Women need to be more like men. There I said it. I am not talking about moulding ourselves to fit a “man’s world”. I am talking about applying to jobs. Why? Because recent research by Hewlett Packard has shown men are more likely to apply to a job where they meet around 60% of the stated requirements. Women? When we meet close to 100% of stated criteria.
Is anyone really perfect?
100%!!!! So women feel they need to be the perfect match? It has been proven organisations almost never hire someone who fits the original job advert perfectly. So that means men are more likely to be offered a job than women… Because they apply when women don’t – and stand a good chance of being hired.
This throws up all sorts of questions for me! Firstly, Why do females think they “can’t” apply unless they are the perfect match? Secondly, how are women continuing to be treated in society and the workplace that reinforces the belief they wouldn’t be good enough? That they shouldn’t take risks? That they are likely to fail?
My challenge to any woman (and the few men that also feel this way) is this. If you only apply for jobs that are an exact match for your expertise today, how will you grow? Where is the stretch and development for you?
Taking the plunge when applying for Jobs!
It’s all too familiar – you see that job advertised. You’re excited “Yes! This is exactly what I’ve been looking for! I could do all those things!” Then the person requirements. The criteria you don’t have. What next? Ignore and carry on looking, or this time, go for it?!
Let’s forget experience for a moment. Remember many companies hire for culture fit, not just hard skills. According to Forbes Coaching Council, there will be many “requirements” in a job ad that are actually “nice-to-haves”. “How on earth do I show my culture fit in an application?” I hear you cry! The best way? Personal connections.
Steve Cohen on Meyvn Global has said you need to “leverage your network big time when job seeking”. Have conversations with Hiring Managers, Recruiters, people already working for the organisations you are interested in – ideally before applying or immediately after (especially given it is thought (Career Horizons) as many as 70-80% of jobs offered are never actually advertised but offered via personal connections).
Do your research. Look at language used in job descriptions and on websites. Understand the company’s values. Weave in all you can that matches the culture into your CV and cover letter. Maybe even submit a video snippet of you alongside the CV if it feels fitting?
An employer is more likely to overlook one or two of their criteria if you can really convey your strong interest and enthusiasm. Create the impression of; ‘this person doesn’t quite have the skills or level of experience I was looking for, but I really like their passion and willingness to learn’.
“Yeah right!” you may be thinking. Believe me, this is true. Not every single time, but it does happen. I know this because it happens for my Career Coaching clients. Just last week one of them text me to say she had been offered a role as an Assistant Project Manager that she applied for, not meeting all the criteria. The reason they offered her? Her attitude and passion, alongside her transferable skills from the events and hospitality industry.
First Impressions Count!
Does your Cover Letter or approach to interviews involve apologising and highlighting your lack of experience? If so, this is the exact first impression you are giving. Seeds of doubt are planted from the off. All those positive you may eventually get to, aren’t really heard. You need to believe you can to talk like you can!
Whilst I started out saying women need to be more like men, do we? Do women not apply for jobs simply because women we are less confident in our abilities?
Tara Mohr, an expert on women’s leadership, found a major barrier for men and women when applying for a role was not because they thought they couldn’t do the job well. She found people weren’t applying as they believed they needed the qualifications stated, but not to do the job well, but to simply be hired in the first place. They assumed the stated required qualifications were…well, required qualifications. They didn’t see the hiring process as one where advocacy, relationships, or a creative approach to framing expertise could overcome not having the all the skills and experiences outlined in the job qualifications.
What held them back from applying was not mistaken perception about themselves, but a mistaken perception about the hiring process.
What does this tell us? To me this shows women don’t need to try and find that elusive “confidence,” in their ability, but they need better information about how hiring processes work.
In applying for jobs, no Risk equals no Reward.
Maybe this goes to show women are more inclined to believe (on-paper) “rules” about who jobs are for. Concerned more about the cost of applying and the risk of failure. This is understandable when evidence exists that women’s failures are remembered longer (Stanford University) than men’s. So have we landed in a place where that bias leads us to become too afraid of failure? Avoiding situations more than is needed, meaning we don’t reach for our career goals?
There are so many biases women are victims of that are more than likely contributing to caution in applying for jobs:
- The fact girls are more socialized to follow rules (Tara Mohr found “following the guidelines” of a job spec was a more significant barrier to applying for jobs women than men).
- Men are often hired or promoted based on potential, where as women for their experience and track record (McKinsey). If women have watched that occur in their workplaces, it makes perfect sense they’d be less likely to apply for a job for which they didn’t meet the qualifications.
- Certifications and degrees play a different role for women than men. The 20th century saw women break into professional life – but only if they had the right training and accreditations. Qualifications were our ticket in, our way of proving we could do the job. We weren’t part of an old boys club in which gave us the benefit of the doubt. Has this history led to women seeing the workplace as more orderly and meritocratic than it really is?
The upshot I believe is we do, when it comes to applying for jobs, we need to think more like men. Believe less in what appears to be the rules and go for it!
To read more from Rebecca and barriers for professional women that need overcoming, check out her post on Impostor Syndrome – Fix Bias, Not Women!