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Dear Readers,

You may be  reluctant to apply for jobs where you don’t have all of the qualifications listed. Should you apply anyway?  Great question.  The answer requires an understanding of how job descriptions are written and the expectations of the hiring team.

Let’s take a closer look:

  1.  How job descriptions are written: Typically, the hiring manager writes the job description. The description is a profile of the ideal candidate and includes a listing of the ideal qualifications.  Considerations include:  number of years of relevant experience, education and or certifications, scope of the job and skills needed. Human resources (HR) usually reviews the description and ranks it relative to other positions to ensure parity in salary and responsibilities.
  2. Are only ideal candidates hired? No! The job description is for the ideal candidate who comes with all of the proven skills and credentials listed. But guess what? The chosen candidate, the one who gets the job offer, on average. has approximately 60-70% of the requirements listed.  Hiring managers develop their job descriptions based on a WISH LIST. But most candidates for the position do not bring all of the listed requirements. In fact, if all employees came to their position with 100% of the qualifications, how would they grow and develop. Often those candidates are looked at as over-qualified and it is though they might get bored and leave after finding a more challenging role.  Most hiring managers are really looking for that 60-70% fit, leaving room for growth and development .
  3. Which 30-40% of the ‘required skills’ are really not necessary?? That depends and is often difficult to determine. Sometimes the hiring managers don’t realize their true preferences until they meet that ‘right’ candidate! A recent client was offered a position as  senior recruiter even though she did not have the five years of experience required. However, she was fluent in six languages and had lived in several different countries. Turns out her international background was seen as a relevant ‘bonus’ and helpful for their increasingly international recruitment efforts. She got the job with only 50% of the listed requirements!
  4. How do I know if I should apply???  The best answer is to make a best-guess and err on the side of applying if you have at least 60-70% of the requirements.  The thing you often don’t know is: Which of the requirements are must haves and which are nice to have I had one client with only 30% of the qualifications listed for a public relations (PR) assistant position and yet she was hired. The PR director was looking for a bright, enthusiastic candidate that she could  mentor.  In most cases, with 60-70% it’s worth a try. Highlight the key qualifications you do have and focus on those in your cover letter, your resume, and in your interview. Emphasize your eagerness to learn and grow. Provide examples of how you’ve been a fast learner.
  5. Remember:  Job descriptions are a wish list for the ideal candidate. Do not be dissuaded if you don’t have all the skills and credentials listed. Remember the 60-70% rule. I compare it to the lists that people often make for their perfect spouse. Does anyone fit those lists?
  6. Perfect People? Remember that there are no perfect people and no perfect job candidates. Take risks and stretch. Do apply for jobs where you clearly have some strong qualifications and demonstrate enthusiasm, competency and knowledge of the organization and how you will propel them forward.Onward in your career success!! Coach Joan

Dear Joan,

I guess you could call me an ambitious millennial, but I am super hardworking, ambitious and having made key contributions to my company in the first few months of employment, I expect to be rewarded.  Yet, I am expected to wait a full year before getting a promotion or a salary increase. Why should I wait for a full year, for an annual performance review, when I’ve done so well in these last few months? How might I speed up this process?

Thank you,


Dear Tim,

First of all, there is nothing wrong with being ambitious, hardworking and making an impact at work. In fact, that is to be commended!

That said, the reason we see a lot in the media about impatient millennials is that, in fact, they often have a different timetable and different expectations for when they should be rewarded at work.

Yes, for many decades, the standard performance review occurred every 6 or 12 months in most corporations and organizations. And for many of today’s millennials, that is perceived as too slow. I personally think that time has sped up for all of us, but especially for the younger people, like you, who’ve lived in a sound bite, instant communication environment. For you, a few months of excellent contribution feels like a long enough period of impact for you to have earned a significant reward. Seems like we have a case of differing expectations.

So how do we develop a shared timeframe that works for all involved? Here are some ideas that have worked for others:

  1. DISCUSS EXPECTATIONS WITH YOUR MANAGER UPFRONT: Have a talk with your manager about exactly what her/his expectations of your performance will be. Try to make those objectives measurable and clear. Ask what/when can be expected if you meet all of those goals and even if you meet them early. Let the manager know that you are ambitious but that you understand that you need to prove yourself via outstanding performance. Ask what kind of rewards (salary or promotion) might be coming your way if you achieve and even over achieve your goals. There are often other ways that you can be recognized for excellence without having a raise or promotion, if your organization sticks firmly to its six month or annual review. But things like title change, new projects, opportunities for training, attending professional conferences, business travel; these can be additional ‘perks’ that you might be able to earn. Sometimes companies have special bonuses that are designed for high achievers.
  2. DOCUMENT ALL OF YOUR ACHIEVEMENTS: Oftentimes there is a disconnect between the level and quality of contribution that an employee feels they have made and the perception of that performance by their manager. Prepare a worksheet that documents your contributions and provide the date, impact and who was involved. See if your manager agrees that that kind of document is a good way to earn some kind of reward or advancement. Include any classes or training and what new skills you are developing that are relevant to your job.
  3. HAVE PATIENCE: Recognize that your speed and that of your employer might be different. And realize that they have the the power and you are in their system. Now that doesn’t mean that you can’t recommend changes or improvement to the system and even suggest other ways they can periodically show reward for a job done super well, but it is vital the understand that the system of how they hold performance reviews might be long standing. If you really feel that you are not being appreciated for your work and you have already communicated that to your manager, perhaps you need to find a new opportunity. Some organizations ARE moving ahead to millennial speed! You might find you fit better in those kind of organizations. FIT is a vital part of success on a job.  You might want to read some new business books that compare the mindset of the baby boomers with the mindset of the millennials (and GenX) and talk about how the two groups can work better together.    Tim, it is great that you recognize that your pacing might be very fast compared to that of your employer. But please take the time to discuss expectations and offer ideas of additional reward (examples mentioned earlier) that might incentivize you while not upsetting the more traditional performance review timing at your company.

All the best to you in your career,  Coach Joan