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Why 60% Qualified Is Enough, According to a Recruiter

Required skills? More like *desired*

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Photo courtesy of Paola Aguilar

This article is part of InHerSight's Ask a Recruiter series. We ask recruiters from companies big and small to answer questions about job hunting, company culture, and more.

If you’re a woman who has ever embarked on a job search, you may have heard the buzz: Women and men tend to approach job searching differently. In 2013, HP released a report stating women usually apply for jobs only if they meet 100 percent of the requirements. In many cases, women view a job description as a list of skills and qualifications they should already have instead of skills they can develop as they learn the job. Men, on the other hand, usually apply if they meet 60 percent of the requirements. While this statistic certainly does not apply to all job seekers, it does resonate with many women in the workforce.

As a career coach, I often work with diverse groups of working women. My clients work in every industry from entertainment to higher education. They represent various age groups, education levels, and backgrounds. But one thing they all have in common is that they are rock stars ! I think highly of my clients because they’ve worked diligently to get where they are and qualify for high-ranking positions. The only issue is...some of them don’t feel this way.

Realistically, you’re not going to be 100 percent qualified for every job you apply for. This is especially true if you are switching to a new industry, re-entering the workforce, or still building your resume. Yet there are some job applicants who are underqualified for positions and still get the job.

To gain further insight on this, I spoke with Dannita Trice, a campus recruiting manager for a regional accounting firm in Virginia. Starting her career as a recruiter, Trice began her career by traveling to college campuses to scout new talent. Today, she uses her industry experience to provide guidance for recruiters. In doing so, she sometimes comes across talent who don’t quite meet 100 percent of the job requirements, but she doesn’t count them out immediately. Here, she shares why and how you can pursue a job even if you’re only 60 percent qualified.

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Soft skills matter, too

Although Trice says candidates should meet the minimum qualifications, she also says other qualifications still matter. “Soft skills coupled with bare minimum credentials is key.” Some examples of soft skills are active listening, public speaking, problem solving, and researching. “Candidates can stand out by finding a fit with the team,” Trice says. “Go out to events, carry a conversation, ask thoughtful questions. Articulate what your plans are.”

The ideal candidate isn’t always the best candidate

“When hiring managers are pulling together a job description, they’re saying what their ideal person would be,” Trice says. While it’s great to be the ideal candidate, it’s also great to be the impactful, engaging, or prepared candidate. Don’t hesitate to tell employers that you can learn what you don’t know. Share a specific example of a time when you quickly developed a new talent or skill. Employers like a candidate who can demonstrate their ability to hit the ground running! According to Trice, “It’s all about how fast you can come in and get up to speed.”

It’s not all about the application

If you feel you’re 60 percent qualified for a job you really want, submitting the application can be daunting. After all, there are bound to be other candidates who meet more of the requirements. However, you must remember that networking can help to strengthen your application. “I’ve never been successful with just applying for a job and waiting to hear back. It’s not always what you know, but who you know. It’s about how you’re showing up to them,” Trice says. Enhance your application by coming in with a referral from a trusted contact. Many employers would prefer to hire a candidate who is 60 percent qualified and accompanied by a solid recommendation rather than a “perfect” candidate with no one to vouch for them.

It also doesn’t hurt to show genuine interest in the employer and the job. “It’s really important that when you meet people, you be curious about what they’re doing. Establish a genuine rapport. Be willing to share what you can bring to the table. Be willing to talk to people.”

You can’t beat confidence

Certainly, you’ve heard it before. It’s important to be confident while job searching. Trice says confidence is number one when it comes to applying for a job you’re 60 percent qualified for. “If you’re not sure of yourself, they’re not going to be sure of you either. But, if you’re confident that you can work with others to learn what you need to learn, that makes all the difference.”

Realistically, it’s hard to feel confident when you don’t meet all of the job requirements. The key is to focus on what you do have rather than what you don’t have. Don’t be afraid to highlight your ability to quickly learn new skills, take initiative, and pursue additional education that can boost your resume.

You understand what needs to happen

A qualified candidate understands how to meet company needs. “People who get the job without being 100 percent qualified understand the theory of what needs to happen,” Trice says. Essentially, this means you understand the job on a fundamental level. “I went from being a recruiter for a few schools to overseeing the recruiters who recruit from multiple schools. When I was recruiting, I knew what needed to happen at each of those schools and what needed to happen back at the ranch. I knew how the macro affected the micro.”

In terms of your career and applying to jobs, that means you can’t come to the table without knowing anything, and you have to be realistic about whether you can do a job. Trice says it’s important to be honest about whether you can do the job well. “Don’t engage in negative self-talk, but be real. If you can do the job, then go for it!” She also suggests you try to connect with someone you know in the company and follow up on the opportunity. After all, 60 percent qualified doesn’t mean 60 percent capable.

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