The 30% Rule | Why You Should Apply for Jobs You’re Not 100% Qualified For

We’ve all been there – staring down your dream job and the only thing you can think of is “am I actually good enough for this job? Can I make it?”

Let’s get it out the way – you have value, you are good enough – but the question should really be “Am I qualified for this job?”. Or better yet, “How qualified should I be for this job?”. Angela Guido returns to walk you through these tricky questions, to read job descriptions to divide what is necessary from what isn’t, and help set you up for a job that’s going to challenge you and realize your potential (and maybe give you some more confidence on the way!).

YouTube video

Prefer to read? Here’s the transcript:

Hello! Welcome back to Make Mondays Better. I'm Angela Guido, MBA Coach, Career Coach, and someone who is really committed to you getting everything that you want from your career. If you're like most people, job searching evokes some of your deepest held fears and anxieties. It makes you feel inadequate. It makes you fear for your livelihood. The possibility of living on the street is always out there somewhere, and when we're looking for a job, it's very easy to lose confidence in who we are. You've probably asked yourself before, am I good enough for this job that I really want that I'm applying for, even that I'm interviewing for today? I'm going to help you answer that question fairly empirically, and in a way that will allow you to proceed even if the answer seems to be no at first.

Everyone Deserves To Be Happy In Their Career

All right, first things first. Before we dig into answering the question of whether you're good enough for this job or not, let's take the worth/value judgment out of this question and clarify that you are good enough for whatever it is that you want to do in this life. You're worthy. You exist. You have a right to be happy and to be satisfied in your career. You are worthy of that. So when we ask ourselves, “Am I good enough for this job?”, we're not talking about your actual worth as a human being, we're talking about whether or not you are qualified to do the job that is being asked of you in this position that you are considering. So maybe a better question is, am I qualified for this job? Let's work with that one as we move forward. So as you're trying to determine whether or not you're qualified for a job, keep in mind that you may have an inherent bias in evaluating that equation. So it's a frequently cited statistic that, on average, women will apply for jobs only when they feel or believe they are 100% qualified to do that job, whereas men will often apply for jobs that they feel, let's say, 20% or 30% qualified to do. This is a difference in the way genders perceive the essence of qualifications, but neither of these is actually quite correct. The right answer is somewhere in the middle. So here's how to discern whether or not you are likely qualified to do a job.

Job Description

Start with the job description, and you can go out on the Internet and find any number of job descriptions out there. I'm going to be working with one today that is a Product Manager at Amazon, and this is a product management, non-tech role designed for people who have an MBA. So there are tons of these jobs out there, you want to look for the ones that you're actually interested in. But your starting point to determine if you're qualified is the job description itself. Most job descriptions are going to have three main components a summary of the job itself, a list of responsibilities for the person who takes that job and a list of preferred qualifications.


We're going to start with the qualifications because this is the easiest aspect of your candidacy to quantify. So the job I'm looking at has four preferred qualifications: the first is an MBA or equivalent degree; the second is experience with business systems; third is experience leading initiatives with cross-functional stakeholders; and the fourth is an ability to work in ambiguous situations and across organizational boundaries. When you're looking at job qualifications, you want to ask yourself, “Do I have at least some of these qualifications?”. If the answer is no, this is probably not a job you're qualified for, but if you have at least some direct experience with the qualifications that they're asking for, you're on the game board, you're on the table. The next thing you need to understand is which of the preferred qualifications are likely to be truly deal-breakers for this job or nice to haves. If I look at this list, there's really only one item on this list that I think is truly a deal-breaker. Can you guess which one it is? It’s experience with business systems. So if you think about having an MBA or equivalent degree, an MBA is never, ever required to do any job. As much as I talk about business school and help people get into business school and love the MBA and have an MBA myself, it is never required. There is literally no job where an MBA is actually a deal-breaker because there are so many other ways to cultivate the knowledge and expertise that one gets in an MBA. You may have a different kind of advanced degree or you may have no advanced degree at all and still be totally capable of doing this job. The MBA is really just a proxy for a certain tenure and an experience level that they may expect you to have. So if you are interested in this job and you don't have an MBA, I still think you can apply. If you have no experience leading initiatives with cross-functional stakeholders, that is definitely a skill that you're going to need in this job, but even if you've never done that, there may be experiences that you have that are in the ballpark. So if you know how to communicate effectively, you know how to talk to people of different backgrounds and facilitate collaboration among them, even if you've never led initiatives across functions, you still may be able to do this job well. Likewise, the ability to work in ambiguous situations, even if you have no experience with that, you may thrive in this environment. But if you really have no experience with business systems, that's a hard skill that is going to be hard for you to fake or improvise or get up to speed on to be able to be successful in this particular job that we're considering. So, as you're looking at the preferred qualifications you really need to distinguish between the deal-breakers and the nice to haves. As long as you have the deal-breaker qualifications, you can proceed to evaluate your fit with this job.


So let's assume that you have the deal-breaker preferred qualifications for a given job, now we're going to move on to evaluating your fit with the job responsibilities. So I recommend that you take a look at all of the tasks and responsibilities that are associated with this job and you might even want to list them out on a piece of paper. Then you're going to have three columns next to it. The first column is: yes, I definitely have direct experience with this task of responsibility. The second column is: no, I don't have direct experience with exactly this responsibility, but I have done some things that are in the ballpark and that are similar and that if I'm asked to talk about this task in an interview, I can give an example that's at least close and demonstrates that I understand what this responsibility is about and I have some transferable skills that will allow me to contribute at this level. That's column two. And column three is: nope, I don't have any experience with this and I can't even fake it. Once you have the responsibilities listed, go down and put an X in the correct column for each of those responsibilities. So here's an example again from this Amazon job description: you need to provide thought leadership, generate customer insights, and track the competitive landscape and industry trends to define and deliver product refinements to keep Amazon in the forefront of the online ads industry. That's actually like five or six things. So you want to break it down and you want to look at each one individually. Do you have experience providing thought leadership? I sure hope the answer is yes. Do you have experience generating customer insights? Have you used data to draw conclusions about customers? This is a much harder skill so the answer may be no, or it may be sort of kind of I've worked in this direction — you decide. Have you tracked the competitive landscape and industry trends for whatever industry you've worked in in the past? Or if not, have you done something similar? So you see, you're going to go down the whole list and decide where is your experience a dead match, where is it kind of in the ballpark, and where are you actually lacking experience that this job requires?

Leave Room To Grow & Evolve

Now, I'm going to say something really exciting and possibly controversial, but this should drive your job search tactics. You ideally want to have direct experience with about 30% of the tasks that you're being asked to perform in this job. You should ideally have between 30 and 40% of at least some experience that's related. So that's column two, and then there should be several columns in which the answer is no, you don't have direct experience with that responsibility. Why? Why should you be applying to jobs that you are not 100% qualified for? Well, if you think about it, your goal in your career is to grow and evolve. It's to become a better and more complete professional so that you have more expertise, you have more to contribute, and you are able to earn more for the work that you put in. Any job you take should provide serious growth opportunities for you, and if you've already experienced everything that this job requires of you, you're not going to learn very much in that role. So this is advice for men and women alike. I really encourage you to apply not just for the jobs that you feel confident that you match perfectly, but to also target ones where you are lacking certain experiences that the job requires, so that you have a concrete set of skills that you will be growing and developing in this job and expanding your skill set for every opportunity that comes after. Once you've targeted roles that are a partial match to your experiences, then your task is about preparing for that interview. It's about getting ready to talk about the experiences that you have directly, the ones that are in the right vicinity of the tasks that will be asked of you, and showing a clear and cohesive game plan to get up to speed in the areas where you have yet to experience the tasks you're going to be asked to do.

So that's it! A very simple equation to determine whether or not you're qualified for that job you want to apply for. Remember, you shouldn't be applying to jobs you're 100% qualified for. Figure out which jobs offer tasks and responsibilities that you want to learn, but that maybe haven't fully experienced yet, and then be ready to talk about the growth you will experience in this role with great passion. It will make a huge difference in your interviews, it will make a huge difference in your confidence, and it is an incredibly important step to getting everything that you want in your career. I'll see you next time on Make Mondays Better.

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Angela Guido

Student of Human Nature| Founder of Career Protocol

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