Employers are bending over backwards to woo great employees, which also means they’re bending the “rules.” Here’s an example: Rev, a speech-to-text startup based in San Francisco and Austin, “unabashedly hijacked” its own customer e-newsletter to plead with its fans. What was the ask? If you like their services, please consider working for them.
“We’re hiring in literally every department,” the Rev team admitted in the email. “So if you or someone you fancy wants to help the world overcome the limits of the spoken word with us, please holler.” The organization has the lofty goal of doubling its workforce in the next year. Outside-the-box tactics will be necessary for them to get there. That may mean rethinking long laundry lists of qualifications and essentially ruling out potentially great employees before even hearing from them.
Renewable energy provider Bulb is based in the UK with US headquarters in Austin. Bulb takes a refreshing approach to recruiting talent by proactively addressing the qualifications issue in every one of its current job descriptions by including this blurb:
We know that sometimes, people don’t apply for a job because they don’t have every single skill listed in the job’s requirements. But there’s more to every role – and everyone at Bulb – than we can fit in a job description. So if you’re interested in a role here and believe you could be a good fit, we encourage you to apply. Even if you’re not ready now, if you’re invited to interview with us you’ll get feedback on the skills you should grow to become a candidate in the future.
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The organization takes helpfulness a step further by posting tips on its website in how to interview at Bulb. There’s a list of general job interview tips, but then there’s also tips related to specific roles including for software engineers, data analysts, product managers, and energy specialist. The tips even include steps to expect during the hiring process and what you’ll be asked or tested on at each point (see the software developer tip sheet as an example).
Applying for a job when you don’t meet the qualifications can be tricky. Years ago, you may recall, Hewlett Packard released a study that found women tend to apply for a new job only when they meet 100% of the listed criteria, compared to men who tend to apply anyway if they meet 60%. Harvard Business Review jumped into the research and found that women tended to outrank men on holding back not because they didn’t feel they could do the job but because 1) they didn’t want to put themselves out there and fail and 2) they didn’t want to bend the rules. More recent research from LinkedIn shows that the playing field is a bit more equal now, but women still tend to screen themselves out of the conversation and end up applying to 20% fewer jobs than men.
Whatever category you fit in, if you feel you’d be a great candidate for the position, you should apply anyway. But, before you do, be sure to take these points to heart:
It’s even more important to meticulously communicate your strengths and how you fit. A recent debate on the Austin Digital Jobs® Facebook page erupted about too many job candidates seemingly spamming out their resumes without reviewing job descriptions. Let’s be clear: Even if you don’t meet every qualification, it’s on you to clearly communicate where and how you do line up with the job. Bulb makes this clear in its interviewing tips by emphasizing how important it is to review the job description, prepare your reasoning for wanting the job and why they should take a chance on you, and how the opportunity fits in your career journey.
Read between the lines. Many companies are separating required qualifications from preferred qualifications to help encourage applicants. Docusign takes this route (see this recent posting for a remote customer success engineer). Other companies, like Adobe, have removed the “qualifications” language altogether and instead list more general ideas on “what you need to succeed,” as seen here in a recent job listing for an Austin-based senior security engineer. It’s important to match your resume or application with as many keywords in the job listing as possible. Beyond that, don’t get hung up on skills that may only be part of a best-case-scenario wish list.
Look for diversity and inclusion language. Employers aren’t just loosening their require qualifications because they’re desperate. Many are doing it because it can also help them reach their diversity and inclusion goals. Practices like “degree inflation” (arbitrarily requiring a degree for a position) have been found to create barriers to entry for many racial and socioeconomic groups. Look for language in the job listing or on the company’s career page that highlights diversity, equity and inclusion goals. These companies are likely to put culture fit first over exact qualifications. Check out companies like Austin-based WP Engine as an example.
Ready to practice? Take a look at open jobs both with our clients and with The HT Group (we’re growing fast!). If you can see yourself in the job, put on your thinking cap and connect as many dots as you can. What do you have to lose?