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.

How to overcome a hiring manager’s bias

In an ideal world, candidates would compete for jobs on an even playing field. Unfortunately, hiring managers are human and predisposed to inherent bias. If your resume makes it through the ATS (“applicant tracking system”) what type of biases exist and is there anything you, the jobseeker, can do?

Bias #1: Ageism

Our data suggests that your hireability starts dropping by ~8% every year after age 35. Yes, it’s illegal for companies to base hiring decisions around age, but it inevitably happens. Although The Age Discrimination in Employment Act allows legal protection against employers blatantly adding age preferences in job listings, many older workers will hear such things as “You wouldn’t be happy here” or the ever present “You’re too qualified” that are thinly veiled ways of saying your age matters.

So, what do you do if you’re nearing 35? We highly recommend leaving out your graduation dates on your resume and LinkedIN page.

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Bias #2: Resume ‘Blemishes’

More than age, race or experience, having even one employment blemish (such as a firing or layoff) was the biggest factor affecting the job search.

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Candidates who were fired, laid off or quit in the first 15 months of a job were 43% less hireable when applying to new jobs. Comparatively, their callback rate for interviews was 55% less than people who did not have a resume blemish. Averaging across industries and cities, getting fired meant roughly same as wiping out ~5 years of experience for them.

If you’re applying to jobs with a recent blemish on your resume we recommend concentrating your search around smaller companies. Applications to companies with <500 employees had a 192% higher interview rate. For every additional 1,000 employees, the hireability for people with work blemishes dropped by 19%.

Bias #3: Your Name

If you’re Asian or Hispanic-American and make a resume faux-pas on your resume (such as a misspelling or forget to include your email address) you are penalized much more than white applicants.

Force an objective mindset if you have a non-white name and you’ll increases your interview rate up to +199%. This roughly translated to closing the racial discrimination gap in hiring by 54% (a 1.6x race penalty vs. 2.3x originally). How do you force objectivity? Using concrete numbers to demonstrate your impact will boost your hireability by 23% and help remove subject bias. Also, adding industry buzzwords and acronyms will give you 34% hireability boost.

Conclusion

It’s hard enough that employers give a resume about 6 seconds to decide whether they’ll proceed, but throw in age, a layoff, and an “exotic” last name and the odds of an interview are stacked against you significantly. Take care that you’re being reviewed as fairly as possible by formulating a resume that stands up to potential bias in the hiring world.

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).

 

Can I include something in my resume that isn’t 100% accurate?

Dear Sarah,

I’d like to apply to a position where I’m sorta familiar with the technology required to do the job. Would it be “okay” to say I’m well-versed and then learn on the job? I believe I’d otherwise be a great fit.

Best,

Fibber Mcgee

Hi FM,

Sure, you can speak to your fake skills in a resume to land a job…but, you really shouldn’t. Seriously

According to HireRight’s 2017 employment screening benchmark report, 85% of employers found their candidates had lied on their resume; this is a 25% jump from five years ago!

Though it may seem innocent, embellishing skills on a resume will inevitably put you in an awkward position where at the very least you’ve started a professional relationship with a lie. If the hiring manager finds out you puffed up your qualifications, they’re likely to fire you.

Some of the more crazy fibs we’ve seen have ranged from falsifying university degrees (and graduation dates) to completely stolen work histories where the resume and cover letter don’t match at all. In an age where we’re more connected than ever, it only takes a quick Google search on the part of the recruiter to learn about candidates if there’s any ambiguity. Also, it’s not uncommon for a hiring manager to contact people via LinkedIN that aren’t your listed references; there are no laws restricting them from doing this. In fact, 70% of employers do independent background checks on future hires such as snooping their social media accounts.

It’s been said on this blog numerous times that making your resume machine parsable (with the same exact words from the job description) is fundamental. We’ve also emphasized how important it is to apply to jobs even if you only have 60% of the job qualifications. Of equal import is understanding that lying your way to an interview is absolutely not worth the risk.

All the best!

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Prove You’re a Leader On Your Resume (even if you’re not)

Regardless of whether or not you’re specifically applying to a managerial position, all hiring managers like to see leadership skills represented on a resume. “Leaders” are inherent problem identifiers and solvers, efficiently pivot when necessary and have great communication skills. Demonstrating that you possess these attributes will increase the likelihood that you will snag an interview. Our data suggests that using leadership keywords automatically increases your hireabilty over 51%!

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It’s all about catching the eye of the hiring manager. Using specific words like communicated, managed, coordinated, leadership, and organized prove your competency as a leader. So what if you don’t have any leadership experience to speak of? Use the following qualities to beef up your leadership prowess:

Creativity

Are there projects that you helped conceptualize to completion? Was there a creative way you approached a problem? Hiring managers want to see creativity in action! Provide situational examples in your resume or cover letter along with your creative skills to qualify your potential.

Loyalty

People whose shortest job was 9+ months were 85% more hireable than people whose shortest job was 8 months or less. A solid, steady career history shows future employers that you’re committed to both a place and a team.

(Sometimes leaving a company is beyond our control. Learn how to navigate resume blemishes here.)

Communication

Communication skills for leaders include written, technical, verbal and non-verbal qualities. Every good leader understands the importance of communication within the constructs of their immediate team and company as a whole. Include examples where you’re communicating goals and achieving them. This is a great opportunity to plug-in relevant buzzwords! For example, a non-verbal communication skill might be your ability to visualize the greater picture. (Don’t forget to use the exact words in the job description!)

Conclusion

There are many ways to example your potential to lead even if you don’t possess specific managerial experience. Increase your chances for an interview (and potentially a better paying job) by emphasizing leadership qualities. (Remember- If you qualify for at least 60% of the job, don’t hesitate to apply!)

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).

How to Focus your Job Search

The job hunt is a full-time job in and of itself. From networking to writing dozens of personalized cover letters every day, managing your time is fundamental. How do you do so without spinning your wheels, becoming complacent, or going bonkers?

Create a Daily ‘To-Do List’

When you’re at home looking for a job, routine keeps you honest. Make a job search specific list of items you wish to accomplish during the day. Having both daily and weekly goals will motivate smaller successes and help you to keep track of your accomplishments.

Here is an example:

Today’s Goals:

1.) Connect with 3 LinkedIn connections

2.) Follow-up on 5 positions

3.) Apply to 10 jobs

4.) Reach out to 1 2nd degree connection at XYZ Company and request an informal interview over coffee (my treat, of course) to learn more about their experience working there

Weekly Goal(s):

1.) Attend 1 networking ‘meetup’ this week

2.) Search for pro-bono projects

Figure out what you want

Whether you were laid-off, fired, left early of your own volition, or are looking while working, give yourself time to think concretely regarding your next step. In many ways, this may be the most fundamental aspect of the search.

Why? Without assessing where you currently are in your career and why you’re there you are simply going through the motions and may very well end up in the same position in the near future. Make this transition count and it will have been worth the process. 

Give yourself ‘me’ time

Incorporating time to yourself is another extremely important aspect of the job search. Looking for a new job can easily be all-consuming and borderline mentally draining. Avoid constantly checking your phone for recruiter emails. In fact, you might consider snoozing all notifications for a couple hours a day. You’d be amazed what closing your laptop and taking a walk does for your search.

Consider Smaller Companies

Our data suggests that applying to companies with <500 employees gives you 192% higher interview rate; this especially helps mitigate the effects of a recent firing or layoff. Regardless of your industry preference, this may be worth considering.

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Conclusion

Understanding that the job search is another life skill to be mastered will help you to focus your energy and better manage your time. Everyone who needs a job (which is most people) will do this in their lifetime and those who succeed above the rest do so with organization, ambition, and grace. Give yourself the tools to get the job you deserve.

Need some help getting focused? 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).

How should I include ‘soft skills’ in my resume?

Dear Sarah,

What are “soft skills” and how would I go about representing them on my resume?

Best,

Big Softy

Hey there Softy,

Soft skills” are skills that can’t be quantified or measured such as “time management” or “problem solving”. Sure, a soft skill is less tangible than say a certification having learned Python, but it’s valuable and should be represented on a resume. The question is how to do so effectively.

Let’s take the soft skill ‘critical thinking’ as an example. Our data suggests that quantifying the impact that you made with numbers helps remove subjective bias, increasing your hireability by +23%. Demonstrating your critical thinking skill along with data-driven examples is a double-whammy:

  • “Audited departmental retention program and piloted new project that increased return purchase by 27% Q1”

Not only does this example demonstrate that you broke down a problem in order to better it understand it, but it shows the positive effect after having implemented your changes.

Many times in the job listing the hiring manager or recruiter will indicate specifically what soft skills are required. For instance, if the job listing requests that this candidate possesses ‘superior communication skills’, literally put ‘superior communication skills’ in the ‘Key Skills’ section of resume. Remember that the majority of companies today use resume parsers to widdle down large applicant pools. Using exact words in your resume will help you get to the next round. (Don’t forget that ‘Key Skills’ section, either! Including one automatically improves your chances for an interview by 59%!)

All the best!

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10 Ways You’re Killing Your Chances for an Interview

At TalentWorks, we’ve heard it all.

From submitting your resume to the wrong job (!) to sending resumes with formatting that doesn’t render correctly, it often seems as though candidates are trying to tank their chances for a job.

Once you’re at the interview stage of the applicant process, you already have a 10-15% chance of getting the position. So, how do you make it there? 

1.) Don’t be a “Team Player”

It may sound counterintuitive, but mentioning any of the following collaboration-oriented words more than twice in your resume will penalize you -50.8%:

  • team player
  • results-driven collaborator
  • supporting member
  • assisted
  • collaborated
  • helped

Why? Everyone works with a team in some capacity. As a hiring manager, how would I know how much you, the candidate, contributed. It says very little about your skills and job responsibilities which leads me to #2…

2.) Don’t be Vague

Using concrete numbers to exemplify your successes and personal impact removes any bias and gives you a +23% hireabilty boost over your competition. For every 3 sentences, use at least 1 number to demonstrate your (concrete) impact.

3.) Don’t Forget to Demonstrate Leadership

Hiring managers see “leaders” as people who are communicative, pivot easily after bumps in the road, and get the job done. We’ve found that adding strong, active, leadership-oriented words greatly helps to demonstrate your candidacy.

Some of the words we detected as strong, active words:

  • communicated
  • coordinated
  • leadership
  • managed
  • organization

(Using a combination of these words boosts your hireability by +50%!)

4.) Don’t Send the Same Resume to Every Job

While we highly recommend applying to as many jobs as you can, you need to tailor your resume. A cookie cutter resume that includes irrelevant job experiences and skills is an automatic ‘no’.

(Also, when you’re tailoring your resume/cover letter please don’t forget to change the company name!)

5.) Don’t Make Grammatical Errors

One of the last positions we advertised for had an applicant pool of which nearly 10% made dumb grammatical mistakes, such as misspellings and forgetting to include an email address. Eight out of ten times, hiring managers will dismiss the application altogether. Proofread, proofread, proofread.

6.) Don’t Apply After 4pm

Our data suggests that applying to a job before 10am can increase your odds of getting an interview by 5x! It’s admittedly tough if you already have a full-time job and the only time you may have is around lunchtime or after work. Unfortunately, those are the worst times to do so.

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The best time to apply for a job is between 6am and 10am. During this time, you have an 13% chance of getting an interview — nearly 5x as if you applied to the same job after work. Whatever you do, don’t apply after 4pm.

7.) Don’t Use Personal Pronouns

Any usage of personal pronouns (I, me, my, myself) automatically hurts your hireability by 54.7%. Yes, doing so is a bit arbitrary as you’re obviously referring to yourself, but it is a recruitment standard.

Instead, use action words and you will increase your chances of an interview by 140%. Here is an example:

Say this:

Developed a world-positive, high-impact student loan product that didn’t screw over people after 100+ customer interviews.

Not this:

After 100+ customer interviews, the world-positive, high-impact student loan product was developed by me.

 8.) Don’t Forget Buzzwords

Surprise! We’ve found that using industry jargon throughout your resume actually increases your hireability by 29.3%!

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We recommend name dropping a buzzword every 3-6 sentences. Companies often use parsing tools to help widdle down large applicant pools and doing so will help you to get past the robots. (Avoid going overboard though, because using too much jargon can be a turn off to actual, non-robot hiring managers.)

9.) Don’t Send off Your Resume Without A Cover Letter

Although there are companies that will never explicitly ask for cover letters (or read them for that matter), you should always include one. A cover letter is an opportunity to go beyond the resume and provide information you maybe didn’t have room for in your resume such as clarifying examples. There isn’t a hiring manager out there that doesn’t appreciate the effort even if they never open the file.

10.) Don’t Include Objectives

In May, we did an analysis of the hotly debated issue of resume objectives and found that job applicants whose resume contained an objective were 29.6% less hireable.

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Unless you’re a recent college graduate or dramatically changing job industries, objectives hurt your chances of landing an interview. Why? They provide zero information regarding how your skills relate to the position at hand. At best, you can hope hiring managers will ignore it. At worst, it’ll give hiring managers an excuse to disqualify you.

Need more job hunting “dont’s”? There’s plenty where this came from. 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).

Should I list my hobbies on a resume?

Dear Sarah,

I’m updating my resume and I was wondering when (if ever) it’s acceptable to list my hobbies.

Thanks,

Renaissance Man

Hey RM,

If you were to ask me this question even 7 years ago I’d be inclined to say ‘no’, and that doing so is superfluous and unprofessional. Times have changed. Today, companies especially small businesses and start-ups not only ask about relevant work experience but also want to know about what you do outside of work. Here are a couple tips for doing so gracefully:

Context is King

Hobbies need to be relevant. If you’re applying to a job at Salesforce, for example, think to yourself what hobbies might help you best fit into their culture. Salesforce in particular emphasizes giving back to the community, even offering their employees seven paid days of volunteer time off each year. If you’re passionate about working animal adoption events on the weekends it would absolutely benefit you to mention it.

Less is More

Don’t go overboard. If you’re going to mention hobbies, chose a couple. Listing 10, for instance, is overwhelming and starts to tread into irrelevancy. Also, resumes should never be longer than one page, so if you need to sacrifice precious real estate to include them, don’t do so at all.

Use Action words

We’ve found that using distinctive action words at the beginning of your sentences increases your hireability by 139.6%! Instead of just listing your hobbies in a clump (i.e.: Hiking, puzzles, traveling, volunteering) provide full sentences such as, ‘Organized and lead a nonprofit aimed at feeding the hungry’. This particular example displays leadership skills. We also found that incorporating 1-2 leadership-oriented words every 5 sentences provides a +50.9% boost over the competition.

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So remember, if you’re applying to a startup or a company that offers a playful culture such as Google including a relevant hobby that demonstrates your leadership qualities can set you apart! Make sure you use an action word to do so and if it means a resume longer than a page, leave it out.

Hope that helped!

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Stagnant Wages and How to Negotiate from the Start

Picture this: You just received a job offer after months of searching. It’s now time to discuss salary. The initial offer is tempting, in fact, it’s 10% higher than what the recruiter offered during the preliminary screening. You take it. Months later your landlord hikes your rent. What was to be meaningful financial progress did not get you ahead at all.

That’s the reality many workers are facing. A recent Pew Research Study suggests that today’s wages have the same purchasing power as they did in 1974, especially for lower wage workers. Despite low unemployment and higher paychecks (adjusted for inflation) we’re just not financially progressing.

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It certainly seems bleak but you have control regarding your income. What can you do as a jobseeker to ensure your personal financial progression? 

“That’s a good place to start”

If you’re being lowballed in a salary negotiation, don’t be afraid to literally say “That’s a good place to start”. Hiring managers have wiggle-room and expect to use it if you plead your case. This initial offer does not anchor you to a set amount, so understand what the responsibilities are worth and where you need to be financially to re-anchor, so-to-speak.

Understand your buying power.

What do you need financially and what can you do about it? Firstly, understand your regional labor market. Wages vary depending on where you live; do your research before you go into negotiation. It stands that you should be making a reasonable salary per your city. An administrative assistant in the Bay Area should make more than one working in Cincinnati.

At Talent Works we’ve found that going back to school or earning additional accreditations actually improves your professional acumen by +21.9%. If going back to school isn’t possible, check-out what skills/online courses you can take to give you the edge over competition.

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Negotiation makes a difference. Need help? We’re the Jiminy Cricket to your job search.

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).

What does it mean to be ‘Underemployed’?

The National Unemployment rate is at a 17-year low according to The Bureau of Labor Statistics, but this doesn’t paint the whole picture. Many employed workers have jobs that offer less than full-time hours or a job that doesn’t adequately meet the qualifications the employee possesses such as training and education.

This is referred to as “underemployment” and many people across a variety of demographics are affected. College grads, highly skilled foreign workers whose credentials don’t translate, trade workers, and the disabled are a few examples of the underemployed and according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics there isn’t yet a way to quantify its effect on the economy directly. So we don’t really know how many people, though employed, aren’t meeting their professional potential.

What do you do when you’re underworked and undervalued?

Tip 1: Apply for Jobs Within ±2 Years of Your Experience

Don’t be intimidated by the job description. If you’re within ±2 years of required experience, hiring managers will often consider you “close enough.” Be flexible and remember that you don’t necessarily have to fit the job post 100%.

Tip 2: Tough it out while you look elsewhere

We found that people who weren’t currently employed took a hit — they were 149% less hireable. Keep your current job regardless of your hours or the type of work while you look for something more fitting. Take advantage of having a position right now and look while you work.

Our data also shows that toughing it out for at least 18 months improves your hireability by 18%!

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Tip 3: Start Freelancing!

Regardless of why you’re underemployed, freelancing can help bring you to the next level. Not only does freelancing provide flexibility in hours and style of work but freelancing jobs and gigs provide the experience you many need to attain your ideal job. For example, if you’re working a part-time in a different industry, freelancing on the side keeps your foot in the door of where you want to be while maintaining your skills and community presence.

Are you currently working a less than ideal job or gig? 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).