The Science of the Job Search, Part VII: You Only Need 50% of Job “Requirements”

Project Manager needed. Must have 5+ years of experience, be Six Sigma certified, have advanced deep learning knowledge, and be able to perform surgery on occasion.

Who really has all that? Turns out, basically no one. You’re as likely to get a job interview meeting 50% of job requirements as meeting 90% of them.

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So requirement is a bit of a flexible word in this context, then…

We were curious about how many job requirements are actually required, so we analyzed job postings and resumes for 6,000+ applications across 118 industries from our database of users. We found that while matching requirements is important, you don’t necessarily need to match all of them.

  • Your chances of getting an interview start to go up once you meet about 40% of job requirements.
  • You’re not any more likely to get an interview matching 90% of job requirements compared to matching just 50%.
  • For women, these numbers are about 10% lower i.e. women’s interview chances go up once they meet 30% of job requirements, and matching 40% of job requirements is as good as matching 90% for women.

You only need 50% of job requirements

You’re just as likely to get an interview matching 50% of requirements as matching 90%. We saw a clear upward trend in interview rates based on matching requirements, but with an upper bound. When users applied to jobs where they matched 40 – 50% of job requirements, they were 85% more likely to get an interview than when they matched less, and applying to jobs where they matched 50 – 60% of requirements made them an extra 192% more likely to get an interview over the 40 – 50% matches.

But after that point, you’re in diminishing returns. Applying to jobs where they matched 60% or more of job requirements didn’t provide any additional boost in interview rate.

Job Search Tip #1: Apply for jobs once you match 50% of job requirements.

For women, the % of requirements required is lower

You may have seen stories before about how women in particular don’t apply for jobs unless they’re 100% qualified. We wondered if they were on to something – maybe there’s gender discrimination at play and hiring managers look for women to meet more of the requirements. Turns out, our findings apply just as much to women as to men, and actually, for women, the chances of getting an interview start increasing as soon as you meet 30% of requirements.

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Women get interviews at higher rates with fewer matched requirements – if only they applied to those jobs in the first place.

As you can see in the graph above, we see the same general trend for women as for men, but for women, you’re as likely to get an interview matching 40% of the job requirements as matching 90%. Note also that, as we’ve seen in previous analysis, women in general have higher interview rates than men.

Yet, despite this, among our users, we’ve observed the same trend that has been studied elsewhere. Women are more likely to turn down jobs where they match some but not all of the qualifications – over the last 8 weeks, 64% of our female users rejected at least one job where they matched 50 – 60% of the requirements, while only 37% of male users did.

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So, yes, women, you too should be applying to jobs where you don’t meet all the requirements.

Job Search Tip #2: Stop second guessing yourself – you DO deserve that job.

You’re not guaranteed to get an interview, even when you match 90% of job requirements

Base case scenario, you’re looking at about a 15% chance of getting an interview. Applying for jobs is still fundamentally a numbers game – the more applications you put in, the more likely you are to get an interview, and the more interviews you have, the more likely you are to get a job offer.

Put another way, if you want to get a job offer, the number of jobs you need to apply to is a function of your interview rate (what % of applications do you get interviews for) and your job offer rate (what % of interviews do you get job offers for), specifically: # of applications needed to get n job offers = n / interview rate / job offer rate

Interview Rate Job Offer Rate # of Applications Needed to Get 1 Job Offer
5% 5% 400
10% 10% 100
15% 15% 45

Clearly, improving your interview rate and job offer rate pay off, but what if you can’t find 45 jobs that are perfect matches for you? It never hurts to broaden your search to jobs that feel like more of a stretch. Sure, your interview rate will be lower, but that’s balanced by applying to more jobs.

Job Search Tip #3: Apply to as many jobs as possible to increase your chances of an interview.

No time to fill in all those applications? We can help with that.

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ApplicationAssistant will fill out all those applications for you (and submit them at the best days and times too).

Summary

When you’re out looking for the perfect job, don’t be intimidated by a long list of requirements!

  • Even if you only match 50% of the requirements, you should feel confident hitting “apply.”
  • This applies just as much to women as it does to men (actually, even more so!)
  • Cast an even broader net to improve your chances of getting an interview.

Remember, getting an interview is your big break – it’s your opportunity to prove that you can do the job even if you don’t meet all the “requirements.”

Methodology

First, we randomly sampled 6,348 applications for 668 different users from TalentWorks. Then we extracted the qualifications from the original job postings and the users’ submitted resumes using proprietary algorithms. Finally, we grouped the results based on qualification match and regressed the interview rate using a Bagging ensemble of Random Forest regressors. All analysis and graphing was done using python with pandas, sklearn, scipy, and bokeh.

Why Are We Doing This?

With ApplicationAssistant right now, we can boost the average job-seeker’s hireability by ~5.8x. But, what makes ApplicationAssistant work has been an internal company secret until now. We’re fundamentally a mission-driven company and we believe we can help more people by sharing our learnings. So, that’s exactly what we’re doing.

Creative Commons

We’re not only sharing this but also sharing all of it under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license. In other words, as long as you follow a few license terms, this means you can:

  • Share: Copy, redistribute the material in any medium or format.
  • Adapt: Remix, transform, and build upon the material.

Dear Sarah – Should I Stay or Should I Go?

Hi Sarah,

I asked my boss for a raise but he said I didn’t deserve it so I sent him my resignation letter. Now he is asking me to stay with a higher salary.

Should I accept his offer or start my job search?

Best,

Lost and Confused

Hi LaC,

70-80% of people who accept counteroffers either leave or are let go within a year.

Why? Counteroffers are retention tools. It takes a great deal of time, energy and money to rehire, something that employers typically prefer to avoid all together. While accepting a counteroffer may seem workable in the short-term, you have already established yourself as untrustworthy. It’s difficult to overcome being viewed in this light and may affect the types of projects you’re given or future pay hikes.

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Start looking for a new job. In the future, should you need a raise, here is my advice: appeal to your employer’s priorities without being threatening (i.e.: presenting them with ultimatums or resignations).

There’s a lot to be said for the spirit of cooperation-

“I’ve been receiving a bunch of competing offers as of late. I’m not interested and I’m definitely not thinking about leaving, as I love my team and appreciate the direction this company is going. I understand the company can’t match these offers, but I was wondering if we can close the gap a bit. If not, of course I understand.”

The above example speaks to an understanding and awareness that any employer would appreciate. You’re not requesting a match, but a bump. Asking for a raise isn’t an art form; it can be as easy and straightforward as understanding your manager’s priorities and goals.

Pro-tip: If/When you’re actively interviewing for a new position and you’re inevitably asked “So why are you choosing to leave your current job”, it’s important to remember you are interviewing the company, as well. Let the company sell themselves a bit: “I’m very happy with my current job. I learned from [recruiter name/referral] of the interesting work you’re doing and I’m always open to new opportunities.”

Good luck!

(P.S. Connect with one of our talented mentors [former hiring managers] for interview practice and more advice regarding how to navigate the counteroffer!)

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3 Tips to ‘Storify’ Your Resume

Beyond tips and tricks, ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts’, the ultimate purpose of a resume is to tell a story. Your story. Hiring managers rely on resumes to make the case that the candidate being represented is the best person for the job. So, how do you tell a compelling story using a standard resume?

Looks Matter

Resume real estate is extremely valuable, in that you only have 1 page to make an impression. There’s much debate around acceptable resume length, but at the end of the day less in more when time is against you. Achieving the right balance with an effective usage of white space is the cornerstone of any resume, as are bullet points and a consistent use of italics, boldface type and capitalization.

Hiring managers will not spend time looking for the key facts that make you the perfect candidate, so your formatting must do that for them.

Pro-tip: Your font size should never be less than 10pt or more than 12pt. We recommend the following fonts- Tahoma, Arial, Century Gothic, Bookman, Garamond, Verdana, Cambria, and Times New Roman.

Include Unique Sections

All resumes should have the following 4 sections, regardless:

  • Contact Info
  • Experience Section
  • Education Section
  • Key Skills Section

but, beyond the standard there are many ways to further your story with unique sections. For instance, hobbies, volunteer work, training/certifications, honors, associations, languages, and projects are all great selling points for being a good cultural fit and generally a well-rounded professional.

Pro-tip: People who used even one personal pronoun in their employment section (not the objective or professional summary section) had a -54.7% lower chance of getting an interview callback.

Consider Relevancy

No one likes a long and boring story; too much information is difficult to navigate. Forcing every job you’ve had onto one page isn’t necessary nor advisable. Instead of describing your day-to-day job responsibilities focus on what you did. Obviously, the hiring manager knows what the job itself entails so by focusing on your personal accomplishments you’re crafting a narrative that grabs the reader’s attention.

Consider why you’re listing various items and how that will ultimately improve your candidacy. 

Pro-tip: Past work experience should be written in the past tense.

Conclusion

The climax of your “story” is your goal: to get the job. ‘Storifying’ your resume helps create an image beyond bullet points and highlights your professional accomplishments in a unique, memorable way.

For $10/month we can automatically find the best jobs and pre-fill job applications for you based on your desired role, location and years of experience. In addition, you’ll get our Interview Guarantee — if we can’t get you an interview within 60 days, we’ll refund everything back to you, guaranteed. (90% of job-seekers using TalentWorks get an interview in 60 days or less).

 

Dear Sarah – Was my resume trashed?

Hi Sarah,

What do hiring managers absolutely hate seeing on resumes/CVs? What would get you automatically disqualified?

Best,

DQ

Hi DQ,

There are many things that might disqualify you as a candidate. Recruiters and hiring managers default to saying ‘no’ due to their own time constraints; identifying ‘red flags’ becomes second nature when there’s an overwhelming candidate pool. I’ll touch on a few:

First, avoid dumb mistakes. Spelling, grammar, and punctuation challenged resumes are the worst offender. Why? It’s avoidable with basic proofreading (and do so more than once). Don’t expect your spellcheck to catch everything, like, ‘higher’ instead of ‘hire. (Yep, we’ve seen it.)

job-applications-spammy

Earlier this year, we were actively hiring to fill a position on the TalentWorks team. Of the 426 applicants for our last job, 25% (108 applicants) was basically spam, e.g. outsourcers, recruiters. Almost 10% (40 applicants) made dumb mistakes, e.g. misspellings, forgot to include their email!

Second, a resume without a clear indication of professional progression is another potential ‘red flag’. Hiring managers look for promotions within the same company,  title changes and a logical career flow. If your resume indicates a career plateau (or a career gone backwards, so-to-speak) make sure you add color to your cover letter. (Don’t forget the cover letter!)

Thirdly, if you’re a mid-level employee applying for a ‘lower position’ make sure your resume doesn’t indicate over-qualification, another potential ‘red flag’. Only indicate relevant work history and degrees. Focus on the exact skills and responsibilities highlighted in the job description, which will help distract from titles. 

Lastly, another (very) avoidable mistake that will immediately disqualify you from candidacy is a failure to follow directions. If the job posting asks you to include/attach certain documents, list a salary requirement or fill out their online resume form (I know, I know, it’s tedious)…just do it because there are plenty of people who won’t hesitate.

Good luck!

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Hard Work and ‘Likability’ Win Big in Interviews

Being called in for an interview is a great sign. Not only did your resume and cover letter make an impression, it means your chances of getting a job have improved immensely. In fact, if you’re being asked to interview you have a 10-15% of getting the job. Assuming that there has already been an initial phone screen, the last thing needed is an in person 1:1.

Recently, Cass Business School conducted a study that found when people communicated their successes emphasizing their hard work they were more likely to ace a job interview (and a date) versus simply speaking about their talents and listing off successes.

Your hard work overcoming tough situations and navigating difficult projects makes you, the candidate, more relatable. So, how do you answer interview questions effectively while coming across as ‘likeable’? Here are some examples:

Interviewer: You’re obviously very qualified. Why do you want this job?

You: I believe strongly in the importance of teamwork; working towards a common goal cross-functionally is often times required. Wires can get crossed and projects in turn delayed. This position inherently requires strong communication, and after meeting the members of your team I see how dedicated they are to identifying and solving problems both independently and collectively. Not only would the work bring me an immense amount of satisfaction, I know I would be an value teammate.

Not only does this answer emphasize the importance of teamwork, but also the disfunction if communication isn’t prioritized. Cross-functional communication isn’t always easy, but acknowledging that it’s an important part of a company’s success demonstrates your work ethic and understanding of the position.

Interviewer: What is your greatest professional strength? 

You: I would say my time management skills are one of my better professional qualities, though it wasn’t always that way. It took me working at it using resources and techniques such as scheduling, prioritization and defining both good and bad distractions. Suffice to say, it’s improved both my productivity and stress levels immensely and become a part of who I am personally and professionally.

It would be easy to list off your greatest strengths, but sharing how it took time and energy to perfect adds another dimension of your personality.

Interviewer: Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

You: In five years, I’d love to have taken the requisite steps of becoming a project manager. I noticed on your website that you offer an internal training program and that would definitely be something I’d be interested in pursuing. 

Demonstrating that your personal goals align with the company’s goals while also realistically showing that, although you’re happy with this position at hand, you’d like to possibly pivot in the future (with the company) is an effective way to show that you’re ready to put in work…and, that you’ve done your research!

Conclusion

Highlighting your hard work and creating a story around your accomplishments gives you depth and dimensionality as a job candidate. Find ways in your interview answers to relate to the hiring manager and interviewers on a difference level and you’ll find much more success in getting the job you deserve.

Need more help formulating your interview answers? For $10/month we can automatically find the best jobs and pre-fill job applications for you based on your desired role, location and years of experience. In addition, you’ll get our Interview Guarantee — if we can’t get you an interview within 60 days, we’ll refund everything back to you, guaranteed. (90% of job-seekers using TalentWorks get an interview in 60 days or less).