This research investigates how affirmative action policies in job advertisements for leadership positions affect women's and men's inclination to apply. Management students (N = 389) received advertisements that differed in the strictness of announced gender policies: no statement, women explicitly invited to apply, preferential treatment of equally qualified women, or quota of 40% women. When women were treated preferentially, female participants reported higher self‐ascribed fit, which resulted in higher inclinations to apply compared with the control condition and with men. However, when quota regulations were active, female participants showed neither an increased self‐ascribed fit nor higher inclinations to apply. Interestingly, the underlying mechanism was not different when a quota regulation or no statement was announced: participants with higher agency levels reported higher inclinations to apply owing to an increase in self‐ascribed fit. This study provides evidence that only some preferential treatment policies may be successful in increasing women's interest in leadership positions.