A Surprising Roadblock to Your Job Search

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What is one of the major reasons people do not succeed during a job search? Why are people not applying for jobs? Why are interviews not resulting in offers? 

In our now 26 years of Information Technology staffing experience, this answer no longer surprises us even though it is incredibly frustrating and saddening for job seekers, hiring Managers, and the recruiting/staffing partners they are working with. 

The answer…You.

Hold on…What?

In many cases, it is the job seeker (you) as you are self-eliminating and not clicking the "apply" button! 

Here are some common responses we hear from candidates on why they decided not to pursue an opportunity that was of interest to them:

  1. "I'm missing a technology that's on the list of requirements, therefore I'm not qualified."
  2. "I haven't worked with the newest version mentioned in the requirements; I probably shouldn't apply."
  3. "I've never held that title before; I wouldn't get selected."
  4. "I haven't done exactly what they're trying to do; I wouldn't be a top contender."

I recently was having a conversation with a technology manager after a Tech user group meeting who expressed frustration when good candidates do not apply because they do not have everything the position is asking for. He stated, "I wish people would apply even if they don't have everything. It's my job to identify the best applicants to bring in for an interview, not their job to say they aren't among the most qualified! I feel like I'm missing out on so many quality candidates because they don't think they're strong enough and, therefore, their resume never reaches my inbox."

Coming from the staffing world, one realization we had is that there is a major disconnect between what a manager is communicating in terms of requirements in the job description and the actual requirements candidates need to be successful in the role. This is worth repeating: often times Managers write job descriptions and create lists of requirements that are not reflective of the actual skills they require candidates to have prior to starting a job!  How does happen? We regularly hear from our hiring Managers that they never received training on how to write job descriptions that will attract top candidates, they use templates created by another department, or they simply do not have enough time and use an old description/find one online that is close to what they want!

During qualification discussions, when we review the full requirements list with many of our hiring Managers and inquire "is this technology, skill or version an absolute must have OR is it more of a preferred qualification?" we usually find that there are at least 1-2 "requirements" that simply are not required, and are therefore labeled incorrectly. The same goes for years of experience! We have had numerous hiring Managers tell us something along the lines of "While I prefer someone with 5-7 years of experience, I will consider someone with less experience that is a dynamic individual with excellent communication skills." In some cases, personality and communication skills outweigh technical skills!

What does this mean for job seekers/applicants? There is a significant "opportunity cost," where job seekers are costing themselves the opportunity purely from not applying or pursuing it. This is understandable though, as most individuals, especially those who have a tendency to take things literally, look at a list of ‘Requirements' and then do not apply for an opportunity if they are missing one of those requirements!

What is the work around for this? How do make sure you are not missing opportunities that might be a great fit? Here are our top tips as you review job descriptions/postings:

  1. Still apply even if you do not have every single requirement. There is no "black and white" rule here. We have one Manager who vocalized that "I'd rather hire someone with 50% of the requirements that is a team player, competent and has the initiative and desire to learn vs. someone with 100% of the requirements who doesn't have those soft skills." We have had multiple Managers share that "if the individual doesn't have the exact version of the technology we're using that I've listed, that's fine as long as they're willing to put in the work to learn it!" Our personal recommendation here is to apply for positions where you have at least 70-80% of the qualifications and have an interest in learning and working with everything else. 
  2. During conversations about the opportunity, ask a version of the question "which of these requirements are truly required by the Manager?" and "which of these requirements are preferred qualifications?" In our experience, there are anywhere from 3-5 items that are truly required, and the rest are plusses/preferred requirements!
  3. Write down any of the preferred qualifications that you do not have experience with, prioritize them (i.e. which are most important to the opportunity), and invest time researching and taking training on those. We have had candidates get hired simply because they were the only candidate that took the time to research a technology mentioned in the job description and share their interested in it during the interview! 
  4. Do not have the mentality of "I'm not the strongest candidate" during interview/s! Simply share your knowledge areas and be honest about any skills, technologies, versions, tools, etc. you do not currently have professional experience with, but communicate your desire to learn them! Initiative is one the tops traits that hiring Managers repeatedly request, so share your training and development plan for those areas you have limited experience with.
Next Steps

In summary, do not fall victim to the "self-elimination" trap so many job seekers fall into! Remember, most hiring Managers will still interview candidates who are missing some of the skills, technologies, tools, etc. they are listing as part of their ‘Requirements!'  If you have at least 70% of the requirements, but you want to learn and work with the other technologies listed and/or are interested in the responsibilities outlined that you have never done, click that ‘Apply' button today!

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About the author
MSSQLTips author Erica Woods Erica Woods has nearly a decade in the IT staffing world, an MBA, and is a member of the Professional Association of Resume Writers and Career Coaches.

This author pledges the content of this article is based on professional experience and not AI generated.

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Comments For This Article

Friday, September 21, 2018 - 8:08:32 PM - Erica Woods Back To Top (77698)

Great, glad it was helpful! If you want more advice, feel free to ping me. Thanks! - Erica 

Friday, September 21, 2018 - 12:58:43 PM - Ryk Back To Top (77692)

This article was very timely and helpful to me, since it's likely I'll be in the job market again soon due to an acquisition. Thank you!

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