apply for each job.
The answer, then, is to land somewhere in the middle — where you meet some but not all of a job’s requirements. Just how closely your qualifications should match has been a subject of long debate, but in a study of over 6,000 job applications across 118 industries pulled from its database of users, TalentWorks found that 50% is the magic number for how closely your qualifications should match the requirements of a job description. Anything above that 50% threshold doesn’t make you any more likely to land an interview.
That means you’re just as likely to land an interview when you meet 50% of a job’s requirements as you are when you meet 90% of them.
So what does this mean for you as a job seeker?
Although this doesn’t give you the license to start passing out resumes like hot dogs at a baseball game, you can be a bit more liberal with the jobs you decide to apply to. Even if you don’t exactly meet the requirements for years of experience and other qualifications, that shouldn’t prevent you from opening yourself up to consideration for the role.
I like to use the following rule of thumb when deciding whether or not to apply for a job: Knowing what you know about a job’s requirements, if you feel reasonably confident that you’d perform well in the job, then go ahead and apply. At the end of the day, you’re responsible for your own success, so you should be able to determine whether or not you’d be successful in the different jobs you’re applying to. And if you have doubts, the interview process will help you figure out whether the job is truly right for you or not.
When it comes to your job search, it’s easy to be your own worst enemy. Being too liberal or too restrictive with the jobs you decide to apply to can handicap your chances of success and make it much tougher to land the job of your dreams. As with most things in life, the key is to strike a good balance and give yourself some leeway to explore options that you might not have considered otherwise.
Your career and future employer will thank you for it.
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