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How To Use The 75% Rule In Your Job Search

Posted by Tjwana Dixon  /  July 11, 2022

This article on the 75% Rule is part of the Coaching Collective series, featuring tips and expertise from Flatiron School Career Coaches. Every Flatiron School graduate receives up to 180 days of 1:1 career coaching with one of our professional coaches. This series is a glimpse of the expertise you can access during career coaching at Flatiron School.

There are two categories of job seekers: those that apply for every position regardless of whether they are completely qualified for it, and those who do not. But, what the latter may not know, is that they’re missing out on job opportunities. 

It may seem counter-intuitive to apply to a job when you don’t meet every requirement listed, but by using the 75% rule, you’ll be able to judge whether or not you should.

What is the 75% Rule?

The 75% rule says “if you can do 75% of the job – apply.” You don’t need to have 100% of the skills, traits, and abilities that the job description lists to apply for the role or secure an interview. There are a couple of reasons for this that justify the use of the rule that job seekers may not be aware of.

Only Some Points Are Necessary

Even if it isn’t explicitly stated, a published job description frequently combines necessary experience and desired experience. You do not need to possess the desirable experience to apply for or perform well in the role, only the necessary ones. So, you can be a candidate for the position even if you don’t satisfy every bullet point.

While you can only assume what the necessary and desired experiences are, the 75% rule provides a more reliable guideline than guesswork.

It’s A Wish List

The job description is frequently a wish list, particularly for newly created roles. If I had a penny for every time a recruiting manager told me, “I’d prefer if they had [experience] but I’m fine if they don’t,” I would be wealthy.

If the job description lists a variety of skills that seem difficult to imagine in a single candidate, including both entry-level and advanced skill sets, there is a very real possibility that some of those fall under the “wish for” category.

Remember, There Is No Perfect Candidate

For job seekers concerned that a 75% fit is not enough to apply for a job, I urge them to remember that there is no perfect candidate. Recruiters and hiring managers know that there is no such thing as the perfect candidate, especially at the resume stage.

Even if it seems like the job description is looking for a unicorn, they’re still expecting a horse.

There are often a few points that are important, but even those could be negotiable. If the job is close enough for you to be considering it, and you go through the below exercise and decide to apply, you probably have the most important qualifications already.

How To Assess The 75%

First, you’ll need a job description. Take a sheet of paper and on the top line write the first requirement. For example: “Experience implementing Salesforce” or “Experience in sales in B2B.”

Leave four lines of blank space and then write the next requirement. Then again, leave four lines of blank space and write the next requirement. Continue down the page writing all the listed requirements until you have them all down.

Use your master resume to look for responsibilities or accomplishment bullets that show the skill or experience in the requirements.

For example, under “Experience implementing Salesforce” you would write “Delivered Salesforce implementation project on time and on budget across two departments.” Do this for all the requirements and all your accomplishments. Some of the accomplishments will repeat themselves, and that’s ok.

If You Can’t Prove a Requirement

Keep in mind that some requirements are close to impossible to prove on a resume.
For example, a common request in job descriptions is “works well under pressure.” Well, if you have achieved results in previous positions, you can likely work well under pressure, but you wouldn’t write “I work well under pressure” on your resume.

You can skip writing any of those requirements when you write your list, but start thinking about scenarios you would like to highlight on your cover letter or during the interview process.

The Bottom Line

If, after completing the above exercise, you have two to three bullets from your resume under at least 75% of the description’s requirements, then apply for the job.

While it can be discouraging to be rejected from jobs that you think you would be perfect for and know you can do based on the 75% rule, it is far worse not to try for them. Those who don’t swing never get the chance to hit, as the saying goes.

So, trust the 75% rule, and apply for the “maybes”, because those could become “yes.”

About Tjwana Dixon

Tjwana Dixon is a career coach with Flatiron School. Dixon has worked in the higher education and not-for-profit education sector for over 14 years. The majority of her roles were in the Career Development Department. She enjoys assisting people transitioning into new careers.