What goes through your mind when putting yourself forward for a new role? Some of the initial thoughts are typically: ‘Which of the essential and desirable criteria do I meet?’, ‘Is it worth my time and energy to apply?’, or ‘What chance do I have of making the shortlist?’
Speaking to candidates day in, day out, I have noticed a clear trend and difference in how men and women approach putting themselves forward for roles – and I’m certainly not the first to notice and highlight this trend. It didn’t take me long to find the following statistic from an internal Hewlett Packard report cited across various articles published within both the Harvard Business Review and Forbes.com (1) (2) (3).
“Men will apply for a job when they meet only 60% of the qualifications, but women apply only if they meet 100% of them.”
This got me thinking about both my personal experience of job hunting and my professional experience across recruitment. In my view the above statistic seemed a little drastic. In the past I have applied for countless roles where I haven’t met 100% of the criteria, but genuinely felt that if given the opportunity, I would have grown and developed those skills. I don’t believe that these gender behaviors are wholly accurate – of course, there are always individual outliers – yet as a trend it does seem to fit. Again, it depends on the level of role applied for, where you are in your career, and personal circumstances and motivations.
Our clients seek specialised experience to recruit senior leadership and executive roles. More specifically for me, working across the IT & Digital Leadership practice, many of our clients turn to us to provide diversity within shortlists, often with an emphasis on gender diversity. When looking into the market, I have found less of a requirement to coach and encourage male candidates, in comparison to equally qualified and talented females, to put themselves forward for new roles. This is no bad thing and I take great encouragement from candidates who meticulously consider their suitability in line with the role requirements. However, I began to wonder whether a man being typically more bold when putting himself forward for roles is the cause or the effect of male dominance across IT and Technology leadership teams, creating a paradoxical circularity.
I would like to encourage women to follow more of a male approach to applying for jobs. When reading job descriptions and listening to recruiters speaking about opportunities, don’t focus on what qualifications may be missing from your profile; focus on what does fit and what skills can be transferred, learnt and developed.