Is there an ideal time to apply for a job?
Quite frankly, the answer is simpler than you think, and it contradicts what you’ve learned about career advancement.
It may seem a bit strange, but a great time to pursue a new role is when you feel like you shouldn’t be applying to it in the first place.
Yes, that’s right!
If you’re like others, you’ve been conditioned to believe that it’s only worth your time to apply to a job when you meet most, if not, all of the requirements.
After all, wouldn’t it seem that you’re wasting everyone’s time and energy if you don’t provide proof that you’re qualified?
This mindset holds for many job seekers, according to a 2014 Harvard Business Review article. In Why Women Don’t Apply For Jobs Unless They’re 100% Qualified, author Tara Mohr surveyed over 1,000 working professionals about the last role they considered but ultimately chose not to pursue. She found that 46% of male respondents and 41% of their female counterparts didn’t put forth an application for this very reason.
While this was the top response for candidate inaction, the survey revealed another interesting insight.
It suggested that people have a specific and narrow objective behind why they apply to positions. According to Mohr, it is a process where professionals ‘[need] the qualifications not to do the job well, but to be hired in the first place’.
Or, in other words, people are likely to go for it if it seems like they’re a shoo-in for the specific role.
Although COVID has forced candidates to amp up their job search activities during this period of unprecedented unemployment, many still play it safe, opting to apply for roles in the following situations:
- You’ve already done the job earlier in your career. You might think having several years of experience in the same role puts you at an advantage when applying to a job; however, it typically doesn’t. Your application to the same position might prompt questions about your motivation.
For example, if you’ve been in the same kind of position at three different companies in the last 12 years, a hiring manager may perceive you as someone who may shy away from new challenges and projects. Quite simply, they might wonder if you have the desire to grow in the role, taking it to places of continual learning and improvement. They might question if a person who has ‘been there and done that already is the right individual for the job.
- You believe higher education always to be an equivalent proxy for actual, hands-on experience in the industry. I’m a believer in education; however, having it doesn’t necessarily mean it automatically gives you an advantage over your competition. This is especially true in cases where someone has an advanced degree in a particular area. While they may have excellent experience studying, and analyzing problems in an academic setting, candidates struggle to show tangible examples of knowledge being applied in the workplace.
Having the ‘real-life’ experience in a discipline allows for a person to easily develop a track record of performance that companies can understand. The workplace offers an environment where a professional’s achievements are evaluated by metrics and standards relevant to a business or industry.
For example, a hiring manager could gain a good sense of whether a candidate can thrive under the pressure of creating up ambitious partnership targets if she has the actual work experience demonstrating her capability. It’s a bit harder to understand and compare such potential when a person has only read or studied it.
- You equate the passion you have for the work as profound evidence that you’d be good at it. Maybe people have told you you’d be an awesome HR manager because of your amazing people skills. Or, perhaps, your friends have praised your ability to capture the coolest Facebook or Instagram posts on your personal social media accounts. But… does this mean you’re qualified to be a Social Media Marketing Manager? Probably not.
Many people take compliments and praise from non-professional circles and redirect it as evidence of qualification for a particular role. While there might be cases where such action is legitimate, it is important to critically evaluate whether the feedback should operate as your professional capital. Saying that you’d be a perfect fit for a role because ‘everybody’ says you’d be great will likely not persuade hiring managers if that serves as your primary proof for qualification.
So… when should you apply for a job?
Instead of viewing it as an exercise of matching requirements perfectly, candidates should apply to positions with the understanding of it being an essential activity in the journey of career development. If candidates have any solid experience that demonstrates the expertise and competence of what’s being sought as well as the drive and spirit to improve companies, they should throw their names in for consideration — even if their tenure within the workforce is underwhelming.
People who wish to move up the career ladder realize that advancement is a long game, and they don’t fear rejection when trying.
They know that professional mobility occurs through different kinds of activities like networking, collaborating with a mentor, and taking on projects in new areas of responsibility. By dismissing fears of failing to land the job, candidates who apply can use the hiring process to gain valuable insight into what is needed to succeed in their long-term strategy.
Besides getting feedback on how their experience stacks up against others in the marketplace, applying to jobs also gives job seekers the ability to exercise their creativity and savvy. According to Mohr, candidates gain the possibility to overcome shortcomings in requirements through ‘advocacy, relationships, or a creative approach to showcase their talents to a hiring company. In other words, by applying to a job you allow yourself to make it more than a situation where a checklist of skills and nice-to-haves need to be satisfied. Instead, you see it as a free chance to keep selling your awesome self to why managers would be missing out if you weren’t hired.
When you find the confidence to pursue your dream job regardless of the outcome, you’ll discover it’s always a great time to apply for a job