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444: Application Skills

Would you apply for a job if you weren’t sure you had all the skills required?

Full episode script

There’s a very, very commonly repeated statistic about job applications. You probably know exactly the one I’m talking about – because it is both a shocking statistic and a very gendered statistic. That men will apply for a job when they fit just 60% of the job qualifications, and women wait until they meet 100% of the qualifications.

It’s also likely not true – at least in the micro level. That one statistic, quoted by Sheryl Sandburg and supposedly borne of an internal HP study reported by McKinsey — has no study attached to it, and no study can be found that provides those exact numbers, or anything close.

On the macro level, a little larger out, however, the general sentiment of that so-called statistic may be true. In an Atlantic article entitled “The Confidence Gap,” Kay and Shipman write:

Brenda Major, a social psychologist at the University of California at Santa Barbara, started studying the problem of self-perception decades ago. “As a young professor,” she told us, “I would set up a test where I’d ask men and women how they thought they were going to do on a variety of tasks.” She found that the men consistently overestimated their abilities and subsequent performance, and that the women routinely underestimated both. The actual performances did not differ in quality. “It is one of the most consistent findings you can have,” Major says of the experiment. Today, when she wants to give her students an example of a study whose results are utterly predictable, she points to this one.

Besides, as Sara McCord points out in an article in The Muse job descriptions are written by humans as much as they are read by humans. Quote:

Some requirements are listed because they “sound good.” For example, I once edited a job description to remove the words “from a prestigious university” from after “bachelors degree.” (Yes, sadly, this a true story—someone on the team had thought those words would make the job seem impressive.) Occasionally, ridiculous phrasing happens to good descriptions because someone on the team thinks it “sounds good,” but that’s no reason not to apply.

Another way companies flub the job description (read: scare off qualified candidates) is by listing requirements for a “dream applicant”. But truthfully, companies aren’t going to stall the hiring process until the dream applicant saunters in.

This script may vary from the actual episode transcript.