Gun-Related Jobs Are Surging +79% After Parkland School Shooting

So far this year, there have been 17 school shootings — nearly 2 shootings a week. The NRA and #NeverAgain movements are locked in a battle royale; caught in the middle, political and corporate alliances are shifting as we speak. It’s hard to know what’ll happen in the end, but we’re starting to see its effects already—

After last month’s Parkland shooting, hiring for gun-related jobs has surged +79% above last year’s baseline. You can practically see the #NeverAgain movement rallying its forces, schools and cities hiring more police officers, and others getting more gun permits and buying more guns.


“A Good Guy With a Gun”

The NRA argues that only “a good guy with a gun” can stop a bad guy with a gun. (In yesterday’s school shooting, a good guy with a gun prevented a far worse tragedy.) Regardless of whether you agree with the NRA, the reality is this: after big school shootings, Americans want to add more guns — 89% of gun-related hiring in the past 2 months increased the number of guns, either directly or indirectly.

What does that mean? Here are some (representative) folks who were recently hiring:

  • Armed Protection Officer, Bingo Hall — 95 Bravo Protection Services
  • Grassroots Spring Intern — National Rifle Association
  • Regional Police Officer — Cleveland Clinic
  • Retail Firearms Lead Outfitter — Cabela’s

In the aftermath of every big school shooting, you can practically see gun retailers hiring more outfitters, gun lobbies gearing up for a fight, and schools and hospitals hiring more police officers.


On the other hand, the Parkland survivors point to their school resource officer who stood outside for ~30 minutes while kids died inside. They’re demanding gun reform — doing TV interviews, staging nationwide walkouts, launching pressure campaigns and generally raising hell to make it happen.

They’re badly out-numbered and out-moneyed: in the last 2 months, for every gun reform person that was hired, 9 others were hired that increased access to guns.

However, what #NeverAgain lacks in numbers, they make up in broad, grassroots support. While the 5 biggest pro-gun employers hired 61% of new employees promoting gun access (e.g. big retailers), the 5 biggest anti-gun employers hired just 32% of people promoting gun control (e.g. community non-profits).

For instance, here are some (representative) folks who were hiring recently:

  • Campaign Associate, Guns and Crime — American Progress
  • Crew Leader, READI Chicago — Heartland Alliance
  • Program Coordinator — Sandy Hook Promise

What Does This Mean?

Jobs are fundamental part of our lives: they’re our livelihoods, sure, but they’re also a reflection of our priorities. Here, you can see two things happening:

  • Big school shootings (Parkland last month and San Bernadino last year) have a clear impact on people. They start buying more guns and asking for more law enforcement and private security to protect their loved ones.
  • At the same time, people want fewer guns and stronger communities: they start donating to community organizations and lobbying for gun reform.

My takeaway: People care. Specifically, they care in two ways:

  1. You may not agree with their opinion, but they care enough to have one — and that’s 80% of the battle, in my opinion.
  2. They care about making their communities stronger and safer. And they care enough to put their money where their mouth is, from hiring more security to buying more guns to donating to community non-profits.

How Can We Help?

Do you want to do something to prevent future school shootings? Whether you’re an experienced gun enthusiast, newfound social activist or aspiring first responder, you can do something.

And we can help. We’re a mission-driven company and, as far as I see it, it’s our job to get you the job you deserve. Getting a job these days is hard, but finding a job that balances your personal mission and practical needs is especially hard. Sign up for TalentWorks and email your TalentAdvocate with what you need. We’ll do everything we can for you!


  • Why should we trust you? TalentWorks indexes ~6 million jobs per month to help our users get the job they deserve. On average, TalentWorks subscribers get a 5.8x hireability boost over the competition and 90% of TalentWorks subscribers get an interview in 60 days or less. We understand jobs.
  • How’d you calculate this? Please tell me all the boring, technical details. We extracted a random sample of 25,000 jobs that mentioned the word “gun” from our index of ~91 million job postings. We then classified each posting as “pro-gun”, “anti-gun” or “other” based on company, posting text and job title. (You’d be surprised how many job postings refer to “nerf gun fights.” Bored yet?) Finally, we controlled for seasonality and indexability and plotted against school shootings from Wikipedia. All of this was done in Python using pandas, sklearn and bokeh.
  • What does this all (really) mean? You tell me. I’m a hard-headed idealist, so here’s how I choose to interpret the above: People care. You might not agree with their opinions, but they care enough to have one. And everyone (with their different opinions) is doing what they can to make a difference. It’s a start.

Why Are We Doing This?

With ApplicationAssistant, 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 knowledge. So, that’s exactly what we’re doing.

Creative Commons

We’re not only sharing this 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.
Did you like this post? Share it with your friends!

The Science of The Job Search, Part II: Racism, Outgroup Bias & KFC

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. — Martin Luther King, Jr.

Tomorrow is the end of Black History Month. In a few weeks, it’ll be the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s death. How much does race still matter in America?


At least in hiring, race (still) matters — a lot. After analyzing thousands of job applications, outcomes and applicants, we discovered 3 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, e.g. African-Americans are lazy, Asian-Americans can’t speak English;
  3. On the other hand, very few people were consciously racist. When non-white applicants followed specific tips (see below) that forced hiring managers to consider them objectively, they were given a 54% fairer chance.

Let’s break it down, shall we?

Non-White Applicants Are Less Hireable

It’s hard out there for a black man. (And black women and Hispanic men and…)

Why? Two reasons (see below):

  1. When a white person applied to a job, they had a 13.0% chance of hearing back, compared to 6.7% for Asian-Americans and just 2.3% for African-Americans!
  2. When white applicants heard back, they heard back in 12.4 days, compared to 18.8 days for Hispanics and 41.2 days for African-Americans (nearly 6 weeks)!
Ethnicity% Interview Rate# Days for Replyp-value

A common explanation for this sort of effect is that non-white job applicants have lower educational attainment, etc. We’ve omitted that analysis here for brevity but, in short, the effects here aren’t explainable by education, work history, skills or geography, e.g. African-American job applicants had nearly 37% more education than their white counterparts. (President Obama was right…)

If you’re a minority (and you’re ever planning on looking for a job), this is pretty terrible news. What can you do about it?

Disqualifier: Don’t Reinforce Racist Stereotypes!

When you look at the data, it becomes pretty clear that certain resume mistakes are basically disqualifiers for certain races. Those disqualifiers fit a general pattern: racist stereotypes.

Put another way, if you in any way reinforce a pre-existing racial stereotype, you’ll be punished for it. Check out the following graph, for instance:


If you’re from an immigrant family (or your name looks like it might be) and you make a resume faux pas, your chances drop precipitously.

#5: Asian-Americans: Dorks Who Can’t Speak English [100% PENALTY]

Asian-Americans are awkward math dorks who can’t speak English — that’s the stereotype, right? Witness Engrish, Apu in the Simpsons, and this scene from the Big Short (one of my favorite movies):

If you’re Asian-American, a resume mistake that in any way reinforces the Engrish/bad communication skills stereotype can be a fatal mistake. Don’t believe me? Check out this tweet a few weeks ago from Seattle:

Look at her dad’s original email above. It’s not great English, sure, but I’ve seen hundreds of applications like that from non-Asian applicants too. Do you think Bruce would reply like that to Chad?

Job Search Tip: Especially if you’re Asian- or Hispanic-American, make sure that you’re not making a resume faux pas (100% penalty).

(If you’re worried about making an unintentional faux pas, ApplicationAssistant can automatically optimize dozens of variables for you, including writing personalized cover letters for each job application.)

#4: African-Americans: Lazy Welfare Queens [PENALTY]

This doesn’t apply just to Asian- and Hispanic-Americans.

Let’s talk about two people: Tyrone Robinson, who got zero replies after ~4 months of job-hunting in SF, despite applying to 100+ jobs; and, DeAndre Jackson, who got multiple offers after just 1 month of job hunting in Los Angeles. (Names and locations changed to protect the innocent.)

Consider Tyrone’s work history:


Marketing Assistant, Gap, 2015 — 2017
Sales Associate, Gap, 2014 — 2015
Sales Associate, Best Buy, 2013

Looks good, right? 5 years of work experience. Good career progression. So, why didn’t he get the job? Consider DeAndre, who had less experience but did just fine:


Marketing Assistant, American Apparel, 2017 — Present
Marketing Assistant, Banana Republic, 2015 — 2017
Office Manager, Law Office, 2014 — 2015

What’s the stereotype for African-Americans? They eat fried chicken, they’re lazy and they’re welfare queens. If you’re African-American, a resume mistake — no matter how small or innocent — that reinforces the lazy welfare queen stereotype will doom your job search.

If you look at Tyrone’s resume, you can see that he had two unexplained gaps in work experience. For any other person, it might not be great, but it would’ve been just fine. For Tyrone, it was a fatal (and 100% innocent) mistake. (He’d had to take care of his ailing mother.)

Resume Tip: If you’re African-American, make sure you explain (or remove) any gap in work experience.

Explanation: Outgroup Bias and KFC

Here’s the rub: none of these resumes contained photos. Hiring managers could only infer an applicant’s ethnicity based on their name.

That split-second inference has tremendous (subconscious) power: a first impression (a home team jersey or how a name sounds) fires off millions of neurons in your brain, giving you dozens of working assumptions in a few hundred milliseconds — it’s what we call a “gut feeling” in everyday life.

And it’s important! We’re bombarded by information everywhere we go and if we didn’t have our gut feelings, we’d be sloppy, slippery puddles of anxiety on the floor. But, sometimes it goes awry.

Whenever someone seems foreign or unfamiliar to you, those gut reactions prepare you to be skeptical and wary — in psychology, it’s known as outgroup bias. This made a ton of sense when we lived in warring clans in the Irish highlands or African savannah, but it’s less helpful now that most (corporate) folks’ biggest physical threat is a paper-cut.

In the couple seconds the average manager takes to review an average resume, outgroup bias means Tyrone Robinson gets bucketed as a lazy, KFC-eating flake and Minh Huynh gets bucketed as an Engrish-speaking dork in a few hundred milliseconds. They never even had a (real) chance.

Sucks, right? But, it turns out there’s hope—

Equalizer: Force an Objective Mindset

In general, when hiring managers are reviewing your resume, you’re operating at their subjective, subconscious “gut feeling” level. And if you’ve got a name like Tyrone Robinson, Maria Torres or Minh Huynh, that means you’re in trouble.

But, remember: very few people are consciously racist. What if instead of fighting the subconscious, you forced them to consider you consciously — objectively?


Non-white job applicants saw up to +199% higher interview rates when they forced hiring managers to consider them objectively. This roughly translated to closing the racial discrimination gap in hiring by 54% (a 1.6x race penalty vs. 2.3x originally).

So, how do you force hiring managers to consider you objectively? In addition to not breaking resume etiquette, you need to follow at least two of the resume tips below:

#3: Use Concrete Numbers [+23% BOOST]

As we mentioned last time, every 3 sentences, use at least 1 number to demonstrate your (concrete) impact. Between the two people below, who would you hire?

Helped increase sales by 31% by working with Operations Manager to reduce time to 1st customer reply.

Collaborated with Operations Manager improve customer reply times.

The first one is better than the second for everyone. But, if Chad and Tyrone both say the second, Chad is always going to win.

Resume Tip: Especially for people of color, quantifying the impact that you made with numbers helps remove subjective bias (+23% boost).

#2: Add Industry Buzzwords [+34% BOOST]

Also as last timeadd 15-20 specific skills, industry buzzwords, acronyms, etc. to your resume. Although it’s helpful for everyone, it’s especially helpful for minorities to anchor their expertise in objectively-known and -respected foundations.

Resume Tip: Include 15-20 specific skills, industry buzzwords and expertise in your job achievements (+34% boost).

#1: Don’t Be a “Team Player” [+63% BOOST]

Finally, don’t be a “team player”. Don’t mention these sorts of collaboration-oriented words more than once or twice in your resume:

team player
results-driven collaborator
supporting member

Why? These sorts of words discount your achievements to hiring managers. Saying it once conveys that you work well in teams. Saying it five times screams, “I don’t know how to get anything done individually.” If you’re a person of color, hiring managers are already (subconsciously) discounting your achievements — don’t help them.

(Quite frankly, this is a lot like the problem that many women face in the workplace. More on that in a post next month. In the meantime, check out #banbossy.)

Resume Tip: For people of color, being explicit about your specific contributions is crucial to remove subjective bias (+63% boost).

(Given the different variables to balance, this one’s a bit tricky. Our ResumeOptimizer can automatically suggest corrections for teamwork cliches and other common mistakes.)


To recap:

  • Race (still) matters, a lot — non-white job applicants were 2.3x less hireable than white job applicants.
  • If you (in any way) reinforce a pre-existing racist stereotype, outgroup bias will cause hiring managers to instantly disqualify you, e.g. African-Americans are lazy welfare queens, Asian-Americans are dorks who can’t speak English.
  • On the other hand, if you forced hiring managers to consider you objectively, they gave you a 70% fairer chance. For example: demonstrating personal achievements, concrete skills, quantified impact.

As with everything involving race, you’re playing on a knife’s edge here: do too little and you’re nothing, do too much and you’re labeled try-hard (or worse, blackballed). You have to do the right thing in exactly the right amount. Balancing the hundreds of variables that go into this is hard, for humans.

But, it’s easy for robots: our AI-driven systems can simultaneously optimize 1,000+ variables. We’re just getting started with these sorts of discrimination-related hiring issues, but our existing tools can already help a lot:

  • ApplicationAssistant automatically identifies jobs you’re objectively qualified for, so you can emphasize your objective qualifications and mitigate subconscious racism/outgroup bias; and,
  • ResumeOptimizer instantly scans your resume for dozens of potential issues putting you at a disadvantage, including the three objective-mindset tips above.

In addition, our TalentAdvocates have helped people of every ethnicity and background navigate the especially complex, confusing, frustrating job search landscape that minorities face. Let us help.


We used the core dataset, analysis and visualization from The Science of the Job Search, Part I.

To calculate which resume tips were disqualifiers, we looked only at non-white subgroups and filtered for tips where their absence resulted in a <5% interview rate. For equalizers, we filtered for tips where their presence resulted in an interview rate within 2 standard errors of the overall mean. The above graphs are plotted with bokeh on Python.

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 going to do.

Creative Commons

We’re not only sharing this 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.
Did you like this post? Share it with your friends!

The Science of The Job Search, Part I: 13 Data-Backed Ways To Win

It’s the New Year! And what does that mean? Fireworks, champagne and New Year’s Resolutions. It turns out fully 63% of people’s New Year’s resolutions are about jobs: negotiating that promotion, quitting that job you’ve always hated, or getting that new job you’ve always wanted.

But, as we all know, getting a job is hard. Clearly, there are jobs out there. And clearly, some people are getting those jobs. In fact, although people have a ~2% interview rate for online job applications on average, some TalentWorks subscribers have a 40%+ interview rate!


We call these folks our “A-List Talent.” What’s so special about them? What’s their secret? And is there anything you can learn from them?

We analyzed 4,000+ job applications and job applicants from the past few months and, using some fancy math and a bit of elbow grease, identified 13 key factors out of 100+ possible factors that drove up our A-List Talent’s interview rates. So, without further ado, let’s get to it: What can you learn from our A-List Talent’s super-high hireability to (finally) get that job you deserve in 2018?

Factors you can’t control

#3: Go back to school. [+22% BOOST]


Having a 2nd degree boosts your chances of getting an interview by +21.9%.

Why is this something you can’t (easily) control? I don’t know about you, but not everyone can put their life on hold, spend four years and tens of thousands of dollars of school in the hopes of getting a better job… four years from now.

Job Search Tip: Except in rare scenarios, you should not go back to school for a 2nd degree just to improve your job prospects. When you factor in opportunity cost, you usually come out behind — it’s just not worth it.

#2: Be older. (Or younger.) [+25% BOOST]


Age matters. A lot, sadly. Your chances of getting a job at age 20 are pretty bad. At 30, they’re OK. At 40, they’re getting bad again. It might be illegal, but age discrimination is very real.

The best age to get a job is between 28 and 35. During this time, you get a +25.1% hireability boost over everyone else. Up to age 28, your hireability is increasing by +9% every year. After age 35, your hireability drops by -8% every year.

But, here’s the rub: this is inferred age. Hiring managers (subconsciously) guess your age based on your graduation date, how much experience you have, etc. If you don’t show your graduation date, they can’t tell how old you are. If you only have your most recent 2-3 jobs listed, they can’t tell that you started working in the 1980s.

Resume Tip: Don’t list your graduation date if you’re older than 35. If hiring managers can’t guess your age, they can’t discriminate against you based on it.

#1: Be a woman. [+48% BOOST]


Resumes with obviously female names had a +48.3% higher chance of getting an interview. For example:


This effect was initially very surprising to us, but when you think it about it, it’s really not. Dozens of studies show that women often don’t get what they deserve (basically) because they don’t ask for it. This shows that, when women do ask for what they deserve, they’re often recognized for it.

In the past several months, women across the country have become more vocal about their rights, from standing up to sexual harassment to supporting each other in the workplace. Between the clear (data-proven) benefits of hiring women, that women are outperforming men in school, and the fact that most recruiters are women (who want to support other women), it makes 100% sense why women might be getting a boost when they apply for jobs.

Job Search Tip: To all the women out there who might question themselves, undervalue their contributions, or wonder if they truly deserve it, push through the discomfort and demand what you deserve (the job, the raise, the promotion). You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take but, at least with job applications, when you do take that shot, you’ll get a +48.3% boost over the competition.

Factors you can control

#10: Play buzzword bingo. [+29% BOOST]


Buzzwords, keywords, acronyms, industry jargon — call them what you want, but they serve a purpose. Beyond the usual reasons, they help you get past automated screening tools used by many big companies. But if you go overboard, the actual hiring manager might think you’re a tool (even if the robots don’t notice).

Resume Tip: Name-drop a buzzword every 3-6 sentences. Folks who dropped an occasional buzzword saw a +29.3% boost over others.

#9: Demonstrate results with numbers. [+40% BOOST]


I’ve personally hired 100+ people over my career and, during that time, I’ve probably personally reviewed 10,000+ resumes. Even if a resume passes your sniff test, the hardest thing is separating what’s real vs. what’s pink, fluffy, sugar-y cotton-candy-coated horsecrap. Quantifying how you made an impact with numbers goes a long way towards helping hiring managers tell them apart fast.

Resume Tip: Every 3 sentences, use at least 1 number to demonstrate your (concrete) impact. Folks who did that saw gain a +40.2% boost over their competition.

#8: Apply on Mondays. Don’t apply on Fridays. [+46% BOOST]


Enough said.

(Why are there so few applications on Fridays or Saturdays? ApplicationAssistant automatically optimizes dozens of variables for you, including when it applies for a job on your behalf.)

Job Search Tip: Apply on Mondays (+46.0% hireability boost). Don’t apply on Fridays or Saturdays.

#7: Don’t be a “Team Player.” [+51% BOOST]

This one’s a little counter-intuitive, so hold on.


Everyone talks about how important teamwork is. And how our whole economy is becoming about sharing. And collaboration. Lots of it. It’s very cute.

When it comes to actually hiring someone though, the most collaborative candidates get penalized by -50.8% by hiring managers. If that doesn’t make sense, consider these

  1. Owned, analyzed and delivered on-time financial reports for business sub-unit A to management team on monthly basis.
  2. Collaborated with full analyst team to create monthly financial reports for management team.
  3. Assisted management team by creating monthly financial reports as a supporting member of the analysis team.

Who would you hire? (Or call for an interview?) In the 2nd and 3rd case, I have no idea what work you did (vs. free-loading off your team). Finally, many collaborative words also have passive, subordinate, weasel-word undertones.

Resume Tip: Don’t mention more than once or twice that you’re a “team player,” “results-driven collaborator,” “supporting member”, etc. This is associated with a +50.8% hireability boost over the competition.

#6: Take charge with leadership words. [+51% BOOST]


The converse of avoiding weasel words is also true. Adding strong, active, leadership-oriented words also helps you. Some of the words we detected as strong, active words:


What I want you to get from that: You don’t have to be the CEO of your company to be a leader, and leadership doesn’t always mean managing people or huge budgets. Even if you’re just an intern somewhere, you can still demonstrate leadership traits by proactively communicating with co-workers. And your future bosses want to know that!

Resume Tip: Incorporate 1-2 leadership-oriented words every 5 sentences. Job applicants who used strong, active, leadership-words saw a +50.9% boost over the competition.

#5: Don’t use personal pronouns. [+55% BOOST]


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

Resume Tip: Don’t use personal pronouns in your employment section. Ever.

#4: Include a Key Skills section. [+59% BOOST]


You can’t name-drop enough skills, buzzwords and acronyms to get to the optimal number of skills without one.

Resume Tip: For most [*] people, you should add 15-20 skills, buzzwords, acronyms, etc. to your resume. This is associated with a +58.8% boost in hireability on average.

[*] There’s actually a really interesting effect going on here. There’s a clear, second sub-population of special folks for whom 30-40 skills, buzzwords, acronyms, etc. is the right number. More on that later.

#3: Apply in the first 4 days. [+65% BOOST]

We’ve already talked about being first-in-line for a job.

Resume Tip: Applying early gets you a +64.7% boost over your competition on average. (Although it can make up to an 8x difference for a single job application, most people aren’t applying at the worst possible time.)

#2: Apply between 6am and 10am. [+89% BOOST]

We’ve already talked about this too.

Resume Tip: Applying between 6am and 10am gives you an +89.1% boost over your competition. (As above, your competition isn’t applying at the worst possible time so you don’t get the full 5x boost every time.)

And, finally, the #1 most important factor you can control?

#1: Start your sentences with (distinct) action verbs. [+140% BOOST]


If you did anything worthy at a company, you’ll have done something. If you start the sentence describing what you did with an action verb, you’re off to a strong start. And if you describe the different things that you did at that company with different action verbs, you’ll have finished strong.

Say what? In short, 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.

Resume Tip: Describe your job achievements with different action verbs. This one resume tip is is associated with +139.6% boost in getting more interviews.

(Why so few people in the baseline? Our ResumeOptimizer will automatically scan your resume and suggest places where you should use action verbs.)

P.S. A (small) corollary —

Getting a job you deserve is hard, yes. But, it’s not as hard as you think. And I can prove that.

Many folks think to get a better job they have to fundamentally change as a person, gain new skills, learn new habits, network for weeks, etc. And, sure, all of that helps.

But, look again at the #1 most effective tip: it’s about changing the words on your resume for a +139.6% boost. (And not even all of the words — it’s literally about changing the first word of each job achievement.)

On the other hand, look at what a second degree buys you: a +21.9% boost. It’ll cost you tens of thousands of dollars and years of effort, but you’ll get 6.4x more impact for something that’ll take you a few minutes.

Why am I spending precious sentences trying to prove this to you for a blog post that’s already pretty long? Because it’s January 6th. And you probably haven’t made good on your New Year’s Resolutions yet. We know two things:

  1. Every week you procrastinate your New Year’s resolution means you have a 24% lower chance of succeeding at it.
  2. The #1 most-important step to completing a task is to start it. (No, seriously. These folks have studied it.)

So, don’t procrastinate. Don’t put it off. It’s not some crazy, big life improvement project to (finally) get that job you deserve. Instead, it’s about making sure you apply at the right time, changing a few words, or adding a few numbers. Go get that job you deserve today! You can do it!

(We can help.)


So, to summarize: Go back to school. Be a woman. Be older. (Or younger.) Sorry, bad joke. Play buzzword bingo. Demonstrate results with numbers. Apply on Mondays. (Don’t apply on Fridays.) Don’t be a team player. Take charge with leadership words. Don’t use personal pronouns. Include a Key Skills section. Apply in the first 4 days. Apply between 6am and 10am. Start your sentences with (distinct) action verbs. (Phew! Trying saying that five times fast.)

Easy peasy. You got this, right? Great. Now do that for every job you have to apply to and we’ll pretty much guarantee that you get the job you deserve.

Or, you can sign up for TalentWorkswe’ll just take care of it all for you! (No, seriously. [*]) Let us help you keep your New Year’s Resolution.

[*] For most things, we can just automatically take care of it for you. For instance:

  • Our AI-driven ApplicationAssistant automatically optimizes the day of week, time of day & delay of your application so you don’t have to worry about keeping track of 100+ applications.
  • Our ResumeOptimizer will instantly scan your resume for all of the potential issues above in addition to dozens of others.

And our A-List Talent? Sure, some of them might be in especially high-demand fields but, more often than not, they’re people who’ve put in a few minutes to optimize their resume for their job search. You should too!


Underlying Dataset

We took a random sample of 4,068 jobs, applicants and outcomes from recent activity on TalentWorks. For each case, we parsed their resumes with our ResumeParser, and annotated various applicant traits including gender, ethnicity, age, etc., and whether they had followed each of 70+ optimizations from our ResumeOptimizer.


Using partial least squares decomposition against interview rate, we then identified 16 principal components from the above dataset. Finally, we hand-selected a subset of the top factors in the first two principal components as the final 13 key factors.


We regressed the impact and estimated standard error of each factor across its domain using a composite Matern kernel. The results above are plotted with Bokeh on python.

Why Are We Doing This?

With ApplicationAssistant right now, we can boost the average job-seeker’s hireability by ~5x. 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 going to do.

Creative Commons

We’re not only sharing this 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.

EDIT 2018-01-07 11am: Holy batman, viral post! In just 3 hours, we’ve been deluged by 100,000+ people wanting to learn more about the science behind the job search. Trying to get to everyone’s emails and comments ASAP.

EDIT 2018-01-07 2pm: We’re 6 hours and 250,000+ people in — wow! We’ll definitely be publishing a follow-up to this.

EDIT 2018-01-10: Since I simply couldn’t keep up with everyone’s comments, I wanted to address a few good technical questions that came up below and on Reddit:

  • We’re not trying to claim causation here. This was a 100% retrospective, correlation-based study. Although RCT-based studies are the gold standard and can establish correlation, they also require much more time and resources even after you know what to study. We’ll definitely be spending the time and money on teasing out causation in follow-up studies, but there’s still a lot of value in retrospective studies and we felt holding that back in a world where 51% of all 20-somethings are under-employed was just irresponsible.
  • We’re also not claiming that any one factor above fully explains the observed variance. In statistical terms, any single factor is independently a relatively weak predictor of your hireability [*]. However, when you account for multiple factors jointly, they are fairly strong predictor of hireability. Put another way, the coefficient of determination R^2 of the first two principal components described above is 0.719. For visualization simplicity above, we only graph one factor at a time.

[*] This makes sense, right? If you’re a Harvard MBA, we’re not claiming that applying on Fridays means you’re going to be forever unemployed.

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The Worst Types of Interviewers on Your Job Search: #3 The Flighty One

We’ve met The Downer and The Egomaniac. Well, hopefully you haven’t had the pleasure in IRL. If you have, my condolences. Have a piece of dark chocolate with me and laugh it off. As with most things in life, a bad interview can be a learning experience. At the very least, it’s a lesson in how not to interview when you’re on the other side of that desk.

Today, we’re going to meet another “worst type” of interviewer. The Flighty One.

Have you ever had an interview that went like this?

Interviewer: (Texting on cell phone) Hey—have a seat! I’ve just got to answer this real quick.

Candidate: Sure thing. (Sits down and waits)

Interviewer: (texting)

Candidate: (waiting)

Interviewer: (still texting)

Candidate: (staring at the parking lot outside. watching cars back up and drive away. so fascinating.)

Interviewer: Okay! Sorry about that. Sometimes people are so impatient. (rifles through the mountain of papers on desk) Hmm… I haven’t actually had a chance to go over your resume, Jenny. Why don’t you tell me about you?

Candidate: Well, my name is Jane, and I just graduated with a BA in Human Resources Management. I’ve been working part time as a human resources assistant at–

Interviewer: (cell phone rings) Sorry, Jenny. I’ve got to take this really quick.

Candidate: Oh, okay.

Interviewer: (hangs up after a five-minute conversation about weekend plans) You worked at that law firm on 7th, right?

Candidate: No… I’ve never worked at a law firm.

Interviewer: (laughs) Oh, sorry. I’ve been staring at resumes for days. I can’t even see straight! You’ve been in retail for a while—is that correct?

Candidate: Nope. That’s not me either.

Interviewer: Okay, Jenny. Let’s start over. Tell me about you!

Candidate: My name is Jane. Would you like me to spell it for you?

Oh, the things we wish we could say in these moments. The Flighty One might seem like a fun person to be around, if only they could remember your name. Can you imagine what they’d be like as a boss? Even if a hiring manager has interviewed twenty people that day, they should make knowing who you are (or at the very least your name) a priority. Making you wait while they take phone calls (unless they truly are urgent or emergencies), calling you by the wrong name, or not bothering to review your resume beforehand are all signs that hiring you isn’t a priority. You are just someone and they need to hire someone. And when they hire that someone, they will continue to be someone (until The Flighty One remembers that someone’s name—but don’t hold your breath). Someone will be given expired login credentials for every account, resend emails multiple times (because The Flighty One does not do searches), take on urgent projects that stop being projects a day later, and constantly remind The Flighty One there’s no front desk person because they haven’t hired one yet. This is how I imagine it, anyway.

Here are ways I’ve dealt with The Flighty One in an interview:

  1. I tell them I’ll wait while they review my resume. The last time an interviewer told me they hadn’t reviewed my resume yet, I handed them a copy of my resume and said I’d wait while they reviewed it. They gave me a strange look—but, hey, at least they stopped calling me by the wrong name.
  2. I’ve told them we could reschedule the interview, if they needed to. When a hiring manager is taking phone calls or stopping and starting our interview multiple times, I’m not afraid to ask if they want to reschedule. Yes, their time is valuable—but so is mine. They’ll either take me up on it or suddenly realize how they’re coming across. Okay, well, sometimes this doesn’t work at all—and they’ll say, no! Now is fine. In which case, you could consider walking out when they take their next phone call?  In all seriousness, sometimes forgetfulness and lack of focus is a sign that the hiring manager is overworked. There is the chance that, once they get some very needed help, they will learn your name and even appreciate what you do.
  3. I ask how busy they are. When I’m not sure if a hiring manager is oblivious or just overworked, I ask if they’ve got a lot going on and how the new hire might be able to help them. Sometimes it’s clear they are dealing with a difficult situation, and I need to cut them some slack. And other times…
  4. I vent to trusted friends and family. Let’s face it. The interview process can be brutal, and some employers can treat you very poorly throughout the process, from ghosting you after an interview to calling you by the wrong name. It’s normal to feel frustrated and angry. Sometimes you just need to get it all out!
  5. Onward and upward! When I have an interview with a hiring manager who doesn’t know my name, I try not to take it personally. Because it’s not about me—it’s about them. Maybe they are a really nice person who is horrible at multi-tasking and time management. Maybe they fully intended to review my resume, but the day—once again—got away from them. The best thing I can do is keep applying and scheduling more interviews. After all, some hiring managers not only know my name, they’ve looked up every book I’ve published and are full of positive feedback about my work. That’s always a pleasant surprise!


Have you ever had an interview like this? How did you respond? Feel free to share your story below!


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Yay-You Got a Job Offer! Now What?

You finally got the call. Maybe it’s an offer for your dream job, or maybe it’s for a job you’re less than excited about. Either way, you’ve got a big decision to make. Hopefully, you have at least a few irons in the fire—meaning you’ve been interviewing with other companies. When it comes to the job hunt, you want to have as many options as possible. Job offers can fall through for various reasons.

Early in my career, I’d accept job offers the moment they were offered to me. I was afraid they’d be offended and pull the offer if I said I wanted to think about it. And they just might. Some employers get pretty huffy when you don’t accept right away. But, for me, that sends up a huge red flag, and I’ve worked in enough not-so-great situations to pay attention. If they’re being this rigid now, what will they be like when I start working for them? Plus, why would they want you to make a rash decision? It’s better for both parties when you’ve had a chance to think everything through.

So, now that I’m older and wiser, here’s what I do when I get a job offer:

I let them know I’m grateful for the offer and that I’d like some time to think it over. Asking to think over an offer is not an unreasonable request, regardless of how an employer reacts. They will do what’s in their best interest, so you need to do what’s best for you. The length of time I ask for depends on the situation. If I’m more interested in other jobs I’ve interviewed for or I’ve received another offer, I ask for as much time as possible—but never more than a week. Most employers I’ve dealt with are at least willing to give me a couple days.

I contact other employers I’ve interviewed with and let them know I have an offer. Like I said, options are good. I don’t want to be asking myself what if or feel like I’ve been too hasty in accepting an offer. Seeing if there’s any other interest helps me feel like I’ve explored every possibility. If nobody else is interested, that makes my decision easier. But sometimes I do have other interest, which makes things a wee bit more complicated.

I ask for the offer in writing, information on benefits, and a copy of the employee handbook. A written offer doesn’t mean the job is a guarantee. But it does allow you to see all of the terms in writing, so there are no misunderstandings. I always ask for benefits information, so I can compare it with competing offers (if any) or just make the most informed decision possible. I also request the employee handbook, if the company has one. This can actually tell me a lot about the company culture. Are there a gazillion rules that remind me of grade school? If so, I’ll pass. Does it talk to me like I’m an adult who deserves the benefit of the doubt? That’s a definite plus.

I think about what is most important to me in a role and negotiate based on that. You can ask for the stars and the moon, but that doesn’t always mean you should. Remember salary is just part of the package, and it’s not the only thing you can negotiate. It’s good to do some research on what other people in your role are being paid, particularly in your area. is a great site for this. Salary isn’t the most important factor for me—although it’s important to me that I’m being paid what I’m worth. Let’s say I get two offers for jobs that interest me equally—Offer A and Offer B.

Offer A: Pays 50% medical insurance and gives 10 days of PTO. No remote work allowed.

Offer B: Offers 5k less than Offer A. Pays 100% of medical insurance and gives 20 days of PTO. Allows me to work remotely 1-2 days a week.

Work-life balance matters a lot to me, so I’d actually take Offer B. Those insurance premiums can add up, and the extra two weeks off makes a huge difference. Plus, I don’t have to deal with commuting every day of the week (yay for less stress), which will help me save on gas.

Would I still try and get Offer B to come up on salary? Sure. I’d ask if they could match Offer A. And sometimes, I get a nice surprise and they do! But sometimes they simply can’t or won’t go any higher. At that point, I try to negotiate other perks, such as more PTO or remote days (if they don’t offer them). The worst they can do is say no. Well, I guess the worst they can do is rescind the offer, but—frankly—I wouldn’t want to work for an employer who responded that way to reasonable requests. And that’s the key. Keep it reasonable. Don’t ask for 100k when the market rate for your role is 50k. Don’t ask for paid summers off, a new car, and a trip to Hawaii. Use common sense and be ready to tell them why they should pay you more.

I ask any final questions I have. Now is the time to ask anything else you’d like to know. After all, this is a big decision. When I’m debating between job offers, these final questions will often swing me one way or another.

Remember—you need to look out for you. Know your worth and stand by it. Ask the questions you need to, and take heed if an employer refuses to answer them. If you’re feeling anxious or uneasy about an offer, trust your gut. It’s easy to shove those feelings away, because you want and need an opportunity to work. I’ve totally been there. But I can’t say ignoring my instincts has ever worked for me. On the other hand, a job that fills you with excitement and anticipation is worth checking out, even if it’s not perfect. I dare you to show me a job that is!

How do you handle job offers? Share your story below!

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8 Ways to Rock Your First In-Person Interview

So, you dazzled them during the phone interview, and they’ve invited you in for the next step… An in-person interview with the hiring manager. First off, congratulations! It’s not easy to make it even this far, so pat yourself on the back for all the hard work you’ve done to get here.

It’s time to remove the cat slippers and those soft thermal pants and slip into something stiff and uncomfortable aka professional attire. Nobody said the job hunt was easy. You’ll have to assume the employer is interviewing at least a few other people—maybe it’s five or maybe it’s fifteen. It really depends on the job and the people in charge of hiring. Either way, from a purely statistical standpoint, the odds of getting the job are still against you.

I don’t get an offer for every job I interview for (far from it), but in the last two months, I’ve gotten six job offers, and I’ve made it to the final stages with several other places. This wasn’t always the case for me. Getting to this point, where I got to choose between multiple offers, has taken a lot of work and growth on my part. And let’s just say I’ve made a few mistakes along the way (which I’ll save for another post).

So, how have I helped improve my odds over the years? Here are 8 things I do to try and rock my first in-person interview.

1. I do my research and come prepared. I actually do research before I apply, so I can personalize my cover letter. It’s also a great idea to visit the company website and learn what they do before a phone interview or prescreen. By the time you’re invited for an in-person interview, though, you really should come in knowing your stuff. What does the company do? What is their mission? Where do they need help and how can you help them? You should also bring extra copies of your resume, because it’s very common to interview with multiple people. Show up prepared and ready to offer suggestions, and you’ll most likely have a leg up on other candidates.

2. I aim to show up ten minutes early. I know there’s conflicting advice out there. Show up early—but not too early. I think people stress way too much over this. Just get there before your appointment and don’t be ridiculously early. You can always wait in your car or go for a walk to kill time—no biggie. Ten minutes works for me, because it gives me enough of a cushion to get lost (which happens even with the robot lady yelling at me to turn left, turn left!) It also gives me enough time to decompress in the waiting area, but not enough time to overthink anything.

3. I keep it real. Your personality and how well your interviewers relate to you can have a huge impact on whether or not they decide to hire you. People can tell when you’re faking it, and it makes everyone in the room uncomfortable. Early in my career, I tried to be the person I thought they wanted me to be. I acted all bubbly (I’m so not a bubbly person), and I said things, like, sure, I love talking on the phone (I’d rather clean bathrooms). The end result was what you’d expect. If I landed the role, I was exhausted and miserable trying to be someone I wasn’t.

Look, sometimes you need that survival job. So, do what you’ve got to do. But don’t stop looking for something that’s a better match for you. It might take some patience and persistence, but your happiness is important. Unless you need a survival job, it’s better to let hiring managers see who you really are. I’m a laid-back person (with a goofball streak), and I tend to be a calming and grounding influence on a team. I also love making people laugh. Some hiring managers love that about me, and others want someone who is more extroverted and energetic. And you know what? I’m glad we can figure that out during the interview. It’s much better to land on a team where they need me—not someone else. Also, don’t lie about or exaggerate your qualifications. I know it’s tempting when employers post ads, demanding a superhuman set of skills. But here’s the thing. I’ve seen this come back to bite many people. If you haven’t mastered a skill that is important to the job, you’re going to be stressed out of your mind trying to fake it, and they’re going to figure it out. A better way to handle the situation is to say something like, “I don’t have a lot of experience in that area, but I want to learn more. I’d be happy to take some trainings.” Remember—taking the wrong job makes it that much harder to find the right job.

4. I try to make it a conversation instead of an interview (if possible). Some interviewers are more open to a back and forth dialog than others. Sometimes they must stick to the list of questions in front of them. I go with the flow here and take my cues from the interviewer. Are they super serious and just wanting answers? Have they joked around with me? Are the questions more casual and conversational? Regardless of the situation, I do try and ask questions when I have the opportunity. More often than not, this can turn a stiff and formal interview into more of a conversation, which is a lot more pleasant, and it (hopefully) makes you more memorable.

5. I try to give thorough but focused answers. I’m a rambler by nature, and most interviewers really don’t like it when we ramble. It makes us seem nervous or unsure of ourselves. I’ve worked on this pesky habit of mine by recording myself answering questions. Is that a completely dork thing to do? Probably. But it’s a dork thing that works for me, so I’ll take it. If you’re a rambler, an um—uhher, or you turn into a deer-in-headlights, I recommend doing this. Make a list of common interview questions, hit record on your cell, and practice your answer. Make sure your answer is easy to understand and completely focused on the topic at hand. It might take you three tries—or a hundred (nobody has to know), but at some point you’ll get there. Need an example?

A not-so-good answer:

Interviewer: Tell me about a time you dealt with a really difficult customer. How did you handle it?

Me: Well, uh… Um… Oh, wow. I don’t know. This is hard. Okay, well. Yeah… There was this one time when a lady was seriously pissed about her credit card being declined. And her hair was, like, sticking straight up. I mean, it was winter and super dry in there. They always had the heater way too high, and we were constantly getting shocked. I mean, constantly. Oh, and it made my co-worker’s asthma way worse. He had to quit. So, yeah, anyway, she was really pissed. I stayed calm and told her there wasn’t anything we could do. Oh, and I offered to call her bank and let her talk to them and then we were able to figure it out.

A better answer:

Interviewer: Tell me about a time you dealt with a really difficult customer. How did you handle it?

Me: Sure, give me a moment to think about that.

Interviewer: Of course.

Me: Okay, one time a lady became very upset when her credit card was declined. She was yelling and causing a scene. I listened and told her it’s happened to me too and I get how frustrating it can be. I offered to dial up her bank and let her talk to them—and she calmed down and took me up on it. They’d flagged the transaction as suspicious activity, so she was able to clear it up. She thanked me for being so patient with her.

If you need a moment to think about an answer, don’t be afraid to say so. It’s much better to take a moment and compose yourself. Otherwise, you risk giving them a play-by-play of your every thought.

6. I’m not afraid to share my strengths. I used to have a hard time selling myself. I was afraid I’d come across as arrogant—and it’s better to be humble, right? Not so much. Confidence sells. Which plumber would you hire? The one who says, “I’m pretty sure I can fix the leak. I mean, I’m not the best plumber on the planet or anything. But I try really hard, and I can give you a great discount.” Or the one who says, “The fittings on your pipes are faulty—they were recalled a few months back. I’ve got a lot of experience replacing these and can recommend some good options.”  There’s a way to share your strengths without coming across as cocky. The trick is to show, not tell. Don’t just say “I’m the best marketer ever.” Talk about the challenges you faced and how you conquered them.

7. When I am invited to ask questions, I ask these questions. Remember to always have questions. You are there to assess the company and the role as much as they are there to assess you.

8. I reiterate my interest in the role. If I’m still excited about the role after our conversation, I make sure and let them know. I also tell them to feel free to reach out to me if they have any further questions.

What interview techniques have worked well for you? Tell us your story below!





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Job Seekers: Don’t Underestimate the Phone Interview

It finally happened. An actual human being sent you an email about a job you applied for. They say the magic words—we want to learn more about you. Let’s schedule a call. In larger companies, this email may come from a recruiter or HR person, and the call is a prescreen for the hiring manager.  But sometimes, especially when you’re dealing with a start-up or a smaller company, the email comes from the hiring manager. Regardless of whether you’re speaking with someone in HR or the hiring manager themselves, it’s still an interview. Their first impression of you. You need to stand out from all the other candidates who’ve made it to the prescreen stage.

In my younger job seeker days, I didn’t prepare as well for phone interviews as I should have. My goal was to pay my rent, and I didn’t have a lot of experience under my belt, so I focused more on the quantity of jobs I applied to instead of taking my time to research each company and figure out if I’d be a good fit. I assumed that the HR person would fill me in on the nitty gritty details. After all, it was just a prescreen. They didn’t expect me to know everything about the company, right?

Yeah, don’t be like young me. Take the initial phone interview as seriously as you would a first in-person interview (but you can totally wear your pajamas). In fact, since they can’t see your body language and facial expressions, a phone interview is a unique beast. Sarcasm, for example, might not be perceived as such, and your enthusiasm might not come across as well.

So, how do you rock a phone interview? Here are 5 things I’ve done that helped me move on to the next stage:

1. I’m more selective about the roles I apply for. I get it. When you need a job, you need a job. And those applicant tracking systems seem like they take years from your life. You figure the more jobs you apply to, the better your odds of finding something quickly. Who has time for research? But this method can lead you to landing the wrong role and looking for another job much sooner than you’d like.

Read the job descriptions thoroughly and pay a visit to the company’s website. If they sell vacuum cleaners, and you have a vacuum cleaner phobia, you probably want to skip applying. It’s a waste of their time and yours. It’s also important to make sure you are passionate about the company’s mission or at least have an interest in the products or services they offer. Enthusiasm is a lot easier to demonstrate…when you actually have it.

2. I express why I’m interested from the start. I actually do this in my cover letter—mention why I’m specifically interested in the company I’m applying to and highlight any relevant background I have. But I make sure to reiterate this early on during the phone interview. Here’s an example:

Interviewer: Hi, Tara. Is now still a good time to chat?

Me: Definitely. I’m glad we have a chance to speak further.

Interviewer: Great! What do you know about us so far?

Me: Well, I know you save the lives of a lot of animals every year, and you’re struggling to reach a wider audience. That’s why I’m so excited about this opportunity. I’ve volunteered at shelters for years, and I’ve been a foster mom many times. Promoting animal welfare is important to me. There are so many stories to tell and get out there. I want to make sure you and the animals you rescue are heard.

When you’re passionate about the service or product an organization offers, people can hear it in your voice. You won’t have to fake excitement (which most interviewers can pick up on right away), and authenticity goes a long way.

3. I research what the company does and try and determine how I can help them. It’s never too soon to let a company know how you can help solve their problems. In fact, your cover letter is a great place to mention it. The phone interview might be shorter and less in-depth than a second or third interview—but it’s also 2017. They do expect that you’ve at least visited their website and have a basic idea of their mission and what they do. In the vast majority of my phone interviews, “what do you know about us?” is often one of the first questions they ask. Like I said, I got caught off guard by that question early in my career—and it was a cringe-worthy moment. You see, I tried to be all sly and go to their website while we were on the phone. Only I mistyped the web address and went to the wrong site (with an almost identical name). I bet you can guess how that went. Preparation, my friends. It really is a good thing.

4. I’m not shy about asking questions. Even if I’m talking to a recruiter, I prepare a list of questions. Usually a recruiter can’t answer technical questions about the role or go in-depth about what your day-to-day might look like, but they can answer more general questions, such as what the culture is like, company goals, and why the role is open. Having a few initial questions during your phone interview is a genuine way to show your enthusiasm and interest. It’s clear that you’re prepared, and you’re assessing them as much as they’re assessing you.

5. I reiterate my excitement about the role and ask about next steps before hanging up. If I’m still interested in the job after our conversation, I let them know before we say goodbye. And since it sucks to be left hanging, I also ask about possible next steps and what their timeline looks like. Usually they will say something to the effect of “We need to confer with the hiring manager, but you can expect to hear from us by the end of the week if we’re moving forward.” Fair enough. Granted, there can often be delays—so don’t get too discouraged if you don’t hear from them when you were supposed to. Delays in the hiring process are so very common.

You can’t control the outcome of any phone interview you have, no matter how much you prepare and dazzle them with your ideas. You can only control what you do. So, prepare as best you can for that first phone call and let the conversation take you from there. Sometimes I could tell a role wasn’t a good fit within the first couple minutes. And you know what? I was straight up about it. For example, if they brought up salary right away (some employers bring it up first thing), and it was a lower range than I could accept, I’d ask if they could come up to my range. Sometimes the conversation ended there. That’s cool – no hard feelings. Then there are the cases where you feel a connection immediately. It’s more of a conversation than an interview, you talk about your favorite moments from Buffy (this has happened to me a couple times), and the benefits are killer (come on, that always helps, right?)

At the end of the day, trust your gut and how you feel after hanging up. Is your stomach knotted up with anticipation and excitement or do you feel queasy? If it’s the former, I’m keeping my fingers crossed you’ll be invited to move on to the next step soon! Otherwise, keep applying and moving forward—you want to work for the employer who gets you and loves your ideas.

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The Worst Types of Interviewers on Your Job Search: #2 The Egomaniac

A couple weeks ago we met The Downer and talked about ways to help determine if the role is as bad as the hiring manager makes it sound. Now, it’s time to meet The Egomaniac.

Have you ever had an interview that went like this?

Interviewer: Tell me about yourself!

Candidate: Sure. I’ve been a social media manager for the last five years, where I–

Interviewer: That’s great. I can read. But what have you done?

Candidate: I was just getting to that. When I started at my current employer, I developed a new social media marketing plan that increased engagement by 80% and–

Interviewer: 80%? Is that supposed to “wow” me? I’ve increased engagement rates by over 1000%. Engagement is just one piece of the puzzle, anyway. What about followers?

Candidate: We started at around five hundred and now we have almost nine thousand on Facebook. On Twitter–

Interviewer: Nine thousand? We’ve got almost forty thousand here.

Candidate: Well, you’re a much bigger brand that has been around awhile. We’re a start-up–

Interviewer: That’s my point. I’ve never heard of you. Your marketing plan must not be working that well

Candidate: Actually, if you look at the increase in followers in the last year–

Interviewer: See, if I was in your shoes, I’d be asking myself why I only have nine thousand followers. When I first started here, I doubled our followers in a month.

Candidate: That’s…very impressive.

Interviewer: It wasn’t easy. I was pulling seventy hour weeks, giving up my weekends. But that’s me. I don’t stop at good enough. I break records.

Candidate: Good for you!

Interviewer: Look, I’ve got more than two hundred applicants for this job. You’re my tenth interview today. This is a one-of-a-kind opportunity. I’ve turned around every company I’ve worked at–quadrupled their business. You will not find a better mentor. But I’ve gotta wonder–do you want this bad enough?

Candidate: Are you sure there’s enough room for me? Your ego is making it hard to breathe.

Don’t you wish you could say that last line? If your interviewer is frequently interrupting or talking over you and/or cutting down your achievements, while boasting about their own, chances are you’re dealing with what I like to call The Egomaniac. The interviewer might not be as over-the-top as the above example, but the impact is the same. You are being made to feel small. If this is your would-be supervisor, take heed. You’re getting a taste of what your daily life might feel like. Unfortunately, unless you enjoy working for an egomaniac, taking this job probably isn’t the best idea. But that doesn’t mean you have to let them get to you.

Here are ways I’ve dealt with an egomaniac in an interview, when they’ve tried to make me feel small:

  1. I don’t let them rile me up. I once had an interviewer attack my website and portfolio, piece by piece. In fact, it seemed like they’d called me in just for this purpose. I listened, mentally pasting a big, red clown nose on them while they spoke (I’m a designer, after all), and reminded myself that this wasn’t about me. Plenty of employers had complimented me on my portfolio, and I had the stats to back up the success of my work. After they were done, I remained calm and thanked them for the feedback. When they called for a second interview, I told them I wasn’t interested.
  2. If I’m on the fence (is it them or am I just having an insecure day?), I ask them what their expectations are – what do they want me to achieve within the first three months? If their expectations are unrealistic, I know this probably isn’t the right opportunity for me.
  3. I vent to trusted friends and family. Let’s face it. The interview process can be brutal, and some employers can treat you very poorly throughout the process, from ghosting you after an interview to giving you false hopes. It’s normal to feel frustrated and angry. Sometimes you just need to get it all out!
  4. Onward and upward! When I have an interview with someone who makes me feel small, I vent about it and then I move on. Life is too short to let someone like that take up any more of my time. I’ll save my energy for the hiring managers who do see what I can offer and understand the power of positive feedback and encouragement.

Have you ever had an interview like this? How did you respond? Feel free to share your story below!

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The Worst Types of Interviewers on Your Job Search: #1 The Downer

I’ve had some incredible interviews, and I’ve also had some real doozies. Sometimes I think back and say, man, I wish I could’ve said… A bad interview can leave you feeling disappointed and frustrated. You might even blame yourself, wondering if you left the wrong impression. I’ve blurted things out that had me reaching for the invisible delete key. One time a hiring manager looked at me with a grin and said “You’re not a morning person, are you?” To which I’d answered, “No, not at all.” It was instinct. They’d been talking to me like we were old friends, and I’d let my guard down. They stopped grinning. At that moment, even though I’d tried to reassure them I could start at 8 instead of 9 (I’d done it for years), I could tell they’d made up their mind about me. In hindsight, the role wouldn’t have been a good fit for me. I do best with employers who are more about my results than what hours I come in, and I’m definitely more productive when I can start at 9.

But there are interviewers out there who just aren’t great at interviewing. Maybe they’re socially awkward or they’ve never interviewed anyone in their life. I can deal with that. But sometimes their behavior sends up a huge red flag, whether they are unprofessional or just a huge downer.

Have you ever had an interview that went like this?

Interviewer: Sorry for the mess. We don’t have much time to clean up around here.

Candidate: No worries. How’s your day going?

Interviewer: Well, I’ve got more projects than I can handle and my phone won’t stop ringing. My assistant just quit on me, so I have no help.

Candidate: Oh no. That sounds really stressful.

Interviewer: (sighs) It’s crazy, but that’s how it is around here. Don’t go looking for anyone to hold your hand. You’re not the type who needs your hand held, are you?

Candidate: No, I’m pretty used to teaching myself anything I don’t know. Plus, I prefer more autonomy.

Interviewer: (chuckles) Well, I didn’t say anything about autonomy. We’d like you to be a self-starter and figure things out, but any decisions need to be run by upper management. And they need a lot of convincing.

Candidate: Ah, ok. Good to know.

Interviewer: So, I was reading through your resume, and I’m wondering if this is the right fit for you. It seems like you have a big creative streak, and there isn’t a lot of room for creativity in this role.

Candidate: Can you be more specific?

Interviewer: We’re not like one of those fun, hip agencies with ping pong tables. We don’t come to work to play. It’s a tight ship around here and it’s a very high stress environment. Upper management wants things done a certain way and we have to stick to that.

Candidate: Got it. So, what would a typical day look like?

Interviewer: Chaotic. If you like to take breaks, it’s probably not the right environment for you.

Candidate: I see. Um… What are some things you really love about working here?

Interviewer: Uh… Hmm… Well… (eyes roll up toward the ceiling) Since we have too much to do, very little resources, and some very unrealistic expectations to manage, every day is a new challenge. There are some days my heart is beating out of my chest, you know?

Candidate: Huh. Let me rephrase that question a little. Why on earth should I work here?

Okay, maybe don’t say that (it’s so tempting, though, isn’t it?) I like to call this interviewer type The Downer. Instead of selling you on the role and the company, they seem to be saying—run and don’t look back! Even when pressed to say something positive about the company, they can only come up with more negatives. Is the employer really that awful to work for or is the interviewer just a “the glass is always half empty” kind of person?  Sometimes it’s hard to know! So, when I find myself in this situation, here are some ways I try to figure it out:

  1. I look up the company on Glassdoor and other employer review sites before I go on the interview. Are there several negative reviews that mirror what this hiring manager is saying?
  2. If there are other people in the interview, I ask them what they love about working there and what they wish they could improve. If their answers are similar, that tells me what I need to know.
  3. I ask for a tour and the chance to meet any potential coworkers. Body language and the general vibe of the office can tell me a lot.
  4. I reach out to my network to see if anyone knows anyone who has worked for the company. Then I write that person and ask for the scoop.

If The Downer is your would-be supervisor, you also have to ask yourself—can I work with someone who seems this unhappy, regardless of the reason? Never underestimate the importance of your relationship with your manager.

Have you ever had an interview like this? How did you respond? Feel free to share your story below!

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