Overcoming Your Employment Gaps

The main ‘problem’ with resume employment gaps is that it requires explanation. Gaps raise red flags to employers and may imply that you weren’t let go voluntarily. The good news is that if you’ve secured an interview, there are other factors that positively outweighed the gap. So, how do you minimize the damage and own your employment history?

Your Resume: Ditch the typical timeline format

Understand that you can get creative with your resume format and are not at all beholden to a chronological timeline. Place your ‘Key Skills’ section at the top to fortify your value prop up front; having this section also increases your hireability by 60%! When you do list your work experience make sure that you include any volunteer/pro bono opportunities (paid and unpaid) that you may have had during that gap of time.

Your Cover letter: Tell Your Story

Whether you took time to raise your children, travel the world, care for an ailing family member, were laid off, or were fired this is your chance to put your spin on why there is a gap on your resume:

“I took a year off to raise my baby, but I’m excited to re-enter the workforce as I have support at home to thankfully do so. While raising my daughter I worked remotely and volunteered with various non-profits to keep my marketing skills sharp. I managed several large email campaigns, ran their social media platforms and taught myself database computer programming. I believe that working with your organization would be a great way to put my marketing skills to work in a new setting.”

Your Interview: Be Confident + Honest

The good news is you have overcome a large hurdle in that your qualifications trumped your employment gap on paper. Now, let your positivity shine through in the interview. Regardless of how large your employment gap is, you want to come across and excited and motivated to progress in your career. Avoid oversharing anything personal and focus on re-entry and what your hoping to professionally achieve at the job at hand.

Conclusion

Life happens and many employers understand. If you have an employment gap know that your story and how you convey it matters more than the gap itself. It’s also an opportunity for the employer to learn more about your character and goals. For example, there is a lot to be said for someone who takes time to care for a family member or who volunteers their time after they’ve been laid off. Feel empowered to tell your story.

Quick note: Remember that an interview is a two-way street, so-to-speak. As the candidate, you are also making sure that the job at hand is right for you. If the employer has a problem with your gap or doesn’t agree the best thing to do is to walk away. Life is complex and situations arise; employers that do not understand that ‘stuff happens’ will most likely be inflexible in the future.

For $10/month we can automatically find the best jobs and pre-fill job applications for you based on your desired role, location and years of experience. In addition, you’ll get our Interview Guarantee — if we can’t get you an interview within 60 days, we’ll refund everything back to you, guaranteed. (90% of job-seekers using TalentWorks get an interview in 60 days or less).

3 Tips to ‘Storify’ Your Resume

Beyond tips and tricks, ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts’, the ultimate purpose of a resume is to tell a story. Your story. Hiring managers rely on resumes to make the case that the candidate being represented is the best person for the job. So, how do you tell a compelling story using a standard resume?

Looks Matter

Resume real estate is extremely valuable, in that you only have 1 page to make an impression. There’s much debate around acceptable resume length, but at the end of the day less in more when time is against you. Achieving the right balance with an effective usage of white space is the cornerstone of any resume, as are bullet points and a consistent use of italics, boldface type and capitalization.

Hiring managers will not spend time looking for the key facts that make you the perfect candidate, so your formatting must do that for them.

Pro-tip: Your font size should never be less than 10pt or more than 12pt. We recommend the following fonts- Tahoma, Arial, Century Gothic, Bookman, Garamond, Verdana, Cambria, and Times New Roman.

Include Unique Sections

All resumes should have the following 4 sections, regardless:

  • Contact Info
  • Experience Section
  • Education Section
  • Key Skills Section

but, beyond the standard there are many ways to further your story with unique sections. For instance, hobbies, volunteer work, training/certifications, honors, associations, languages, and projects are all great selling points for being a good cultural fit and generally a well-rounded professional.

Pro-tip: People who used even one personal pronoun in their employment section (not the objective or professional summary section) had a -54.7% lower chance of getting an interview callback.

Consider Relevancy

No one likes a long and boring story; too much information is difficult to navigate. Forcing every job you’ve had onto one page isn’t necessary nor advisable. Instead of describing your day-to-day job responsibilities focus on what you did. Obviously, the hiring manager knows what the job itself entails so by focusing on your personal accomplishments you’re crafting a narrative that grabs the reader’s attention.

Consider why you’re listing various items and how that will ultimately improve your candidacy. 

Pro-tip: Past work experience should be written in the past tense.

Conclusion

The climax of your “story” is your goal: to get the job. ‘Storifying’ your resume helps create an image beyond bullet points and highlights your professional accomplishments in a unique, memorable way.

For $10/month we can automatically find the best jobs and pre-fill job applications for you based on your desired role, location and years of experience. In addition, you’ll get our Interview Guarantee — if we can’t get you an interview within 60 days, we’ll refund everything back to you, guaranteed. (90% of job-seekers using TalentWorks get an interview in 60 days or less).

 

Hard Work and ‘Likability’ Win Big in Interviews

Being called in for an interview is a great sign. Not only did your resume and cover letter make an impression, it means your chances of getting a job have improved immensely. In fact, if you’re being asked to interview you have a 10-15% of getting the job. Assuming that there has already been an initial phone screen, the last thing needed is an in person 1:1.

Recently, Cass Business School conducted a study that found when people communicated their successes emphasizing their hard work they were more likely to ace a job interview (and a date) versus simply speaking about their talents and listing off successes.

Your hard work overcoming tough situations and navigating difficult projects makes you, the candidate, more relatable. So, how do you answer interview questions effectively while coming across as ‘likeable’? Here are some examples:

Interviewer: You’re obviously very qualified. Why do you want this job?

You: I believe strongly in the importance of teamwork; working towards a common goal cross-functionally is often times required. Wires can get crossed and projects in turn delayed. This position inherently requires strong communication, and after meeting the members of your team I see how dedicated they are to identifying and solving problems both independently and collectively. Not only would the work bring me an immense amount of satisfaction, I know I would be an value teammate.

Not only does this answer emphasize the importance of teamwork, but also the disfunction if communication isn’t prioritized. Cross-functional communication isn’t always easy, but acknowledging that it’s an important part of a company’s success demonstrates your work ethic and understanding of the position.

Interviewer: What is your greatest professional strength? 

You: I would say my time management skills are one of my better professional qualities, though it wasn’t always that way. It took me working at it using resources and techniques such as scheduling, prioritization and defining both good and bad distractions. Suffice to say, it’s improved both my productivity and stress levels immensely and become a part of who I am personally and professionally.

It would be easy to list off your greatest strengths, but sharing how it took time and energy to perfect adds another dimension of your personality.

Interviewer: Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

You: In five years, I’d love to have taken the requisite steps of becoming a project manager. I noticed on your website that you offer an internal training program and that would definitely be something I’d be interested in pursuing. 

Demonstrating that your personal goals align with the company’s goals while also realistically showing that, although you’re happy with this position at hand, you’d like to possibly pivot in the future (with the company) is an effective way to show that you’re ready to put in work…and, that you’ve done your research!

Conclusion

Highlighting your hard work and creating a story around your accomplishments gives you depth and dimensionality as a job candidate. Find ways in your interview answers to relate to the hiring manager and interviewers on a difference level and you’ll find much more success in getting the job you deserve.

Need more help formulating your interview answers? For $10/month we can automatically find the best jobs and pre-fill job applications for you based on your desired role, location and years of experience. In addition, you’ll get our Interview Guarantee — if we can’t get you an interview within 60 days, we’ll refund everything back to you, guaranteed. (90% of job-seekers using TalentWorks get an interview in 60 days or less).

 

10 Reasons Why It’s Hard to Get a Job Today

It’s not just you. Despite the unemployment rate being at a 49 year low, a good job is hard to come by even if you’re 100% qualified. Elements such as bad interviewers, not having ‘the right’ college degree, and stagnant wages are just some ways you’re not finding the job you deserve. Why?

The hiring system is broken:

#1: Priorities and perceived needs have shifted

Many companies do not prioritize their recruiting resources and in turn sacrifice both talent and job impact. An example of this is ‘experience inflation’ or ‘degree inflation’, whereby jobs that in the past did not require a certain requirement (such as a Bachelor of Arts degree) are now standard. An “entry-level” job requires years of experience (approximately 3 years!) and creates a credential gap that disadvantages middle-class workers.

Not only does this hurt jobseekers, but it costs employers money creating an unsustainable cycle.

#2: Increased Outsourcing + Remote Work

Today, you’re not only competing with local jobseekers, but jobseekers from all over the country (and possible world). Due to the low unemployment rates and talent shortage, employers are establishing more flexible work models which includes freelancers and contract work. The use of contractors has increased 24% since 2017, and more than half of hiring managers use the remote work model (59%).

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#3: Being ‘black-holed’ is commonplace

Our team coined the term ‘black-holed’ to mean resumes falling into the great abyss post-submission. You could have the perfect resume and be 100% qualified and this will enviably happen to you. “Ghosting” candidates (or lack of communication and transparency) contributes to the broken hiring system. As a result, it’s even becoming a trend where job candidates are ghosting hiring managers and new employers!

#4: Robots (aka the ‘ATS’)

The ‘ATS’ or applicant tracking systems are key word parsers that score resumes based on particular words being used; most often it will be the exact phrasing being used in job descriptions. If your resume is not machine parsable it will most likely not make it through to the actual human hiring manager. Both large and small companies use an ATS to widdle down large candidate pools. Be mindful of word choice and keywords and keep your resume short. The cover letter is where you have an opportunity to differentiate yourself and let your personality shine through.

#5: Heightened Competition

The normalization of higher education is creating a flatter, more even playing field. The power of education cannot be underestimated and should be upheld and fostered, but does pose a challenge in terms of competition where the college degree represents the new high school diploma. More qualified, educated people means more competition for jobs across industry.

#6: Time is against you

There will never be more than 10-15 interview slots for a job opening, no matter how many people applied. Any given manager’s calendar will usually be filled for days at a time with interviews during a hiring period. As an example, our CEO/founder Kushal shared his personal calendar when trying to hire for particular position. As you can see, it’s crazy:

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He said that to interview just 3% of the applicant pool, he basically did nothing but interviews for all of Friday (the blurred names are interviews). There were another ~2 days like this after having made a shortlist (3% of the total pool of hundreds).

#7: “The Perfect Candidate”

Many employers drag their feet in search of the ‘perfect hire’. It’s due to lack of recruiting priorities and not setting internal/external schedules for positions. For the candidate, that might mean waiting an unnecessarily extended period of time to hear a hiring update of any kind.

#8: Terrible Candidate Screening

There’s nothing worse than actually making it to an interview and the person sitting across conducting it asks half-hearted, unrelated, or uninformed questions:

  • What is your biggest weakness? 
  • Tell me what you think about the individuals you just met with?
  • How would you calculate the production and sales of all the white paint in the US?

Such lazy, oddball questions predict very little and may even create a sense of resentment from the get-go.

#9: Hiring Manager Biases

Employers are people too, and, of course, people are inherently (subconsciously) biased. This shows up more prominently in work environments with unstructured hiring processes and those that fail to set diversity standards.

Our data suggests that there are data-driven ways to force objectivity such as quantifying experience and avoiding collaboration-oriented words.

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#10:  Resume Blemishes

If you were previously fired, laid off or left a job before 18 months you have what is called a resume blemish and it hurts your hireability. How much does it hurt? Controlling for experience, people who were fired, laid off or quit in the first 15 months of a job were 43% less hireable when applying to new jobs.

Whereas everyone else saw a 13.4% interview callback rate, the callback rate was only 7.6% for these folks. Averaging across industries and cities, getting fired meant roughly same as wiping out ~5 years of experience for them.

Conclusion

It’s hard to have a favorable hiring experience in general when the system is broken. From submitting great resumes that fall into a black-hole to decisions being made weeks from whence you expected, it’s discouraging. Understand that you are not alone in feeling discouraged. Check out our ‘Science of the Job Search‘ blog series authored by TalentWorks Founder/CEO Kushal Chakrabarti for data-driven tips and tricks to navigating your next job.

Let us help you navigate! For $10/month we can automatically find the best jobs and pre-fill job applications for you based on your desired role, location and years of experience. In addition, you’ll get our Interview Guarantee — if we can’t get you an interview within 60 days, we’ll refund everything back to you, guaranteed. (90% of job-seekers using TalentWorks get an interview in 60 days or less).

Computers Aren’t Sexist: AI + Recruiting

Recently it was reported that Amazon had scrapped their machine learning recruitment system because it was favoring male candidates. Their machine learning team spent years developing a way to automate the hiring process using a decade worth of past Amazon employee resumes; they would soon learn in doing so the system had taught itself to strategically weed out female candidates. For instance, any resume with the word ‘women’s’ in it was immediately downgraded and scored lower.

What gives? Learned historical data based on past hiring decisions will always produce a biased system because human beings are inherently, and (mostly) unconsciously biased.

Using our own AI technology, TalentWorks pinpoints the biases of hiring managers by analyzing and sampling 100,000+ jobs from our index of 91 million job postings. In doing so we’re able to identify the norms and outliers of the industry such as the number of applications per interview and how that relates to the greater labor market. Example: Racial bias.

How much does race still matter in the US job market?

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After analyzing thousands of job applications, outcomes and applicants, we discovered several key things:

  1. Non-white job applicants got 2.3x fewer interviews than their white counterparts;
  2. For non-white job applicants, if a resume mistake reinforced a racist stereotype, it basically disqualified them.

Through our data, we’ve found the following contributes significantly to combatting racial bias:

  • Limit the number of collaboration-oriented words in your resume, such as, “team player”, “helped”, and “assisted”. Doing so will improve your chances for objectivity by 63%.
  • Anchor your experience by using industry buzzwords and acronyms. This increases objectivity by 34%.
  • Use concrete numbers; specifically, for every 3 sentences use 1 number to demonstrate your impact. Especially for people of color, quantifying the impact that you made with numbers helps remove subjective bias (+23% boost).

Returning to gender bias, we’ve actually found that resumes with obviously female names had a +48.3% higher chance of getting an interview. Names such as ‘Monica’, ‘Zoe’, ‘Ashley’ and ‘Evelyn’ had a significant boost over men comparatively.

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This isn’t incredibly surprising when compared to what happened at Amazon, another tech company with a stark talent problem (men make up 73% of professional employees and 78% of senior executives and managers). The greater labor market suggests that there is an immense benefit for hiring womenWomen are outperforming men in school, and most recruiters are women (who want to support other women).

‘Tech’ is just one industry Talentworks analyzes. Our data is based on thousands of applications, applicants and outcomes across 681 cities and 140+ different roles/industries. Artificial intelligence and deep learning are the future of recruiting. We hope to empower jobseekers to find their ideal position.

Methodology

First, we randomly sampled 100,000 jobs from our index of 91 million job postings. We extracted the number of years of experience, job level and employment type for each job using TalentWorks’ proprietary parsing algorithms. We then used a blended Gaussian-linear kernel to calculate experience densities. Finally, we used an averaged ensemble of multiple independent RANSAC iterations to robustly calculate inflations against outliers. This was done in python with pandas, sklearn and scipy and plotted with bokeh.

Why Are We Doing This?

We can boost the average job-seeker’s hireability by 5.8x right now with ApplicationAssistant. But, what makes ApplicationAssistant work has been an internal company secret until now. We’re fundamentally a mission-driven company and we believe we can help more people by sharing our findings. So that’s exactly what we’re going to do.

Creative Commons

We’re not only sharing this data but also sharing all of it under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license. In other words, as long as you follow a few license terms, this means you can:

  • Share: Copy, redistribute the material in any medium or format.
  • Adapt: Remix, transform, and build upon the material.