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.

what-best-time-apply-for-job

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).

Job Search #IRL: It’s Tough Being a New Grad

If you’re a new grad, you probably already know this. Getting your first job requires persistence and a serious amount of hustle. I graduated with a B.A. in Cinema Studies and a B.S. in Psychology (variety is my jam), and I wanted to find a role that directly related to my degrees. Since being the next Kathryn Bigelow wasn’t in the cards just then, I tried for counseling, HR, and executive assistant roles, given my IRL experience in the latter two. But I quickly ruled counseling out because you need even more schooling (ugh), and I’d really like to contribute to society quickly rather than be in school…again. So, I came up with a better plan. Focus on human resources and executive assistant roles and look in two locations—Seattle and San Francisco.

Okay, so the “better” plan wasn’t perfect. Flying myself back and forth between two cities for interviews wasn’t a cakewalk, but it ended up being worth the hassle. More locations=more opportunities. I also treated the job hunt as a full time job, devoting a set amount of time each day to researching opportunities and improving my application materials. For example, if I wasn’t getting any hits off the current version of my resume and cover letter, I asked for feedback from my network and made changes accordingly. It’s all about the hook. What can you offer that most other candidates can’t? We all have something we kick ass at—hopefully something related to the jobs we’re applying for. I’m really great at being detail-oriented (perhaps to a fault) and multi-tasking. So, I made sure my resume, cover letter, and answers during my interviews reflected that.

After a long, tough search—seriously, I thought the day would never come—I got an offer from Vittana, a non profit that allowed people to lend money to students in developing countries via peer to peer lending. Part of my job was as Kushal’s Executive Assistant, and oh my god, we couldn’t be more different. Kushal was and is a total cowboy, full of wild ideas, and I’m the one that made sure things worked logistically and didn’t fall through the cracks. I grew and accomplished so much at Vittana, allowing me to gain more responsibilities, be promoted to Development Associate, and gain the confidence I needed in my early career. I definitely have all the lovely people I worked with at Vittana to thank for giving me that first chance.

When Vittana merged with Kiva, Kushal went the extra mile and helped me get a marketing/development role at Code.org. I loved the people I worked with and gained new experiences in a company that required its people to have some incredible amounts of hustle, and to this day, it keeps hitting milestone after impressive milestone. But I got to that point where I needed to do something different—I just wasn’t quite sure what that “more” was. So, I left Code.org and entered funemployment, trying to figure out more about myself and where I wanted to go next, what I wanted to do.

If it’s financially feasible, I recommend doing this to anyone who feels like they’ve hit a wall. Let’s face it. Many of us don’t have it figured out before we’re thirty and that’s okay! There is no law on the books that says you have to stay on the path you started on when you graduated. How boring would that be? Like nearly every job you will ever hold, life is all about throwing curveballs your way. We never stop figuring out who we are and what we want, because we are always changing. 

At some point I had come up with a goal: I wanted a job where I could lead a team/manage people before I was 30. So, what came next for me? Enter Kushal, part II. Yes, that pesky Kushal called up and pitched me on TalentWorks, an idea I loved and could relate to—helping other people find jobs. I met the team, interviewed with them, and I was a fit! I mean, you should see us together on Slack. It’s a good mixture of business talk, friendly banter, and emojis and it’s great. My role started off as Lead Talent Advocate (TA) where I supported people with their job search (resume editing, 1:1s, mock interviews, etc.), and I loved every minute of it. Helping people is my passion; to empathize with people’s struggles and provide solutions and make them feel they’re not alone? That feeling is priceless. What am I doing now? Well, because of aforementioned detail-orientedness and multi-tasking abilities, earlier this year I became the Director of Operations and Project Manager for the company. I still do some TA’ing on the side when I have time, but to be honest this is the role that I was looking for when I was “soul-searching” during funemployment, and I couldn’t be more appreciative for it.

One big thing I’ve learned over the course of my career is the importance of my network. I know we hear it a lot. Network, network, network. That’s how you get the good jobs. But I really have found that to be true—I know you introverts are covering your ears right now. I get it. I had a pretty limited professional network when I graduated, mostly from my part-time job during college. If you don’t have a professional network, don’t stress. You have other networks — peers, friends, family, etc.— take advantage of those relationships you’ve already got in addition to figuring out your strengths and using those to your advantage during your job search. Like I said, there is something we all kick ass at. Once you start your first job, your professional network will grow and take note to remember the people you worked well with. These are people you can hopefully reach out to again during your future job searches. Who knows? You may even have a Kushal hidden about who will help you find opportunities for years to come.

Keep persisting and don’t be afraid to take a chance or two. You never know where those jobs will lead you or who you will meet along the way.

10 Questions to Ask Before You Take That Job

Ever start a job and realize it’s not for you? You thought you were hired as a copywriter, but the only writing you’ve done so far is taking notes at meetings. Your coworker turns into a gremlin after lunch and throws peanuts at your head. Your manager, who vehemently denied being a micromanager during your interview, stares over your shoulder while you work and expects hourly check-ins. Oh, and that great office they told you about is actually a cubicle that smells like sweaty feet.

Okay, hopefully your experience wasn’t that bad. Still, you can’t help but feel deceived and resentful when this happens. It seems like they flat out lied to you about this job. In some cases, this might even be true. But maybe you didn’t ask the right questions.

With each interview, I understand more about what I want, what to look out for, and–most importantly–what to ask.

While I’m not an HR professional, I’ve been a job hunter more than a few times in the last decade, due to layoffs, the Great Recession, or just not being satisfied in my current role. A study done by the Bureau of Labor Statistics suggests that younger baby boomers had an average of 11.7 jobs by the time they turned 48. I suspect that number may be even higher for us Gen X’ers and millennials. In fact, according to LinkedIn, job-hopping has nearly doubled over the last twenty years.   

…according to LinkedIn, job-hopping has nearly doubled over the last twenty years.   

Given those stats, we should all be interview experts, right? I know I’ve had dozens of interviews this year alone—and I won’t even try to count how many I’ve had over the last decade. Every interview matters, thoughWith each interview, I understand more about what I want, what to look out for, and–most importantly–what to ask.

Here are 10 questions I ask in interviews to help me determine if an opportunity is right for me.

What might a typical day look like for me?

This innocuous question can give you a lot of valuable information. In my experience, job descriptions can be difficult to interpret. For example, they list graphic design as one of your main duties and you think—sweet, I get to design ads, brochures, and websites half the day. But their definition of graphic design is asking you to “pretty up” a Word document once a week.

Asking the hiring manager to describe your day will usually encourage them to go into more detail about your actual duties and the working environment. They may say, well, you come in at 8am and you answer emails, at 9am we have our daily catch up meeting, and at 10am you’ll be working on such and such. In which case, you have to ask yourself if such a structured environment will work for you. Or they may say—well, I don’t know. What do you think your day should look like? Then you have to decide if you’re comfortable with minimal or no direction. Either way, you should get a much better picture of what the job actually is and isn’t. If they are being vague or you still find yourself unsure – don’t be afraid to ask for further clarification.

What personality type and/or management style would work well for this role and your team?

I’m a huge fan of this question, because it helps me find out whether or not I’d be a good cultural fit. If they say they want the “life of the party”, for example, I know I probably won’t be a good fit. Feeling a connection with your potential manager and coworkers is a good sign, but it doesn’t mean that your working styles mesh. Make sure you’re considering all factors.

What is your management style and how do you prefer to communicate?

Your relationship with your manager can have a direct impact on your job satisfaction. A Gallup report in 2015 found that half the people they surveyed left their jobs due to their manager. So, it makes sense to find out if your communication styles mesh early on—preferably during the interview. Are you a self-starter who prefers autonomy? Then a manager who says they want daily status reports or involvement in every decision may not be the best fit for you. Likewise, if you love email and hate the phone and your manager hates email and loves the phone, you may be in for a challenge.

What is the culture like?

It’s always good to straight up ask about the culture, especially if you’re interviewing with more than one person. The answer isn’t just in what they say, it’s how they say it. If they say it’s the best culture ever, does their facial expression or tone match that sentiment? Are they avoiding eye contact or looking at each other knowingly? Is there a pattern to the answers? Are people struggling to come up with a description or something positive to say (not a good sign)? Keep your eyes open and trust your gut.

What does success in this role look like after three months? How about after a year?

Afraid they’ll have unrealistic expectations or you won’t be given clear goals? Then these are great questions to ask. When employers decide to hire for a role, they should have a clear need for that role—problems to solve and goals to achieve. Job security, people.

Are they expecting you to still be learning after three months or are they wanting the answer to the meaning of life? Can they articulate where they’d like the company to be after a year and where you’d fit into that? We all have different comfort levels and expectations, but your employer’s goals should mesh with your own career goals, and you should know from the very start what it is you are working to achieve.

What do you really love about working here and what would you like to improve?

This is one of my favorite questions to ask, because I find—more often than not—it catches my interviewers off guard and gets them off-script. You’ll be spending a lot of time with these people. This question takes the focus off you for a moment and allows your interviewers to show who they are and what they see as perks and challenges in their environment. Can you help them improve what isn’t working so well? Do you want to? Do their “loves” match what you love in an environment (you know what they say about great minds)?

This is also a great way to discover any hidden deal breakers. For example, maybe you’ve found you can’t concentrate in loud, hectic environments and you’re looking for a quieter, more low key environment. If one of your interviewers says there are more distractions than they’d like, you may want to ask them to elaborate.

What equipment is provided?

As someone who works in the creative field, a lack of resources has been a common theme. The computers, software, and equipment needed to produce quality videos, for example, doesn’t come cheap. Sometimes you have to work with the bare minimum and be creative and resourceful. Resourcefulness is actually a great skill to learn—it can help you as much as your employer.

But you also want to know if their expectations are realistic. Can you actually do your job with what they can provide and—if not—are they willing to give you what you need? If you’ve only used OSX and they’re a Windows-only office, are they willing to provide you with a Mac? If they’re not willing to work with you, chances are the role isn’t a good fit.

Can I see where I’d be working?

This is actually a really important question—one I didn’t think to ask for a long time. And there have definitely been a couple times where I wish I had! Don’t get me wrong. I’m not a diva. But I also know I don’t work well in small rooms, sitting nearly shoulder-to-shoulder with my coworkers. The constant noises and ongoing conversations distract me, and I start to feel rather claustrophobic. On the other hand, some people thrive in close-knit environments like that. Given you’ll be spending 8-10 hours of your day in this space, it’s important that the space works for you and allows you to be productive. If they aren’t willing to show you where you’d be working, that’s a huge red flag!

Is overtime expected? If so, how much and how often?

Are you looking for more work life balance? Then this is a very important question to ask. Sometimes the topic of overtime never comes up unless I ask about it. If they give a vague answer like “sometimes” or “once in awhile”, ask them what that means. For me, “once in awhile” means a few times a year. To them, it might mean once a week. Try and get an estimate of how many hours they expect per week. Is this a 40 hour per week job, in general, or is the expectation more like 50 hours a week?

Do you see room for growth in this position?

Unless this is your dream role, and you’re looking to do it for the rest of your career or you’re a newbie looking to gain some experience, you probably want the answer to be some form of “yes”. If their eyes seem to be searching the ceiling for an answer or they say something non-committal, like “it’s a possibility”, consider whether or not this is the best move for your career right now and how likely it is you’ll get bored after a year or two. The ideal answer here is one that includes specifics, like we’re planning on this Marketing Specialist role growing into a Marketing Director role within the next year. While nothing is ever set in stone, at least you know they’ve given your role some thought and have a plan for the future.

 

 

 

 

Job Search #IRL: When You’re Laid Off Without Warning

Some of us get warnings when layoffs are imminent, from actually being given notice to rumor mills buzzing. I had no warning. Well, technically I had about 24 hours warning. We knew that some of us were going—we just didn’t know who. I was especially nervous, because my husband had been laid off the month before. We were already struggling with that loss—how were we going to get through me losing my job too?

Then the vague meeting request from my supervisor came. The knot in my stomach grew bigger with each hour of silence leading up to the meeting. What if I couldn’t find another job right away? How were we going to pay our bills next month? Would we have to move? Could we afford to move? Should I sell my car? Wait, I can’t. I’d have no way to get to interviews or another job. Then I’d tell myself to stop thinking so negatively. Maybe it wasn’t what I thought.

But when HR showed up at the meeting, I knew… The worst was happening and I better hold on tight for the ride. As I sat there listening to the information being given to me, trying to keep from having a full-on panic attack, all I could think was how is this happening? How do both me and my husband get laid off during a time when the risk of being laid off is extremely low? Lower than it’s been in years. Not to mention, I live in Colorado, where the unemployment rate is sitting at around 2.4%.

Lesson Learned #1: Even when the unemployment rate is extremely low, there’s no such thing as complete job security. Be ready and have a back-up plan.

They tell you to take a break after you’ve been laid off, and that’s nice in theory. But it’s not really an option when you need to keep a roof over your head. I didn’t take a break. I dove right into applying to jobs. For at least 8 hours a day, I applied to every job I was qualified for that sounded like a decent fit.

One the worst parts of being laid off is you’re already going out into the world feeling rejected and less than. You have to explain, over and over, why you no longer have a job… even when it’s not your fault. There’s also the bias employers can have—preferring the currently employed over the unemployed. That’s an uphill battle in and of itself.

Then there’s the field I’m in, creative/marketing, which is highly competitive. I’m fortunate enough to have a versatile skillset, so I can apply to design, writing, video production, and digital marketing roles. Honestly, having all those skills made a huge difference. If you are in a competitive field, I highly recommend using any down time to take some free courses and gain a wider skillset within that field. Companies love candidates who can wear a few hats.

Getting laid off makes you take a good hard look at your life and your path, whether you want to or not. After a couple weeks of panicking, contacting everyone in my network, and interviewing with several employers a week, I began to question my direction. There was something missing in these interviews. None of these opportunities were exciting me. They all felt…the same.

Was hopping into yet another corporate creative job what I wanted? I’d been yearning for years to break out of the box and see where my ideas could take me. But I was always too scared to let go of that security of a paycheck every two weeks.

Wait, what security?

As it turns out, being laid off might have been the best thing to happen to me, because it has given me a good kick in the ass. It has woken me up to the fact that no job or situation is secure. Why the hell not start my own adventure? Why not think out of the box? Why not go after what truly drives me in life – to inspire and be inspired.

I’m a storyteller and a dreamer who thinks way too much. I want to wake up in the morning and be challenged. I want to tell old stories in new ways. I want to follow my heart and my passion instead of my fears and doubts.

So, that’s what I’m doing. In the two months I was job hunting, I got two very respectable offers for great-sounding, full-time opportunities. And I turned them both down. Did I completely freak out about it and question myself? You bet. But I’d already been down that road. I’ve been working in the corporate world for years, and it just felt like I’d be picking up where I left off. It felt like I was giving up on myself.

I ended up accepting a part-time role with a non-profit that serves people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, a cause near and dear to my heart. With a brother on the autistic spectrum and having ADHD myself, I feel connected to others with disabilities and I want to help them succeed. This is the kind of work that drives me to get up in the morning.

I’ve also started offering creative services to a variety of clients, including the fabulous folks here at TalentWorks. It’s scary as hell – but it’s also exciting and invigorating. Am I still open to the right full-time role, if it comes along? Most definitely. But it has to be the right role. It has to let me break out of that box a little and see what’s possible. Most importantly, it has to challenge my perspective and inspire me to grow.

To be fair, this isn’t all roses and candy canes. This is the biggest risk I’ve ever taken in my career. If I think too hard about the future, I get a little terrified. I’m definitely missing that regular paycheck. But if I don’t take the risk, how will I ever know what’s possible? When I was 14 and writing stories in my notebooks, I wrote this on the inside of every cover: There’s no limit to the imagination.

Call it cheesy. Call it overly optimistic. But I still believe it, and I’m still going for it every day.

Lesson Learned #2: Sometimes, the scariest moments lead to the most rewarding, life-changing opportunities if you face your fears head-on. There is no limit to the imagination.