• Employers should be mindful about what is and isn’t necessary for a role: based on the requirements listed in job descriptions, approximately one third of job seekers have opted out of applying because they lacked the experience (31%), education (31%) or technical skills (29%). 
  • Yet employers say that job seekers need to meet an average of only 70% of listed requirements to be considered for a position. 
  • In addition, one fifth of job seekers have opted not to apply for a role due to the tone of the job description — so employers should always put their best face forward.

Empathy is a cornerstone of good hiring, enabling employers to better understand what potential candidates need and want as they pursue their next role. For job seekers, the search for a new position can be both exhilarating and nerve-racking, combining excitement about next steps with nerves about what the future might hold. But amidst a sea of job postings, what leads candidates to apply for some and ignore others? 

While employers often focus on the best ways to attract talent, such as competitive compensation or top-notch perks, it’s equally important to take a close look at what pushes potentially great candidates away

To learn more, Indeed surveyed 500 job seekers from diverse sectors across the U.S. Our findings show that a variety of factors influence whether job seekers opt out of applying and suggest that a sizable number are removing themselves from consideration when they might, in fact, be good candidates. 

By better understanding their rationale, employers can adjust their job postings to attract a wider swathe of potential talent.

Company culture and instability can dissuade potential applicants  

First, let’s look at why job seekers say they choose not to apply for a role. The top three reasons are straightforward and what we might expect to see — for instance, when they lack the required experience (31%), education (30%) or technical skills (29%). 

Further down the list, however, things get more interesting.

For example, 19% of job seekers have opted out of applying for a role due to worries about the company’s stability. This is a bigger concern for men (23%) than women (16%), as well as for employed (23%) versus unemployed (7%) job seekers. 

The employed/unemployed split makes sense; there’s little appeal for someone who’s already employed to make a risky move when they could just stay put, whereas people without a current job might be in more of a rush to start a new role and so willing to take the risk.

Culture is also a concern for some job seekers, with 18% of respondents saying they have decided not to apply for positions because of “culture fit” concerns. 

Here, too, we see differences between men and women. While 23% of men have opted out of applying for roles due to a culture mismatch, only 15% of women say they’ve done the same. Job seekers with at least a bachelor’s degree are also more likely to decide against applying due to poor cultural fit (24%), compared to 14% of those with less than a college degree. 

Employers, then, should be careful about how they convey their company culture. Is an overemphasis on culture fit distracting from the value of culture add — the fresh and different ideas and experiences a candidate could bring to their team?

Finally, employers should remember that a polite and professional job ad is important: 20% of all job seekers have been turned off by the tone of a job description, which jumps to 24% for those with a college degree. When it comes to job postings, the best ones are professional and direct and avoid extraneous information

How do potential candidates feel about the requirements listed in job ads? 

Although many job ads include a long and daunting list of qualifications, when it comes to crafting these descriptions our research suggests that less may be more — and having too many stated requirements likely means some great candidates won’t apply. 

According to the employers we surveyed, a job seeker needs to meet an average of only 70% of the job requirements to be considered for a role. This suggests an opportunity for employers to reassess their ads to see if those extra 30% can be cut. After all, how are job seekers to know that “required” skills or experiences are more flexible than meets the eye?

Interestingly, the job seekers we surveyed feel they need to meet an average of 70% of qualifications in order to apply — the same figure cited by employers.

However, this varies by age group: Gen-Zers believe they need to meet only 63% of the qualifications to be considered, while millennials put the number at 68%, Gen-Xers at 76%, and baby boomers at 77%. 

This suggests that younger workers are more likely to put themselves out there, while their older peers might hold back — and miss out.

Adding unnecessary qualifications could backfire on employers

A closer look at the data reveals another curious trend: job seekers who are more qualified nonetheless believe they need to meet a higher number of requirements than their less experienced peers do. 

People who are currently employed think they need to meet 72% of qualifications in order to be considered for a role, while unemployed job seekers say 64% will suffice. We see similar disparities among job seekers with a bachelor’s degree (74%) versus those with less education (67%). 

This means that adding unnecessary requirements to a job description could backfire: rather than getting a dream candidate who checks every box, employers may be pushing away the people best suited for their jobs.

Rethink job qualifications to attract top talent

Given how many applicants have chosen not to apply for roles because they lacked the required experience, education or technical skills, employers are potentially cutting out a large swathe of talent unnecessarily. 

To reduce the risk of alienating potentially great candidates, employers would be wise to take a closer look at their existing job descriptions to assess what is — and isn’t — conducive to attracting job seekers.

For a given role, employers can evaluate whether the qualifications are “must-haves” or “nice-to-haves.” 

For example, if specific educational requirements are listed, ask whether on-the-job experience would also do the trick. Similarly, reconsider what constitutes relevant experience, such as whether higher degrees could take the place of required years on the job.

What’s more, making sure job descriptions accurately reflect each role’s requirements can help create a more realistic window into what a position entails.  

Hiring changes can bring mutual benefits

With millions of Americans still out of work, this is a timely moment for employers to rethink their job descriptions and ensure they aren’t unintentionally turning away highly qualified talent. 

Job seekers consider a variety of factors when deciding whether to apply for a role, and their rationale is about much more than just compensation or benefits. Our research shows that stability and company culture are also top of mind for many candidates, as is the overall tone of the job description. 

Finally, when in doubt, err on the side of brevity in job postings. Exhaustive lists of requirements risk turning off job seekers who worry they don’t fit the criteria, even if they could be great in the role.

By taking a closer look at requirements and identifying the real necessities, employers can level the playing field for job seekers from different backgrounds — and help get people back to work.