Ladies (and gentlemen) — Apply Yourselves!


Our staff talked this morning about a refrain we’re hearing from some employers lately – they can’t fill jobs. Sometimes, literally no one applies for jobs that might have started a small stampede even a few months ago. I had two thoughts as I listened to employment consultants lamenting good jobs at $15 or so per hour (admittedly less than full time), for decent bosses, evoking little more than polite yawns from job seekers.

My first thought was, “Das ist wirklich ein langweiliger Vortrag.” This was from my German word of the day from Transparent Language last week and it means, “This is a boring presentation.” To be clear, I was not bored. I’m really interested in Missoula employers and how the employment picture seems to have changed dramatically for some of them in the past months. But it was 7:30 a.m., and my mind can be a little rabbity until I cage it later in the day.

My second thought was more cogent. I remembered an e-mail that my colleague Deb Gass sent me a few days before “langweilig” ambushed me.  It was from the Harvard Business Review’s Blog Network. The author, Tara Sophia Mohr, implied that everyone has probably already read about a widely-quoted finding from Hewlett Packard, but I hadn’t. The information technology giant’s internal study found that women applied for jobs only if they met every single requirement on the job description. Men applied if they met just 60 percent of the requirements.

Picture10The result of HP’s findings was a lot of analysis by economists, feminists, social scientists, and employment specialists.  Many of those people in professions that end in –ist conclude that women lack the confidence to put themselves out there without meeting every requirement possible. That aligns with the training that the Montana Department of Labor and Industry has been conducting on the gender wage gap. The training encourages women to negotiate salaries and ask for raises – things that women are less likely to do than men are.

The Harvard Business Review’s author came to a different conclusion. Mohr argues that it’s not a lack of feminine confidence in their abilities, but a reluctance on women’s parts to waste their time, employers’ time, and hiring managers’ time on an application that will fall short of requirements. Maybe women are just more thoughtful or more conservative about the expected return on their time investment.

I began to wonder how that might connect with some Missoula employers’ concerns about a dearth of applicants. Certainly, with an unemployment rate of about 4 percent now, Missoulians may be less enthusiastic about lower-paying jobs than they were three years ago when it was about 7 percent. At least one larger local employer acknowledged that this summer and raised its starting wage for unskilled workers by $2 per hour.

Copyright: <a href=''>goodluz / 123RF Stock Photo</a> And those other jobs with higher pay and tougher requirements? I’m hoping that applicants won’t be deterred if they can’t check off every required skill or education level. Some job descriptions offer a broader interpretation of qualifications. For example, the University of Montana and some other employers may specify something such as a bachelor’s degree and two years of related experience OR an equivalent combination of education and experience for a particular job. Conceivably, that could mean that no degree and some really solid experience could be good enough.

An applicant who in interested in a job that includes basic knowledge of QuickBooks might apply even without that knowledge and explain to the employer that he or she is working on a tutorial for that software and could be up to speed fairly quickly. If the applicant has enough other skills and experience, an employer might compromise on a qualification.

Some skills truly are transferrable, so a food server who is skilled at keeping up with a fast-paced restaurant while still offering great service might be able to do the same thing in a different environment, such as retail sales or government service.

Obviously, some qualifications are non-negotiable. Nothing compensates for the lack of a CDL necessary for a truck-driving job. An employer who flatly requires an advanced degree will probably take no substitutions. In those cases, it can be a waste of everyone’s time to apply. But keep an open mind. Evaluate your skills and experience and consider if they have prepared you for a job you know you’d love, and take a chance that an employer might have a little latitude about those requirements.

If you find you really do lack basic, essential skills for a job you want, Missoula Job Service has funding for training. We may be able to help set up an on-the-job training arrangement or classroom work for you. Visit our web site at, give us a call at 406-728-7060, or stop by at 539 South Third West.  We would love to help.


Looking for a job in Missoula? Be sure to check out our Missoula Job Listings.  Be sure you “LIKE” the Missoula Job Service Facebook Page for daily post on job opening. You’ll also find Missoula-area information on Job Hunting ResourcesJob Hunting Tips, Job Interview Tips, tips for writing Cover Letters and Resumes.


Chery Sabol is an employment consultant at the Missoula Job Service, an organization that offers programs and services to assist employers and job seekers alike. Those looking for employment can view job openings on our website, as well as our Facebook Page  and Pinterest Boards. Employment consultants provide résumé reviews, conduct practice interviews, and offer skills testing.

The Job Service also provides a self-service area where job seekers have access to phones, a fax machine, a copier, and computers. Our qualified staff also offers business consulting services, including employee recruitment and retention assistance. Additionally, we provide financial support for businesses looking to train both new and current employees.

We are here to help our community!