Whether it’s grading an inaugural lunch at a new hotspot or the mental calculus when perform when a date walks through the door, we put a lot of stock in first impressions. When you’re having hundreds of interactions per day, you have no choice. There’s simply too much to do to give everyone time to explain themselves.
Hiring managers operate in much the same way in their day-to-day work. They need to quickly scan applications to weed out the people who aren’t going to work and the spam. And although a resume might not be the first thing they see, it’s definitely the easiest place for them to start making cuts.
Hiring managers’ need to see information conveyed quickly makes the resume the most important part of any application. And any tiny mistake could leave you wondering where your phone call is.
Since sitting around waiting for an interview that never comes is our antithesis — getting people jobs is kind of our thing — we figured we’d point out a few easy-to-fix and common resume mistakes that are costing applicants the gig.
You Aren’t Pitching Yourself
Your resume can tell a hiring manager what you did and still not tell them what you do. Don’t just explain what your duties were at a given position, tell them how you met or surpassed the expectations of your employers. If it’s at all possible, use hard numbers to quantify your specific impact on the workplace. Tell them why they should be impressed.
Resume Tip: Include words that demonstrate leadership for a serious boost in your response rate.
For the love of God, Proofread
When we posted an opening to work here at TalentWorks, nearly 10 percent of the applicants disqualified themselves via simple typos. As our own Kushal Chakrabarti has mentioned, the default position for any hiring manager on any given application is already “no.” Don’t give them any reason to chuck your resume before they’ve finished reading it.
You Made It Hard For People (and Bots) to Read
Many hiring managers are using resume-parsing software to narrow down the applications they review before they even have to look at them. To that end, you need to make sure your resume is saved in a machine-parseable format. Keep the resume simple and clean so that even after it gets past the bots, the hiring manager can easily scan it and see what you’re all about. Colorful fonts, odd tables and other quirks need not apply.
You Aren’t Tailoring Your Resume
One more thing about those bots: they’re frequently looking for keywords that the hiring manager has set and tossing those that don’t have any. In our job search, a keyword-parsing tool eliminated 77% of applicants simply because their applications did not match with the keywords that we were seeking.
Admittedly, this can all be a little tough. It can be hard to proofread your own work for errors or to know which keywords hiring managers are looking for. Luckily, there’s us!
For just $10/month, we offer access to our ResumeOptimizer tool. It uses our expert knowledge of the hiring process and millions upon millions of data points to make sure that your application is the sleekest and most noteworthy application it can possibly be. We’ll then take that buffed resume and send it in for you automatically to positions matching your skill set using our ApplicationAssistant.
If that’s not enough, we also offer TalentAdvocates to walk you through the process and ensure that you’re on the path toward the job you want. Take a look at our services here and happy hunting!
Many job seekers rightly question whether their decision to attend college was a good investment. College today requires a great deal of time and money and the return on investment (ROI) isn’t always clear–especially when you’re simultaneously seeking work and paying Sallie Mae. Certainly there are different ways to evaluate the worth of your degree (some majors are considered to be more “valuable,” the name recognition of certain universities over others, how you decided to finance it, etc.) but the value of higher education in the job market today versus not having a college degree at all is clear.
It’s the new standard.
According to the US Census Bureau, over a third of American adults are graduating with Bachelors degrees, an 18% rise from just a decade ago. (It was only 4.6% in 1940!) Due to the oversaturation of the baccalaureate, it is now seen as the minimal credential necessary to attain an entry-level job. “Degree inflation” is commonplace across industries from administration to dental lab techs. Where the high school diploma was once suitable, the BA represents a basic point of entry into the workforce.
You still need the competitive edge.
Although a bachelor’s degree is viewed with less “prestige” than years past, not having one is a red flag for recruiters and hiring managers screening candidates. For one, a college degree acts as a litmus test for dedication and a certain commitment to one’s future; if you’ve pursued higher education there’s a certain cache you hold over a candidate without a degree. Secondly, many entry-level positions require a basic understanding of technical skills that in many ways are assumed with a college degree in 2018. In this respect, college grads are seen as more capable than non-grads.
You’ll earn more money.
On average, college graduates earn $1 million more over their lifetime than high school grads. Millennials with only a high school diploma earn 62% of what college grads earn. If you’re in the job market with only a high school education, you may be forfeiting a great deal of your earning potential.
Also, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, unemployment rates for people holding only a high school diploma are double that of those with a BA. Yikes.
It’s a buyer’s market.
Oversaturated markets and technological advancements in the workplace allow the buyer (aka the hiring manager) to set the price, so-to-speak. The new standard for obtaining a “good,” middle-class job starts with the minimum ticket for entry and hiring managers recognize this trend in the labor force. Their ultimate goal is to secure the best candidate for the lowest price, and given this new standard, there is rising competition among education groups for the same positions (i.e.: Masters degree-holders in the same job pool as BA-degree-holders).
In addition to job hunters with MAs competing for positions that traditionally only require the 4-year degree, employers across industries are pushing education requirements towards even higher degrees.
In an ideal world hiring managers would focus on the whole person and the different experience each candidate offers when looking for top talent. Unfortunately, lack of time and resources precludes many employers from being so open-minded and certain standards are set to whittle down applicant pools. The undergraduate degree in 2018 is the basic investment towards a path to middle-class job opportunities; whether this is “fair” relies on new standards for opportunity being set.
If you’re currently in the job market and resenting your college degree as you tread through the endless slough of online applications, TalentWorks can help. In addition to optimizing your resume and matching you to jobs (that actually interest you) we have 24/7 mentorship with experienced hiring managers.
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).
I’m applying for jobs and I have NO IDEA how long my cover letter should be. I want to fully explain my skills to hiring managers but I also don’t want their eyes to glaze over. I want to ensure that it actually gets read and not skimmed (or worse, tossed). How long should the ideal cover letter be?
Cover letters are hard enough to begin with. They ask the applicant to do something unnatural: tell other people what they’re good at. Like nicknames, there are certain qualities that you can’t bestow upon yourself.
It’s impossible to know if you’re a hard worker, a quick thinker or a “team player.” Side note: under no circumstances should you call yourself a team player. But that’s exactly what the average HR professional needs to know about you to separate you from the other applicants swarming their inbox.
It’s an uncomfortable situation and people in dicey spots tend to babble, looking to span the gap by kicking their feet in the air over the canyon until they land on the other side. If you don’t believe it, I’ve gone three paragraphs and I haven’t even arrived at the question yet! Ipso facto and a QED.
The short answer on how long a cover letter should be is one page. The proof is in the name. It’s meant to be a single page that covers your resume. Back in the antediluvian days of shoe leather and working your way up from the mailroom, it was a way to make the application you handed to someone a little neater than an easily chucked or lost piece of paper. And both the practice and the appropriate length have carried over into our age of surrealist memes and reality TV presidents.
As anybody who has ever gone to college can tell you, a page can fit a widely divergent amount of words. And that’s before you make your periods one font size larger (not that we ever did that). To avoid confusion, let’s say that a cover letter should be four to five paragraphs long. Here’s a few tips about how to fill out that space:
Address the letter to a person if you’re sure of their identity. Otherwise, use “Dear Hiring Manager.” Avoid the phrase “To Whom It May Concern” at all costs.
The first paragraph should explain why you’re interested in the job and how your values align with the mission of the company.
The second and third paragraph should broach your work history and explain how it’s relevant to the job at hand. They should move from broadly relevant to the position to specific to the job offered.
The final paragraph should reiterate your excitement about the position and put the idea of talking to you in the near future into the hiring manager’s head
One final tip before I go: while no one likes writing cover letters, it’s best to avoid using a canned cover letter for every application. The average job opening sees hundreds of applicants and hiring managers are better than most at sniffing out someone who didn’t try. Create a basic cover letter template that hits on the key points about you and then customize it based on the opening and the qualifications spelled out in the listing.
According to our data, the best age for both men and women to get a job is 28 to 35. It’s a sweet spot in your career where you automatically have a 25.1% chance of being hired compared to other age brackets.
Why? Well, it could be indicative of this age bracket’s ability to be flexible in terms of opportunity and salary (i.e.: you’re young enough to take entry-level positions and old enough to have proven yourself as senior level managers). I’d be remiss not to mention that this data validates a stark reality: ageism in the workplace. (God forbid, you’re a 36 year old software engineer or 45 year old educator looking for work).
In any case, it’s simply the best time to be a job candidate. This age bracket also happens to represent the “most ideal” time to start a family, both financially and scientifically depending on how many kids you would want. Although there are wonderfully effective ways to delay parenthood such as IVF (a treatment 100% covered as a perk in many large companies and counting [yay!]), this is a dilemma that working women especially must weigh at some point, specifically: how do I maintain my career at this pivotal point while planning for kids?
Enter the “family-friendly” work environment.
It’s a job perk that is quickly becoming the new standard at companies driven by a millennial/young Gen X workforce. In an age where equally shared bread-winning and child-rearing is the preferred norm, it only makes sense to accommodate the talent you want to retain. “Family-friendly” work environments are employers that understand that life happens and provide their staff with the necessary flexibility to be a parent. It’s one thing to offer telecommuting opportunities, but if your employees are made to feel guilty about doing so it’s not a perk.
“Employers are beginning to realize that a family-friendly workplace benefits the business as well as the employee. Companies that offer flexibility and family-friendly policies generally experience increased employee productivity, less turnover, and lower absenteeism. This trend, combined with increased demand for flexibility amongst workers, is making the family-friendly workplace more of the rule than the exception.”
Erin Feldman , Sr. TalentAdvocate at TalentWorks
So, how do you find these unicorn-esque, ‘family-friendly’ work environments that not only market themselves as being flexible, but actualize it? Let’s dive in:
5 Keywords ‘Family-Friendly’ Companies Use
“Flexibility”/“Flexible work hours”/“flextime”/“Job sharing”
“Telecommuting opportunities” (“WFH available”)
“Good work/life balance”
“Paid parental leave”
“Unlimited sick days”
Finding the ‘family-friendly’ work environment is not difficult, but you need to know how to search and deduce from the job post the type of company they represent. Although how “family-friendly” a company claims to be is relative (and we’ll get into that), it starts at the job listing and researching the company beforehand.
Interview Questions to Ask Regarding “Family-Friendliness”
In terms of this position, what does a typical work day look like?
How do you prioritize a work/life balance?
What kind of flexible work arrangements do people have?
How do you, as a manager, support and motivate your team?
How do you incorporate employee feedback into daily operations?
You don’t have to be sneaky or tip-toe around wanting more information regarding flexibility if you ask the right questions. Avoid inquiring if their employees work long hours during the first phone screen for example, and instead, ask the hiring manager during the second interview how they prioritize a work/life balance.
Many companies boast flexibility as an HR hiring tactic, but it’s in the interview with your potential boss and colleagues that you’re given the opportunity to suss out the actual environment. When you’re in office during an on-site interview, take a look around, as well. Do you see decorated desks with family photos, or nerf guns? Do you see people that represent the 28-35 year old age bracket? An intergenerational working environment can be very beneficial in many ways, but it’s important to have colleagues and managers you can relate to when looking for said flexibility. (Not many people in-office around the time of your interview? Look up their employees via LinkedIn to get a sense of who is being hired.)
If you happen to be in the 28-35 year old hiring ‘sweet spot’ (I’m looking at you, Millennials!) you have more options than you realize as a candidate. Finding a ‘family-friendly’, or flexible working environment is possible and your sway as an ideal candidate should lead you to succeed in having both a career and starting your family.
Psst– You can also pay us $10 to do it all for you: 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).
If you’re a recent college graduate entering the job market, the deck is stacked against you. And not in any sort of minor way. We’re talking the sort of card-game cheating that would get someone plugged in the old West. Beyond the obvious factors like having less experience and being new to the job hunt, there’s an unfortunate lack of entry-level jobs that are actually looking for brand-new candidates.
Recent grads are all a part of the same wave and they’re all looking for the same break from a limited number of outlets willing to offer one. Jennifer Lawrence might have been discovered on a random sidewalk, but you aren’t an Oscar-winner and the odds aren’t in your favor.
That being said, there are a few ways to increase the likelihood that you’ll be picked from among the horde of fresh-faced applicants looking for work. In the name of giving a leg-up to marketplace newbies, we’re offering some advice we wish we had received to help overcome the myriad ways that the job market is unfavorable to folks looking for their first gig.
They Want People Who Can Lead
You’ve spent your entire life being led around — be it by professors, bosses or parents — and now the job you’re looking for wants some who can take the reins. What’s a young’un to do?
Use leadership-related words when describing you work history. While you might not have much on-the-job experience, using words like managed, communicated or coordinated while describing the work you’ve done will give you a much-needed boost in the eyes of a hiring manager.
You’re Competing Against People Who Know How To Look For Jobs
Yes, the people you’re competing against probably have more impressive things on their resume. That’s just a fact and we aren’t going to lie to you about it. But perhaps even more crucially, they have honed that resume after years of feedback.
The older job-seekers you will compete against have learned what works and what doesn’t via trial and error. You don’t have the time if you need a job now. Luckily, we can rate your resume using the knowledge we’ve gleaned from tons of hiring managers and countless job searches.
“Fun” Fact: Only 2% of applicants to any given job are called up for an interview. You need to make sure your resume is as crisp and clean as possible if you want to compete.
You’re Probably Making Mistakes
Your youth is the time that you’re meant to make mistakes. Unfortunately, that doesn’t translate into the job search. If you don’t know what kind of cover letter a hiring manager is seeking, it’s going to be hard to learn. They don’t have the time to offer you a personalized critique of your application. All you’re going to see is the heavy form letter that lets you know you didn’t get the job. (Or nothing at all. Neil Degrasse Tyson has yet to study inbox black holes, but we can assure you they exist.)
We recently ran the numbers and found that most jobs that call themselves “entry-level” are actually looking for someone with 3+ years of experience. Who are they to critique your application when they can’t even work out the meaning of entry, right?
Unfortunately, that’s the market you’re entering. But a little bit of legwork can go a long way. Finding jobs that are actually entry-level and not just looking to pay that way will save you quite a bit of time. In a recent run-through, we found that out of nearly 1300 jobs marketing themselves as entry-level, only 240 were actually looking for people looking to enter the market. That’s a little less than 1 in 5 and it adds up to a whole lot of wasted time on your end.
Job Search Tip: Call off the seance to try and tap into an HR manager’s mind. We’ll narrow it down to the actual entry-level jobs for you for just $10.
You’ll Get It When You’re Older
We found that the most hireable time in a person’s life falls between the ages of 28 and 35. If you’re under that you’re considered too young and beyond that your stock starts to drop. While we don’t have any tips to make you older (try making a wish in a mirror?), we don’t want you to sit around waiting to be 28. We doubt you could afford it anyway.
Consider taking positions that aren’t your dream job if they’ll give you the relevant experience to land the big gig further down the line. Contract work, paid internships and less glamorous grinds all look better than a gap on your resume.
“I’ve taken all of this into account but I still don’t have a job. ” Something that can’t be taught, and that young folks have a short supply of, is patience. We don’t blame them. We’re math nerds around here and each day that passes by is a significantly larger chunk of their life than it is to us.
Those who truly can’t wait can always sign up for TalentWorks. We’ll limber up and leap those hurdles for you, taking care of some of the biggest obstacles with our experience and automated tools.
Our AI-driven ApplicationAssistant automatically optimizes the day of week, time of day & delay of your application making the job search that much less messy and taking the calendar aspect out of your hands. We serve up a fresh batch of personally curated jobs every day that you can apply to with just a few clicks. And we stand beside our services with a 100% money-back guarantee. Take a bit of the guesswork out of your search and get started here.
Getting a job is hard. Even if you’re 100% qualified, it can take 90+ days to get a job today in America. Nearly 98% of job applications get black-holed.
But why? Politicians and TV pundits blather on about it everyday, but they’re just playing to ratings. Instead, we can go straight to the data and give you a direct look into what happens to your job application after you hit submit—
To quickly illustrate this, I downloaded, parsed and tagged 426 applications for a marketing job we filled yesterday. Here’s what we found:
426 people applied for the job — this is higher than average, but not much (see below).
Although 97 people were potentially qualified, wecould only interview 13 people (3% of applicant pool) because of time. Ultimately, we made 2 job offers (0.47%).
If you dig deeper, there’s a few interesting nuances:
40 people (9.4% of applicant pool) were DQ’d for dumb mistakes: misspellings, no email, etc.
Of the 13 people we interviewed, a total of 5 people (1.2%) were fully qualified — I’m confident all of them would’ve been great. However, we didn’t have the money to hire all of them, so I picked two based on what we needed right now and who I thought we’d have the best chemistry with.
Are we just a bunch of heartless assholes? I mean, anything’s possible. (Although I hope not…) Here’s the honest truth: for most jobs, every company sees numbers like this — they just don’t tell you. Instead, they feed you doublespeak boilerplate like, “It wasn’t a good fit.”
No wonder everyone asks us, “What’s going on? Is there something wrong with me?” Nothing’s wrong with you — the system’s just broken.
What’s Going On?
To quickly illustrate what’s going on, I downloaded and analyzed 1,013 job applications to our 5 most recent job openings—
(I feel a bit naked sharing our internal hiring data (and my calendar) online, but it’s a small price to pay if it helps you get the job you deserve. None of this is necessarily easy to hear, but I fundamentally believe it’s better to know what you’re up against than playing ostrich. P.S. Is it just me or is it a bit drafty here today?)
The Numbers Are Against You
On average, the typical TalentWorks job opening receives ~176 job applications.(Nerd alert: We used a geometric mean to better account for outliers.) This number varies dramatically by role, location, compensation, etc., but we’ve never gotten fewer than 90 applicants for any job we posted online.
Since we’re usually only filling one job opening (like most people), that immediately means you have a ~1% chance of getting a job offer for any single online job application.
“No” is the Default Answer
One of the first things you’re taught as a hiring manager is that“no” is the default answer.The (direct) cost of hiring someone damaging (liability, morale, etc.) usually far exceeds the (opportunity) cost of not hiring someone possibly amazing.
But, it’s actually worse. Of the 426 applicants for our last job, 25% (108 applicants) was basically spam, e.g. outsourcers, recruiters. In addition, another 9% (40 applicants) made dumb mistakes, e.g. misspellings, forgot to include their email. Let’s be honest: if your resume didn’t include your email, I’m not calling you to setup an appointment.
All of this to say: Hiring managers default to saying “no,” and that’s reinforced over and over again by terrible job applications.
That still leaves 278 applications — reviewing all of them would take hours. What’s a hiring manager to do? Many hiring managers (including us) use resume keywords to target potentially qualified applicants. We set a broad list of keywords that anyone even vaguely qualified for our job would’ve included. This narrowed down our list to 97 potentially qualified candidates (23%).
Time Is (Also) Against You
You can’t interview ~100 people (that’d be 2+ weeks of nothing but interviews!), but you can review ~100 resumes. From 97 potentially qualified candidates, I made a shortlist of 13 candidates (3% of applicant pool) based on their resumes and a homework assignment, and setup interviews.
Here’s what my calendar looked like last Friday (my 2nd day of interviewing)—
In other words, even to interview just 3% of the applicant pool, I basically did nothing but interviews for all of Friday (the blurred names are interviews). There were another ~2 days like this.
This is important! This means there’s a hard upper limit on interviews: there’ll never be more than 10-15 interview slots for a job opening, no matter how many people applied.
Put another way, getting to the interview is often the hardest, riskiest stage of the job search. If you get an interview, you have a relatively safe, 10-15% chance of getting a job offer.
What Can You Do?
Yes, it sucks. Yes, it’s unfair. Yes, it’s depressing. But, guess what? It’s always been this bad, you just never knew.
And guess what else? You still need a job. That rent isn’t going to pay itself. Here are some (data-driven) things you can do to take back control of your job search—
Job Search Tips
Job Search Tip #1: Your chances of getting any single job you apply for online is nearly zero; to make up for it, you have to apply to as many jobs as you can. If you meet more than 60% of the qualifications, you should apply!
Resume Tip #3: Don’t get screened out! Make sure you use a simple, machine-parseable resume format and make sure it includes your email.
Resume Tip #4: Resumes start blending together after awhile. Include as many keywords as appropriate in your resume and cover letter from the original job posting.
Interview Tip #5:Get the earliest appointment you can in the day. The later in the day your interview, the more hangry hiring managers will be. (Seriously. How hangry your hiring manager is has a huge impact on your hireability.)
Interview Tip #6:Keep your interview responses short and memorable. Whatever you do, don’t be late. Chances are, if you’re doing a phone interview, you’re in a packed schedule.
Interview Tip #7:Be charming. If you’re at the interview stage, you have a solid shot. But you don’t want to end up being the fully-qualified-but-runners-up. Pre-game as best you can and listen for clues for what your interviewer is looking for.
So, why’s it so hard to get a job? Both time, numbers and the default culture of “no,” are against you. At TalentWorks, we’ve been getting ~176 job applications per job opening and, for our last job opening, only ~3% of applicants got an interview.
With the right insights and tools though, you can break through the noise. To recap: Apply to 250+ jobs. Use a machine-parseable resume. Triple-check there are no typos. Include your email. Add the optimal number of targeted resume keywords. Apply in the first 3 days for every job posting. Get the first interview of the day. Be charming. And KISS.
You got all that, right? Easy peasy.
Applying to 250+ jobs is a serious pain in the ass (not even taking into account the rest). We offer a bunch of free tools to help you keep things straight.
If you want, you can also pay us $10 to do it all for you: 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.)
We downloaded all 1,013 job applications for the 5 most recent TalentWorks job postings. For our most recent (marketing) job, we then cross-referenced everyone with interview requests and results. Finally, we tagged everyone with key attributes (e.g. spammy, mismatched skills, dumb mistakes) using a subset of our resume parsing stack. We did all of this in python using pandas and bokeh (with a liberal helping of Google Sheets). The Sankey diagram was built with sankeymatic (with an assist from Sketch).
Why Are We Doing This?
With ApplicationAssistant right now, we can boost the average job-seeker’s hireability by 5.8x. 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 learnings. So, that’s exactly what we’re doing.