Each week members of our community pose a tough question they’re facing in their career for Valerie Sutton, our Non-Executive Director for Workforce Navigation & Transformation.. She posts her response in our community and we then share her advice via our blog. Got your own career-related questions? Share your questions with us via Instagram or LinkedIn! This week’s question is: How can I tell whether I am actually qualified for a job from the posting?

Although a job search includes many important steps, people typically spend the bulk of their time on this one: applying for jobs. Then, they’re usually using one of two approaches: a broad approach whereby they apply to as many jobs as possible each week, or a narrow approach where they only apply to a specific role or to jobs in a specific organization or geographic area.  Although both of these approaches are problematic, the wider challenge is that they both emphasize the application stage. In our experience, the biggest mistake people make when they focus on sending out applications is applying for jobs for which they are not qualified. So, let’s take a step back from the application process and review four questions you can use to evaluate whether you’re a qualified candidate for a particular job opportunity.

Why is it important to understand whether you’re qualified for a job?

Employers typically hire candidates who possess the desired requirements they list in a job description or posting. 

In fact, in some countries, like the United States, for example, an employer cannot hire candidates if they do not meet the required or necessary requirements listed in the job description. 

These requirements usually include education level, years of experience, specific skills or certifications, and technologies. That’s why one of the most critical steps you can take to improve your job search is to understand whether you are qualified for a position. Although this varies by country, and you should check local labor laws, in most cases the requirements listed in a job posting are listed as such because they are actually required by the employer.

Having some hard data on whether you’re qualified for a particular role can be especially important for women.

You may have heard the saying that men apply for a job when they meet only 60% of the qualifications, but women apply only if they meet 100% of them.

According to a Harvard Business School Review article, this variation between men and women is not about their confidence but about the use of their time.

“41% of women indicated their top reason for not applying to a position was that they  didn’t think they would be hired since they didn’t meet the qualifications, and they didn’t want to waste their time and energy.”

– Tara Sophia Mohr, Why Women Don’t Apply for Jobs Unless They’re 100% Qualified, HBR article

So let’s take a look at what qualified means in the context of a job search so that you are applying to the right jobs in your search.

4 Questions To Evaluate Whether You’re Qualified

There are 4 quick questions you can ask yourself to evaluate whether you’re a qualified candidate for a role; at ExponentialChangemakers we have a tool called the Quick Qualifier which we share with members to support them in doing so.

First, look at the qualifications for the role. Because employers typically hire candidates who have the required qualifications, the first step is to check whether you have those qualifications. Keep in mind that some qualifications may be more “required” than others. For example, a degree may be a firm requirement. But, a certification in Salesforce may not be required IF you can demonstrate extensive experience using Salesforce.

  1. Do you have each of the qualifications listed on the job posting? If you don’t, then be aware that employers often hire candidates who have the desired qualifications, so this role may not be for you at this time.
  2. Are the qualifications that you have that match the job posting listed clearly on your resume? If yes then move on to evaluate the responsibilities of the job.  If not, then revise your resume to reflect that you have each of the required qualifications.

Secondly, look at the responsibilities listed in the job description.

  1. Do you have examples of where you have used the skills or knowledge required to undertake those responsibilities? If yes, what percentage of the responsibilities do you have experience doing? If not, then this role may not be right for you at this time.
  2. Are those examples included on your resume? And, are you using similar language on your resume to describe your examples? If not, then revise your resume so that it does include examples and uses similar language. If yes, then keep reading!

Here’s how you’ll know if you’re qualified – typically:

  • If you meet 70% of the critical responsibilities, you are a highly qualified candidate.  By meeting 70%, you have the essential abilities to do the job and have room to grow.
  • If you are at 60%, you are qualified but may not be as competitive.
  • If you are at 50%, it may be a tough sell, however, if there are not many candidates or you have connections, you may get the opportunity to interview. 
  • If you are below 50%, it is probably not the best use of your time to apply; however, it is an excellent opportunity to perform a gap analysis, which helps you discover areas to develop so you may qualify in the future.

Now you have a quick way to tell whether you’re likely to be considered qualified for a role. As you repeatedly use the four questions above to evaluate whether you’re qualified,  you’ll notice patterns in the types of roles you’re most qualified for.  Knowing this will help you to target jobs that you are qualified for and focus on identifying more roles that match your unique skills, knowledge, and qualifications in sectors and organizations that align with your career narrative.  And, all of this will help to make your job search strategy more effective.