Two months ago, I found myself back in the market for a new job. My “dream job” turned out to be more of a nightmare, and I needed to find a new job — fast.
One night, in the middle of a late-night marathon job-applying session, I remembered a statistic from a Hewlett Packard report I’d once read: Men apply for jobs when they meet 60 percent of the qualifications. Women tend to only apply for jobs if they meet 100 percent of the qualifications.
I was no exception. Despite my eagerness to find a new position, I found myself applying only to jobs I was extremely qualified for (and in some cases, overqualified).
I decided to find out what would happen if I job hunted like a man.
Rather than crossing an intriguing position off my list if I lacked one or two desired skills, I widened my net. I couldn’t bring myself to use the 60 percent criteria, but if I met 70 to 80 percent of the required qualifications, I applied for every job that interested me — regardless of title or level.
At first, I was excited. There were so many positions out there I’d never considered, and I was intrigued by the possibilities.
But almost as quickly, the excitement wore off and I found myself battling a monster-sized case of impostor syndrome. I sent psychic apologies as I applied for jobs that weren’t 100 percent up my alley (barely restraining myself from emailing actual apologies because, like many women, I love to apologize). I began to regret my newfound boldness.
Despite my discomfort, I kept up my new approach. Within two weeks, my job search kicked into overdrive. I received interview requests from 12 different companies for a range of jobs.
I was lucky. As a white woman, I recognize that I benefit from a job market that prioritizes white people. On average, white people receive 36 percent more call backs than black people, and 24 percent more than Latino applicants. Worse yet, these statistics haven’t changed significantly in the last 25 years. While I face barriers because of my gender and a disability, there’s no denying that it’s easier for me to work the job hunt to my advantage.
Once I landed the interviews, I began to worry about whether I would make it to the next round. Or would my interviewers politely brush me off once they realized I was only 70 or 80 percent qualified for the position I’d applied for?
One of my first phone interviews seemed to confirm my fears. Midway through the interview, the hiring manager said the words I had been dreading: “I’m not sure you have the skills I’m hiring for.” As I contemplated whether it was actually possible to die of embarrassment, she continued: “But maybe that’s not the most important thing.”
She grilled me about my skills and experience, and I was certain I was out of the running — until she asked me to come in and meet the team.
Still, I was convinced there was no way I could land that role. It was a director level, which was the most senior role I’d applied for.
But I got an offer, and I decided to carry my approach through the offer and negotiation stage.
When I accepted my prior dream-turned-nightmare job, it was for two primary reasons: flexibility and what I believed was a supportive team environment.
This time, I chose the job with the most valuable title and role.
I didn’t fall into the trap of being too afraid to ask for more money, like 68 percent of women who accept the salary they’re offered without negotiating.
I thought back to all of my prior salary negotiations, when I was too worried about pleasing people to cover my bases — and left money on the table as a result.
One of my former employers offers hiring bonuses only to people who request them. I remember how angry I was when I found out that not one of the women on my team had requested one, myself included — but all of the men had. While I’d argue it’s an employers’ responsibility to ensure their bonus and salary policies are consistent, I know better now than to expect employers to play fair.
This time around, I asked for a hiring bonus, a salary increase and time to consider my options. And while I didn’t receive all of that, I got enough to help me narrow my own personal gender pay gap.