I just got an email from a client wondering if she should apply for a job that is right in her area of expertise and experience. She doesn’t have one of the required qualification, however. So she wondered if she should bother applying.
I advised her to apply, based on my knowledge of the hiring process (and my own experiences hiring and recruiting many, many people). Remember, we’re talking about a single qualification. She meets the other 9 requirements, and has an award-winning record of success doing exactly what the job requires (it’s making children’s television). If she didn’t meet the other 9 requirements, I would have counseled her to think again. Because there is nothing more annoying to recruiters than applications from people who clearly didn’t read the job description and are unqualified for at least half the job. (If anyone wonders why Applicant Tracking Systems are so popular, this is a great reason – it screens out the 50-75% of applicants who don’t meet at least 75-80% of the job’s requirements.)
Here’s why I think she should apply. Most job descriptions are nets for a fishing expedition. Employers will design a job description for their ideal candidate (based almost solely on their knowledge of their own needs) and then go fishing in the market to see who bites.
The pool of candidates is then assessed, and what they find becomes another data point. Perhaps they only find people who have either children’s television production experience OR live television experience (honestly, I think to have both would be extremely rare, since there isn’t a lot of live children’s television since Captain Kangaroo). They will then decide who has most of the qualifications (a computer system will be programmed to select candidates who meet 80% or 75% or 90% of the required qualifications) and choose who to interview from that group.
The winnowing process continues during initial interviews, when employers see who has real qualifications and interest in the job, plus the likelihood of fitting into the culture. The rest are “noes.”
The next step in the fishing expedition is continued interviews and hopefully getting the pool of candidates down to 1 slam-dunk or 2 pretty-damn-close people. Slam-dunk is easy – that person meets most of the requirements, fits in perfectly with the company culture, probably was recommended by someone, has demonstrated success in a similar job, has the right compensation requirements, and everyone agrees that this would be a great person to add to the team. Two “pretty-damn-close” candidates is a little tougher, because neither one meets every requirement, one has a culture or personality issue and the other has a skills issue, and the stakeholders are divided. In that case, a boss will make the decision, usually in favor of the person who has more skill (which is a mistake in my opinion, but easier to justify).
Something else may happen during the hiring process: the pool of candidates is so clearly not the right pool that the job is withdrawn and the description rewritten to more accurately pitch the job and be more attractive to the right candidates. Or the pool is pretty good, but it becomes clear that while there are great people out there, they don’t meet all of the requirements. In that case, the job could be withdrawn and the position description rewritten. Or the job could be redrawn to fit the very small pool of top candidates. The employer would base that decision on a couple of things: a few candidates are fantastic culture fits and have an amazing track record of success, so they would be great additions to the team; or one or two candidates bring something unexpected to the table and cause a whole rethinking of possibilities.
The truth about hiring is that every successful hire will adapt the job to his/her strengths, interests and circumstances. So every job description is a wish list. You have to start somewhere, so that’s where an employer has to start.
I agree. I would never discourage someone from apply for a post. The worst thing that can happen is that they aren’t hired. However, they still get the benefit of going through the application process.
Dear Kenna, such a great point you make, that it is worth going through the application process. When you do anything enough times, you get better at it, so the practice in this instance will be useful for crafting future cover letters at very least. Thanks! Julie