Is there a barrier between your business and great female talent?

by Christine Khor30 Sep 2016
When people are passionate about what they do, when they love their job and value their employer, a business can become more successful and more profitable. Many female business leaders already understand the happiness factor that is inevitably tied to work.

However, while this is something we may know intellectually, far too many hiring managers put up unnecessary barriers, blocking their businesses from attracting and hiring those passionate people.

One of these barriers comes in the form of job advertising. Because we are time poor and want to find the perfect person quickly, we advertise a long list of what we perceive to be ‘requirements’ for the job. The problem is that we confuse what is a requirement with what is desirable.

Of course, we do this for logical reasons – we want the most appropriate, skilled and experienced person for the job and we want them quickly.  However, what can often be forgotten is that by doing so, we are relying on people to disqualify themselves.

Interestingly, it is women who are more likely to disqualify themselves from a job if they do not meet the list of requirements. Research conducted by Hewlett Packard once reported that men will apply for a job if they meet 60% of the requirements, whereas women will only apply if they meet 100% of them.  A lot of people attribute this to a woman’s lower confidence or self-esteem. 

The truth, another study by Harvard Business Review found, was that the reason women don’t apply for roles unless they meet 100% of the criteria is because they believe the requirements set in stone.  

It’s not a matter of women having less faith in their own abilities, but rather an assumption made by women that what is advertised as a requirement is…required! So what really makes up a requirement?

A requirement is a skill, experience or qualification that is essential in order to carry out the function of the job.  For example, a dentist needs to have a specific qualification to practise dentistry. 

There is no room for negotiation on that.  Whereas a Sales Manager does not require a qualification or previous industry-specific experience. They need to be able to demonstrate through their work history, the skills and expertise needed to succeed in a Sales Manager role.

There are also legal ramifications to consider when advertising job requirements. For example, it is considered discrimination to specify the years of experience a job seeker should have in order to apply for your job, and yet job boards are rife with this.  

Instead, it is better to describe the range of skills and experience your ideal candidate would have. Phrases such as “demonstrated experience in…” or “a successful track record in…” are ways of conveying the skills and experience you want without making them sound like requirements.

The line between a requirement and a desirable skill is something many hiring managers blur, and the consequence is that great talent, particularly female talent, will disqualify themselves from even applying for your job vacancy.

If you’re serious about getting the right talent into your business, focus on what is truly important for the role and then invest the time to assess applicants who meet a broader criterion. There is no shortcut to finding the best talent so don’t let your next star employee eliminate themselves from ever meeting you.

Christine Khor is the Managing Director of Chorus Executive; a talent management company specialising in the recruitment, coaching and personal branding of executives. She is also author of the book Hire Love: how to hire passionate people to make greater profit.
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