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).

 

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).

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).

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).

Will Robots Take Your Job? Sort of.

At TalentWorks there’s no secret that we’re big fans of AI and automation, in fact, “automating your search” is at the core of what we do. We promise advanced resume optimization that is guaranteed to improve your chances as a jobseeker and increase your hireability by 5.8x.

With automation comes an inevitable disruption of the workforce, and that’s understandably scary. The McKinsey Global institute’s new research suggests that by the year 2030 approx. 15% of the global workforce could be displaced…BUT, the jobs created from this shift will make up for those lost. In the past, large-scale sector employment declines have been countered by the expansion of other sectors that have absorbed workers. (This chart shows the total employment by sector in the US 1850-2015, courtesy of McKinsey Global institute).

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So in a time of automation, how is the workforce transitioning in the near future and should we be afraid?

Robot + Human

Jobs susceptible to automation include processors and assemblers and are anticipated to drop by 25,000 (word processors) and 45,200 respectively by 2026.

The thing is, the same factory that eliminates human jobs still requires a convergence of both robot and human intelligence. Sure a robot can assemble faster than any human could, but the domain of expertise lies within the human worker who has valuable knowledge and has been on the assembly floor for 10+ years.

Automation in your workplace

The same McKinsey Global institute study found that even a CEO’s job can be automated (25% of it to be exact). An implementation of AI means the time they spent analyzing reports can be better used to manage people.

So how will embracing workplace automation in the near future help, you, the employee? 

  • The elimination or reduction in human error
  • Higher productivity
  • Convenience

Repetitive tasks that would otherwise take a toll on employee satisfaction would be completed much more efficiently freeing you up to focus on the more creative side of your job. Live chat widgets, grocery store self-checkouts, and marketing data platforms are just a few examples of automation that exists in the workplace today.

Working with automation and AI harmoniously means setting yourself up for success. In a world where workforce dynamics are ever evolving, being adaptable is key.

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).

 

Public, Private, Non-profit: What sector works for you?

Are you looking for a job environment where you’re provided on the job training?

Do you prefer a ‘scrappy’ business setting?

Does working for your city or town interest you? 

Job seekers have many decisions to make. Along with overthinking if you should update your social profiles again or if you should wear a suit, your preference and adaptability regarding different job sectors will inevitably be another decision. The public, private and non-profit sectors all have their own rewards, opportunities, and challenges and it’s up to you to decide what best represents your style of work.

“I enjoy stability, an unambiguous pay-scale, and good benefits”

The public sector constitutes public goods and government services such as public education or law enforcement. Employees who work within this sector enjoy a level of job security that is not offered in private or non-profit organizations. For instance, you wouldn’t have to worry about a possible merger or being sold off to a private company. If you’re interested in making a difference, there are many types of public sector jobs you can explore.

Although a government job offers steady raises and good health benefits/retirement plans there are of course challenges such as slow growth and lack of control. Bureaucracy frustrates both citizens and governmental workers where formal processes are the name of the game.

“I’m looking for significant advancement opportunities, cutting-edge projects, and a high earning potential”

Private sector jobs in the US offer an incredible opportunity for personal and professional advancement with a nice salary to match. According to the National Treasury Employees Union, employees working the private sector received up to a 26% higher salary than federal employees with similar roles. Private sector companies, or ‘for profit’ organizations, offer less bureaucratic protocols which equates to new project approvals and faster iteration in general.

Private sector opportunities also have its challenges. More job instability and less of a guarantee that you’ll be provided with a good healthcare package is a reality that some jobseekers can’t afford to face.

“I’m seeking meaningful work, flexibility, and a highly motivated group of coworkers”

Non-profit organizations consist of both public charities and private foundations and in many ways represents a hybrid of both sectors (i.e.: non-profits/NGOs receive better treatment by the government and are viewed charitably by citizens).

A non-profit organization allows for a great deal of opportunity, as the average employee may find themselves wearing many hats given that their workforce is often understaffed. You will have opportunities to learn what every level of management does (including your boss’ boss) and quickly grow far beyond “your” role. For example, you could be a financial analyst helping to organize the annual gala or the office administrator doing grant research. If you want experience working across various departments and a way to change careers easily, the non-profit sector represents a great way for ambitious people to find on the job training.

Cons? The nonprofit sector faces unique stresses and daily challenges. For one, working environments may consist of antiquated technology and fewer resources. Many well-intentioned people get easily burned out being stretched too thin especially when the stakes are higher.

Conclusion

Whether you decide to start applying to a city job, local start-up or charity there are varying pros and cons you must weigh. Depending on your individual career goals you may find something that either frustrates you or takes your career to new heights.

Need help navigating a job interview within a particular sector? 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 explain my layoff in my job interview?

Dear Sarah,

I was laid off 5 months ago due to a company merger and it has been tough finding work. I’ve finally managed to snag an interview recently, but now I’m struggling to prepare how I’m going to frame my layoff. Any advice?

Thanks,

Laid Off and Out

Hey LOO,

First of all, congrats on the job interview!

Secondly, you’re not alone having had a tough time getting an interview. At Talent.Works we’ve actually found that the job hunt is tougher for those that have experienced layoffs/firings; having either on your resume is the equivalent of losing 5 years of work experience. (It’s especially hard if you were fired, quit, or laid off in the first 15 months of being there).

The good news is, you’re past the hard part! This company has already viewed your resume, liked what they saw, and decided to start the conversation. At this point, it’s all about communication:

Be Transparent  

Understand that there is nothing to be embarrassed about when it comes to a layoff. There are a multitude of reasons that someone will get laid-off in their lifetime and it happens to everyone from star employees to 80% of an entire sales department, for example. (In other words, don’t take it personal as there are business decisions.)

Be honest and transparent about communicating your situation, for example, include the correct start and end dates to your jobs. In your case, explaining the circumstances surrounding your layoff (RE: merger) will also eliminate this as being a performance issue. Whatever the reason, keep it brief.

Explain your value add

Regardless of the amount time you spent at your job, hiring managers want to know how you contributed. Make sure you list out your accomplishments such as raising funds or saving money and tie it back to the bottom line. Even if you were there for 6 months, emphasize your skills and how you contributed to departmental goals.

Make available past work

If you haven’t already considered it, crafting a specialized blog, website, or portfolio showcasing your work is a great way to convince hiring managers you have the skills necessary for this position regardless of past circumstances. Case studies, writing/design samples, and lesson plans are all great examples of what a manager would find helpful in making their decision. Of course, don’t share anything of a proprietary nature.

Gather your references

Social proof! Colleagues willing to provide testimonials as to your work ethic and past performance is incredibly valuable, especially if it’s coming from the job where you experienced the layoff. It will offset potential concerns and they’ll be able to briefly speak to the situation, if asked. If they’re not able to provide a phone reference, send them a reference request via LinkedIN and make sure your hiring manager has access.

All the best!

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Why Smaller Companies Are Better Early on in Your Career

The allure of large, name-brand companies such as Google, Edward Jones, Deloitte and Hyatt (all included in Forbes 100 Best Places to Work 2018) is understandable. Great perks, brand association, more resources, and exposure to the workings of core business on a large scale (i.e.: processes, performance, making an impact, etc.) make for an environment that can help you reach your career goals…maybe.

Although the corporate mold has major benefits in some respect, applying to smaller or medium-sized companies (<200) especially early on in your career will not only increase your transferable skillset but foster a ‘think outside the box’ mentality that will serve you in any working environment.

You’ll quickly learn a ton.

With varied responsibilities that don’t always fit your job description, you’re expanding your skillset on a regular basis. Getting to wear multiple hats and work cross-functionally with different departments is a highly sought after professional attribute in any business setting.

Creatures of habit will balk at change in responsibility, and if not presented correctly (i.e.: not being offered the proper resources to help you succeed) this type of transition can be stressful. Ultimately for your budding career, more opportunity is best and employees that work in smaller companies are visible and less likely to be siloed where they can’t professionally grow.

You’ll have more influence.

In a small business setting, the work you do is naturally more visible. For this reason, you’re able to make a tangible impact on a daily basis. Larger companies may offer a built-in support system but the connections you make at a smaller company where your immediate team and beyond are regularly witnessing your wins and contributions arguably makes for intimate references and networking connections.

Your professional success is vital to the success of a small business and this is a huge motivator for managers to make themselves to you. Your first job(s) are learning experiences and your boss/mentors have a great deal of information and experience to share. In larger companies (perhaps where the bottom line isn’t the #1 goal) it may be more difficult to gain access to your manager.

More flexibility to discover what works for you.

Larger businesses have corporate policies and regulations that are put in place regarding what an employee can and cannot do; not doing so would absolutely burden a corporate structure of 500+ employees. Smaller companies inherently have the wiggle room to offer things like flexible work schedules/breaks, adaptability in hiring, and even work from home options. This fosters a certain work ethic early on in your career where trust between yourself and your manager/co-workers is vital. There is no room to take advantage of long breaks everyday as your presence is noticed.

Applying to smaller businesses and start-ups requires a different approach. If you’re looking for guidance in how to get a small business interview (or what jobs would best fit your skills), we can help.

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).