Should I Apply for a Job Before I Meet the Qualifications?

Women Applying Themselves.jpg

Today I had a client who was excited about a job listing but did not apply for it. When I asked her why, she said it was because she didn’t meet all of the qualifications yet.

She is not alone in thinking you need to be 100% qualified, and therefore “ready” to apply for the job. And she is less alone when you look at her within her cohort of female peers. “Men apply for a job when they meet only 60% of the qualifications, but women apply only if they meet 100% of them.

Why Do Women Wait to Apply?

While the reasons why women wait to apply are still up for debate, based on what I hear from clients and from what I noticed in my HR career, I can pinpoint it to one underlying reason— and that is fear. The internal dialogue that drives this fear is outlined below.

Why Women Wait Until They Meet 100% of the Qualifications Before Applying to a Job

Why Women Wait Until They Meet 100% of the Qualifications Before Applying to a Job

Does any of this sound familiar?

Well, let me tell you – you need to replace that dialogue sooner rather than later. We all tend to be our worst critic and talk ourselves into staying within our comfort zone rather than taking a risk. So read on for the 8 reasons why I believe you should ‘flip the script’ on your internal dialogue and apply for that job… start that business.. create that thing – right now, before you feel “ready.”

Why You Should Apply for a Job Before You are 100% Qualified

1) It’s a win-win for the employer and you.

Trust me, I worked in HR for over a decade and often people were surprised by the candidates we chose for a promotion or new opportunities. The other applicants may have been qualified on paper but didn’t interview as well. They may have lacked leadership potential, motivation or enthusiasm. Some of these attributes can make or break a candidate’s chances. Or there simply might not have been a pool of qualifed candidates to draw from. If you’re applying within your organization, it’s helpful to note that the hiring manager wants to avoid posting the job externally, possibly needing to hire a head hunter, plus invest in months of training and onboarding. Also, if you meet 100% of the qualifications there is less room for growth. With less space to grow into the role, from the manager’s perspective you are more likely to get bored and apply for a new job and leave them sooner.

2) It shows people you’re interested in advancing your career.

Even if you don’t get the job, you’ve made it known that you’re interested and willing to try new roles. You might even be pleasantly surprised when a new role is created for you, or you’re the first person who is considered for a similar role that comes up. Your manager may even create development opportunities in your existing role so you are guaranteed to get the job next time you apply.

3) We tend to over-estimate the risk and underestimate our ability.

What you stand to gain is greater than the potential risk of failure. Ask yourself, what is the worst thing that can happen if you apply? Make a list of the qualifications that make you a great candidate for the job. If you don’t have the technical skills, which soft skills do you have that will enable your success? What passion will you bring to the role that can’t be feigned? Look beyond what is listed on the job posting.

4) You might surprise yourself.

The best job in my corporate career came as a surprise. I didn’t have supervisory experience or direct knowledge of the systems or department to which I was applying. The manager who hired me truly believed in my ability to do the job. I was so grateful for her trust that I stepped up to the challenge. Although some people were upset when I took the role, it motivated me to work harder to earn their trust and focus on building relationships and making a positive impact.

5) You won’t find your flow if you aren’t challenged.

If you don’t know what I mean about flow, I wrote about what it is and how to find it in this blog post.  Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi put it best when he said:

“The best moments in our lives are not the passive, receptive, relaxing times… The best moments usually occur if a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile.”

6) You don’t want to live with regret, trust me.

 To quote someone who is kind of a big deal in the hockey world, especially here in Edmonton,

"You miss 100% of the shots you don't take."  - Wayne Gretzky

Do you want to live wondering, what if? Take it from someone who’s had a brush with death— we don’t always get the wake-up call until it’s too late and in those moments, the things you worried about seem so small in comparison to the opportunities that could have changed your life. Take the risks now, even small ones, so you don’t waste precious time living anything but the most fulfilled, authentic version of yourself.

 7) Taking a risk will boost your self-confidence.  

Think about the last risk you took? How did you feel afterward? My guess is even if you didn’t execute it perfectly, you survived and knew you could do it again. As quoted in Forbes Magazine, bestselling author of The Naked CEO said,

“The only way to build self-confidence is to take a risk and take action despite your fear of failure, messing up or embarrassment. If things work out, then you now know you can do more than you think. If things don’t work out, you now know that you can handle more than you think. Either way, you’re better off.”

8) If you don’t believe in yourself, who will?

Now if you aren’t willing to take a risk on yourself, why should anyone else? When you don’t believe in yourself, people can tell and it sends the vibe that you’re not worth investing in. In her talk Invisible Rules Dr. Pat Heim, expert on gender differences in the workplace, describes how women go into the “confessional” during an interview as opposed to men, who tend to make answers up. She also talks about how studies have shown that women attribute success to others, and men to themselves. If we can’t even claim our own success, how are we supposed to compete— even for the roles we are qualified for? If you’re a female in a male-dominated environment and haven’t seen the full video, it’s a must-watch.


Now when you focus on all the reasons listed above to take a risk and let go of the fear, something amazing happens. You start to believe in yourself. And there’s no qualification one can possess that matches the power of the belief in your own ability.

So, what do you think? Have I convinced you, or do you still have your doubts? Go ahead, ask around and see how others decide whether to apply for a job and comment below with your findings. Also, share this article with women (and men) who could use some motivation to stretch themselves.

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