The 75% rule

75% rule measure upTo a certain extent, a job search is a numbers game. Statistically speaking, the more applications you send out, the more likely that one of them will materialize into a job. This assumes, of course, that the applications are well put-together, and that your experience is a reasonably good fit for the job you’re applying for. But when it comes to fit, how good is good enough? Here’s why you should use the 75% rule when applying for a job.

Today I’d like to introduce you to a concept I’d like you to keep in mind: use the 75% rule when applying for a job. Simply put: apply if your background is a match for 75% of the qualifications mentioned in a job posting.

(It may go without saying, but I’ll say it anyway: there are clearly some jobs that require specific academic or other qualifications. To be hired as an engineer, you’ve obviously got to have an engineering degree. Those aren’t the kind of criteria I’m referring to here.)

The problem with job postings 

Here’s a secret: most job postings aren’t written from scratch. Almost none, in fact. Much of what you read in any given job posting isn’t new. Someone copied-and-pasted it from the last time the company hired for that kind of person, or even hired for a different position altogether. Managers or supervisors may have sent the content to an internal (HR) or external recruiter. Some of these criteria sound like they’re required, but they’re likely entirely optional or ‘nice to have’. And then there are phrases that seem to find their way into almost every job posting, like the mysteriously ever-present requirement for ‘three to five years of experience’. 

No recruiter posts a job expecting that every candidate will have every one of the criteria mentioned in that posting. It’s just not realistic. In the end, the decision to interview, shortlist, and hire comes down to finding a balance between what the applicant has versus what they might be missing. And often, an applicant who’s missing one thing will bring other valuable qualities that sway the balance in the other direction.

Men and women do the math differently

Here’s an interesting side-note: there’s evidence to suggest that men and women look differently at job postings. According to an internal Hewlett Packard study, men will apply to a job when they meet 60% of the criteria. Women will apply only when they believe they meet 100% of the criteria. This isn’t a good thing, and I really hope that it changes. You can read more about the implications of that difference, and some possible reasons for it, here.

I can guarantee you this: you’ll miss 100% of the shots you don’t take, and if you don’t apply, you won’t be hired. So, use the 75% rule when applying for a job. If the 75% rule applies, apply away. Tailor your resume aggressively to draw attention to the qualifications and experience you have that is a match what they’re looking for. Use your cover letter to do the same, and – if appropriate – acknowledge where the gaps are. Then point out the additional assets you bring with you to compensate.

In short? You may measure up more than you think. Take the shot.



Photo by Diana Polekhina on Unsplash