Apply Anyway: The Truth On Requirements in Job Descriptions

I know a lot of you have changed or lost jobs recently. Did you know I lost my job in a recession, too? It was the dotcom bubble. I was working for a start-up where we had the noble aspiration of getting rid of the resume. 

Clearly, it didn’t work. 

We were about to get another round of funding when the economy plunged. Suddenly, a very generous management team was pinching pennies and the manila envelopes started to appear. 

If you’ve ever been a part of a layoff, you probably know what was inside of that envelope. Termination letters. COBRA. All the other things you get when your entire life is changing and people are trying to make it as transactional as possible.

The suck is real. It sucks not to know where your next paycheck is coming from and all of the other uncertainty that comes with being unemployed in America where healthcare is tied to your employment. Add in a pandemic, and it’s pretty obvious to me that I had it a lot better off back then.

Don’t Apply: The Mental Mind F*ck

The job search is an endless cycle of applying, searching, and refreshing for something new in your area. Then the insecurity sets in.

Especially as a woman, it’s hard to convince yourself that you’re qualified unless you’re over-qualified. Study after study shows that women will only apply when they meet 100% of the requirements in job postings while men will apply if they meet only 60% of the qualifications.

That’s one sucky stat, but I know it’s real for me.  In so many cases, I knew I could do the job; I just didn’t look that way on paper. So I didn’t apply. I didn’t have 100% of the requirements, that one year of experience, or the special degree they referenced. I made up the reasons. Women often talk themselves out of jobs they could thrive in because of the listed requirements in job postings and I hate it. 

I hate it even more because I know how most job postings are written – usually by copying and pasting a post from a competitor. So what’s the tipping point? How do you know when you should apply?

Apply Anyway: Lessons on Job Descriptions Every Candidate Should Know

Here’s the TL;dr version. Apply anyway if you have most (more than half) of the skills listed. Ignore that voice in your head.

Longer answer. 

I’ve worked with companies big and small all over the world. The one thing they’ve all had in common? No one was taught how to write a job posting. Ultimately that lack of knowledge is telling you, the applicant, you shouldn’t apply while most of the authors don’t even know what they’re doing. 

Here are a few truths every job seeker should know about requirements in job postings before applying:

  • Job titles are completely made up. You should know all of the alternative names for your role and how your skills apply across different industries you want to work in to broaden your search.
  • Years of experience are also made up. I still don’t even know why anyone uses them. All they do is quantify experience, not qualify anyone. Most people are literally pulling a number out of a hat. Ignore them unless it’s double the experience you have. In that case, you might not be qualified.
  • Most of the time, the person writing the job posting is not the decision-maker. It’s someone who has their own impression of the job but probably has never done it before, which leads me to my next point. 
  • That means they don’t understand your job as you do. It also means they’re probably expecting you to connect the dots that are probably not obvious to you because you two don’t speak the same language about work. 

It’s truly unfortunate how little effort goes into the job posting when candidates care so much. You care about what they say, and it’s not right that they meet you with clichés and lies.

So the next time you see a job posting, and you’re not sure if you’re 100% qualified? Apply anyway.

Take a chance. They probably don’t know exactly what they’re looking for, and it could be you.

Job Search Advice

Katrina Kibben View All →

Katrina Kibben is the Founder and Principal Consultant of Three Ears Media. For most of Katrina’s career, she has been a marketer living in a recruiter’s world – listening to both sides of the talent equation to understand the real issues and find solutions for engaging and hiring better people. Today, she uses her technical marketing know-how and way with words to help both established and emerging brands develop and deliver content that fuels smart recruitment marketing that makes the right people apply.

Katrina has written for Monster.com, HR.com, RecruitingDaily and many other digital publications. She is a recognized leader in recruiting and employer branding who speaks regularly at conferences around the world.

1 Comment Leave a comment

  1. Katrina, as always I enjoy your perspective. However, given the immense black hole that is today’s applicant experience, I don’t know that “apply anyway” really works unless candidates go beyond applying and find a connection into the company – someone who can recommend a candidate and have the resume pulled from the ATS. Of course, referrals/recommendations are always the best job-search strategy anyway … but for those who are relying on responding to posted openings, they are the absolute best way to distance yourself from the pack. Even if (especially if) you meet only 60% of the “requirements”!

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