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Don’t Let An Intimidating Skills List Keep You From Applying For The Job

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Applying for the job - Udacity

Everyone who’s gone looking for a job knows the feeling. You find a job listing that sounds perfect for you. You start to read it. You get excited. Then you come to the skills list, and you instantly deflate. I don’t know how to do all that, you think. I’m not qualified.

Does this sound like you? If it does, rest assured you’re not alone. More importantly, you don’t have to feel that way!

Confidence Matters

Our Udacity Careers Team spends a great deal of time talking with our graduates, and learning about their job search experiences. If there is one takeaway above all others that we’ve learned, it’s this: confidence matters.

Our goal here is to identify those things that could potentially erode your confidence, and highlight strategies for preventing that from happening.

You Might Be More Qualified Than You Think

Obviously you need to have skills that relate to the job, so you can’t completely ignore the skills list. But you shouldn’t worry TOO much about it. The truth is, you’re not expected to have every one of those skills. We note this because it’s one of the most common experiences graduates relate to us when asked about job confidence—they often compare themselves against what they read in job descriptions, and when they don’t feel they match up, they lose confidence. Even worse, they don’t apply.

The title of a recent USA Today article offers an important reminder: “You Might Be More Qualified For That Job Than You Think.” Read the article, and you’ll find the following quote:

“Companies aren’t going for 100% of the job description. They’re going for approximately 70% to 75% of the job description, but they’re going with individuals who have high potential and are a good cultural fit.” —Paul McDonald, Senior Executive Director, Robert Half

70% of the listed skills is a very different scenario. Plus, factor in “high potential” and “good cultural fit,” and you might be a well-qualified candidate after all!

Don’t Rule Yourself Out

Global job search engine company Adzuna echoes this sentiment in a recent post entitled “Apply For Jobs You Are Not Qualified For”:

“Don’t worry about meeting 100% of the requirements – companies often list these just to weed out people who are completely inappropriate. If you think about it, a lot of people wouldn’t fill all the criteria that would be listed for their current role, so if you don’t have every requirement, don’t stress too much. Jobs can often be altered up or down to suit a great candidate. Sure, every company is different with this, but don’t rule yourself out for no good reason.”

The post goes on to provide some excellent advice on things you can do to counterbalance any areas where you feel you may come up short on skills, including leveraging your network, emphasizing your soft skills, and showcasing personal projects that provide evidence of your commitment, engagement, and experience.

What Can A Company Do For You?

Back in 2015, in an article entitled “The Simple Change That Attracts Great Job Applicants,” The Wall Street Journal reported on a remarkable study that tested the efficacy of two different approaches to writing job descriptions:

  • Needs-Supplies fit (what the organization can supply to meet an applicant’s needs)
  • Demands-Abilities fit (what abilities and skills the organization demands of candidates)

Lauren Weber, the author of the article, described the distinctions in this way:

“The vast majority of job ads tell applicants what the company wants, with laundry lists of requirements and qualifications. That approach might make sense to bosses looking to fill a role, but it may alienate the very people the company is trying to attract … As the labor market gets tighter and talented candidates juggle multiple job offers, companies need to put themselves in the applicant’s shoes. That boils down to a simple question for anyone writing a job ad: What can the company do for a prospective employee?”

In the study, researchers took a number of engineering and project management job descriptions, and rewrote them in either Needs-Supplies or Demands-Abilities style. They then analyzed nearly 1000 submitted applications. The results were significant:

“Not only did the candidate-centered postings draw in slightly more applicants, but applicants’ talent level was significantly higher, with an average of 1.37 applicants per position receiving the highest rating from hiring managers.”

Audit Yourself

Hopefully you’re now ready to go back and reconsider some of those job listings you may have dismissed because you thought you weren’t qualified. As you do so, consider a self-audit as part of the process:

  • Hard Skills. Do I match up with at least 70% of the hard skills listed as required? If yes, proceed! If not, do some research to see what you can learn in the short term to fill in those gaps. For example, are basic data visualization skills required? Our Data Foundations Nanodegree program only takes 3 months.
  • Soft Skills. These are way more critical than you think, but you have to show evidence. Were you a mentor to someone? Did you launch a new initiative? Were you promoted to a managerial role? Have you spoken at events? Think of examples that demonstrate your leadership and problem-solving abilities. Evidence of strong soft skills plays into “high potential” and “good cultural fit.”
  • Lifelong Learning. In this day and age, your ability to embrace—and demonstrate—lifelong learning may be the single most important determining factor for the success of your job search. What are you learning that’s new? If you’re in progress with a Nanodegree program, put it on your resume! Even if you’re not finished, it’s still evidence of a commitment to lifelong learning.

Applying For The Job

Instincts have gotten a bad rap in our data-driven age, but this is one instance where it’s not a bad idea to go with your gut. Remember, confidence matters. If you genuinely believe you’re right for a role, you just might be. Don’t let a lengthy skills list erode your confidence to the point where you don’t end up applying for the job.  There’s no guarantee you’ll get the job if you do apply, but it’s certain you won’t, if you don’t.

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