How women self – sabotage in the recruitment process

I have helped many men and women through the recruitment process. This includes writing a CV or LinkedIn profile, coaching them on effective job searching, helping them prepare for interview, and finally helping to negotiate their package.

Interestingly, I have noticed distinct differences between the levels of confidence between women and men in this process, which has led me to conclude that some, and perhaps many, women unwittingly ‘self sabotage’ and reduce their chances of securing the role they really want. As a result, they can end up not fulfilling their true potential in their careers.

How men and women differ:

1) Applying for jobs

Surveys have shown that when looking at the job description:

Women will only apply for a job if they can do most of it.

Men will apply if they can do around 50-60% of it.

Why the difference? In discussing this with women, they seem to be far more concerned about the fear of failure once in a job, of not being quite up to it. They have the expectation of themselves of doing the job perfectly from day one. They are far more likely to suffer from ‘imposter syndrome’ believing that they are not worthy of their current success, and will be found out at some point. Men seem to be far happier to ‘wing it’, confident that they can quickly learn all the skills they currently lack once in the job.

Having the expectation of doing it all perfectly from day one is totally unrealistic. Your employer won’t expect it so why should you? If you could do it all perfectly from day one where is the development potential for you? I have known people secure jobs with absolutely no related experience and where they do not even fulfil the so called ‘essential criteria.

2) Knowing what you have to offer an employer

Men seem more aware than women of what they have to offer in the job market.

In the recruitment process it’s absolutely essential to be aware of what you have offer an employer-: your skills, knowledge and personal attributes. An employer is not as interested in why the job is right for you, as they are in why you are right for the job and their organisation. What are you going to contribute to the organisation? How are you going to help them achieve their goals?

In helping people gain clarity around their skills, I sometimes present them with a long list of skills and ask them to circle the ones that apply to them. In almost all cases men will circle more than women.

Why is this? Sometimes when I ask women about their skills, they will often say ‘I’m not sure what my skills are, I just do my job’. This will not be helpful in the recruitment process which is about you ‘selling’ your skills to an employer. If you’re not sure what they are, make a note of the tasks and responsibilities in each of your jobs and then the skills needed to do those jobs. Get someone to help with this if you find it too difficult to do on your own.

3) Communicating what you have to offer in writing and at interview

Men are more comfortable communicating what they have to offer an employer than women.

In writing:

Constructing your CV or LinkedIn Profile is actually about you setting out your stall in the jobs market in the hope that someone will come and buy from you. If you don’t do a good job of clearly communicating your skills, knowledge and attributes in writing, no one will come to buy.

Women seem to be far more concerned that they are appearing boastful or exaggerating their claims. I certainly wouldn’t advocate a CV littered with overblown, exaggerated claims but in my experience, women have a tendency to undersell their abilities which isn’t going to help them get to the all- important interview stage.

At interview:

Again, women seem to worry unduly when describing their achievements. When discussing projects that have been successful they are far more likely to say ‘we’ than ‘I’. That’s OK to a point, but too much of that could mean your interviewer starts to think ’I’m beginning to wonder what part you played in this.’ Get used to talking about your achievements in a matter of fact way. It’s not boasting! Your interviewer is dying to hear what you can do for them!

4) Negotiating the offer

Women are far less likely to negotiate their offer than men

Often women seem to be so grateful to be offered the job, that they don’t want to be seen to be rocking the boat right from the beginning. You have an open opportunity to negotiate when a salary range is given. I always advise everyone to go for the top of the band being offered. This is what the employer has budgeted for and it’s there for the taking! Just make sure you give them good enough reasons to justify it. It will always be far more difficult to increase your salary once you are in the job.

So what can women do to keep self – sabotaging in check?

If you like the look of a job and feel you can do a good proportion of it, then go for it!

  • Be absolutely clear about what you have to offer an employer.
  • Be prepared to express it clearly in your application and at interview.
  • Be prepared to negotiate your salary. You don’t have to accept the first offer.

Of course, there are exceptions to this. There are of course men who are not so aware of their self -worth and women who are. But in general, there is a gender divide. I would love to hear other opinions and comments on why this is.

Good luck! And get in touch if I can be of any help to you if you are in any part of this process at the moment please get in touch via contact page.