How to overcome a hiring manager’s bias

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

Bias #1: Ageism

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

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

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Bias #2: Resume ‘Blemishes’

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

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

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

Bias #3: Your Name

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

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

Conclusion

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

For $10/month we can automatically find the best jobs and pre-fill job applications for you based on your desired role, location and years of experience. In addition, you’ll get our Interview Guarantee — if we can’t get you an interview within 60 days, we’ll refund everything back to you, guaranteed. (90% of job-seekers using TalentWorks get an interview in 60 days or less).

 

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

Dear Sarah,

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

Best,

Fibber Mcgee

Hi FM,

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

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

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

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

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

All the best!

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

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

demonstrating-leadership-resume-tip-1 (1)

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

Creativity

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

Loyalty

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

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

Communication

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

Conclusion

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

For $10/month we can automatically find the best jobs and pre-fill job applications for you based on your desired role, location and years of experience. In addition, you’ll get our Interview Guarantee — if we can’t get you an interview within 60 days, we’ll refund everything back to you, guaranteed. (90% of job-seekers using TalentWorks get an interview in 60 days or less).

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

Dear Sarah,

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

Best,

Big Softy

Hey there Softy,

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

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

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

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

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

All the best!

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10 Ways You’re Killing Your Chances for an Interview

At TalentWorks, we’ve heard it all.

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

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

1.) Don’t be a “Team Player”

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

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

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

2.) Don’t be Vague

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

3.) Don’t Forget to Demonstrate Leadership

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

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

  • communicated
  • coordinated
  • leadership
  • managed
  • organization

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

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

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

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

5.) Don’t Make Grammatical Errors

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

6.) Don’t Apply After 4pm

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

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).

Should I list my hobbies on a resume?

Dear Sarah,

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

Thanks,

Renaissance Man

Hey RM,

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

Context is King

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

Less is More

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

Use Action words

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

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

Hope that helped!

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Unemployment is at a record low. Where’s my job?

Dear Sarah,

Apparently, unemployment is at 3.9%…but, I’m still looking for a job. How do I reconcile this and, you know, find one?

Thanks,

Feeling Alone Right Now

Hey FARN,

Jobless rates are at a five-decade low having just recently dipped from 4% (2/10 of a percentage point lower than it’s record low in The 60s). Significant!

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US Bureau of Labor Statistics

Understandably, this is frustrating to read if you’re an active job seeker. Job hunting sucks and there are a variety of factors that are stacked against you of which you have no control.

‘What are you not doing’, you ask?

Here are a few data-backed tips that may help:

The Job Search… just go for it!

If you meet more than 60% of the job qualifications, you should apply! Many people, in particular women, will avoid applying if they’re not 100% qualified. Apply to as many jobs as you can to make up for the fact that any single job you apply for online is nearly zero.

Your Resume

Not only should you have a simple machine-parsable resume format but you should include as many keywords as possible in your resume AND cover letter from the original job posting.

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Also, describe your job achievements with different action verbs. This one resume tip is is associated with +139.6% boost in getting more interviews. Literally, all you have to do is change the first word in your resume skill set to an action word and it increases your chances of an interview over competition by +140%! Also, if you describe the different things that you did at that company with different action verbs, you’ll have finished strong.

In Person

If you’ve made it to the interview stage of your job search journey you have a solid chance of getting the job. Be your charming self and relax knowing that you’ve made it this far.

Oh, and be sure to get the earliest appointment you can in the day when interviewing. Interviewers get hangry.

All the best!

 

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The Science of the Job Search, Part VI: Job Applicants With Resume Objectives Were ~30% Less Hireable

Today, we’re looking at the age-old question: Do you need an objective for your resume? Lots of folks say yes, lots of folks say no. We sampled 6,231 recent job applications, resumes and applicants across 681 cities and 115 roles and figured out the real-world answer for you.

tl;dr: Don’t put an objective on your resume (minus a few exceptions, see below). Not only are they unnecessary, but job applicants whose resume contained an objective were 29.6% less hireable than those who didn’t specify an explicit objective.

Objectives Hurt Everyone (Except Recent Grads)

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After 1+ year of experience, job applicants whose listed an objective were 20% to 67% less hireable (varying based on experience) than those who didn’t.

Controlling for experience, job applicants whose resume included an objective got 20.1% to 67.1% fewer job interviews compared to those who didn’t.

The only exception to this rule was for recent college graduates: for job applicants with <1 year of work experience, listing an explicit objective got ~7% more interviews. This isn’t a statistically significant gain, but it’s a significant contrast to everyone else.

Resume Tip: If you have less than ~8 months of experience, you might want to consider adding an objective. [+7% HIREABILITY BOOST]

Resume Tip: If you have 1+ years of experience, you should delete your objective. (See one more exception below.) Although it varies based on your specific experience, you’ll likely see a big hireability boost. [+20-67% HIREABILITY BOOST]

What’s Going On?

With the usual caveat that no one has any idea (anyone who claims otherwise is lying), I can give you my best theory as an experienced hiring manager. Here’s the short version: Most objectives are crap.

For example (anonymized to protect the innocent):

Focused and hard-working individual looking to develop new skills to serve the greater good.

Ambitious student working towards a B.S. in Epidemiology (pending graduation May, 2019).

To acquire, and maintain employment. To utilize the training and skills I’ve received in the past 5 years.

Like, really? As a hiring manager, I don’t really care if you want to “maintain employment.” (And honestly, this is a bit like saying your hamburger is 100% beef. If that’s the best compliment you can give yourself, you might have a bigger problem.)

What I do care is that you can do the job. Your objective gives me zero information about that and it’s something I have to wade past to get to the real stuff. But, if while wading past, I see something… well, it can definitely rule you out. For instance: spelling and grammar mistakes (rare), mismatch of interests (possible), a seed of doubt (common).

Here’s my theory: Most objectives convey zero information to hiring managers. At best, you can hope hiring managers will ignore it. At worst, it’ll give hiring managers an excuse to disqualify you.

This theory also explains why recent grads with objectives get slightly more interviews. Entry-level jobs get a deluge of applicants with no work history, and there’s basically no way to tell apart good applicants. If you can write a good objective (see below), you can squeeze out an edge over your competition.

Does Your Industry or Role Matter?

Controlling for role and industry, having an explicit objective still hurts (or doesn’t help) the overwhelming majority of job applicants.

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Listing an explicit objective doesn’t help for 106 out of 116 job roles — 91% of all roles out there.

It’s hard to make definitive claims about every specific role or industry (underwater welding, anyone?), but the overall trend is clear:

  • Only 2 out of 116 industries had statistically significant [*] higher hireability for applicants with an explicit objective. (Marketing Managers were statistically insignificant with a p-value of 0.902.)
  • There was a clear pattern for where it helped: they (a) were over-saturated, entry-level jobs where it was hard to distinguish good applicants, or (b) were in mission-driven fields where applicants’ motivations were especially important.

[* This of course doesn’t mean it only helps for 2 industries in reality, it just means that it either actually doesn’t help or the difference wasn’t big enough to be statistically detectable.]

Based on our holistic knowledge (we’ve helped hundreds of thousands of people with their job search) and this analysis, here’s the full list of roles and industries where we believe an explicit objective might be helpful (even if there wasn’t a statistically significant difference):

RoleHireability Gain (%)P-valueWhy?
Budget Analysts121%0.187Hard to distinguish good applicants.
Credit Analysts144%0.456Hard to distinguish good applicants.
Financial Analysts105%0.410Hard to distinguish good applicants.
Counselors~500%-Mission-driven field.
Social Workers~500%-Mission-driven field.
Elementary Teachers~250%-Mission-driven field.
High School Teachers~250%-Mission-driven field.
Writers154%0.060Hard to distinguish good applicants.
Retail Salespeople50%-Hard to distinguish good applicants.
Customer Service Representatives62%-Hard to distinguish good applicants.

Which Kinds of Objectives Work In The Real World?

We took a look at the underlying resumes where objectives were correlated with increased hireability. Here are 3 objectives (details modified again to protect the innocent) from applicants who were 1+ standard deviation more hireable than their industry means:

Seeking a customer service position where I can utilize my multi-tasking abilities and attention to detail to assist in a fast-paced environment. Skills: real-world clerical experience, organizational skills, interpersonal skills.

Summa cum laude graduate with BS in communications studies, graduated May 2015. Proficient in Spanish.

Experienced with Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux OSes; popular social media (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram); OpenTable, AldeloPRO, and NoWait restaurant management software

And here again are the 3 mediocre, low-hireability ones from above (these were all 1+ standard deviation below their industry hireability means):

Focused and hard-working individual looking to develop new skills to serve the greater good.

Ambitious student working towards a B.S. in Epidemiology (pending graduation May, 2019).

To acquire, and maintain employment. To utilize the training and skills I’ve received in the past 5 years.

What do you see? Here’s what I see in the low-hireability objectives:

  • They were generic and basically conveyed zero information to a hiring manager.
  • They spoke to the applicants’ wants & desires (not the hiring managers’ wants & desires).
  • Worse, they sometimes contained spelling or grammar mistakes. (Strictly speaking, the above weren’t grammatically incorrect, but two had awkward punctuation.)

On the other hand, the increased-hireability objectives all name-drop specific qualifications. In fact, they’re almost not even real objectives! They’re objective sections acting as a trojan horse to casually name-drop qualifications in the first few words of the resume. That’s brilliant!

In other words, good objectives weren’t actually objectives at all: rather than summarizing their own personal objectives, well-crafted objective statements gave their audience (hiring managers) what they wanted instead.

Resume Tip: If you have to include an objective, don’t talk about your own wants and desires. Instead, use it to casually name-drop a few of your skills that might appeal to hiring managers (in over-saturated fields) or summarize your motivation (in mission-driven fields).

What Can You Do?

We understand sorting through all the conflicting job search advice (and, hell, even the sheer amount of advice) can be overwhelming. That’s why we try to boil everything down to specific, actionable tips for your resume and back up everything we can with real-world data and concrete examples [*].

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On average, job applicants whose resume included an explicit objective or professional summary were ~30% less hireable than those who didn’t.

Resume Tip: Barring a few exceptions (less than 8 months of work experience, the list of industries above), you should delete your objective ASAP. [+30% HIREABILITY BOOST]

[* If they’re mining your data to sell you crap you don’t need, why not mine their data to help you get a job instead? That’s what we think at least.]

Even so, in just this post itself, we suggested 4 new resume tips. In total, across our six The Science of the Job Search posts this year, we’ve suggested a total 39+ real-world resume & job search tips. (I stopped counting after awhile.) They’re all highly actionable, data-driven tips but honestly, it’s just hard to keep track of it all after awhile.

If you’re looking for a job, you might be interested in signing up for TalentWorks. Among other things:

  • Our AI-driven ApplicationAssistant automatically pre-fills personalized cover letters for you from a template so you don’t have to worry about writing nice things for each of the 100+ job applications you’ll have to submit.
  • Our ResumeOptimizer will instantly scan your resume for all of 39+ tips we’ve written about to date, including optimizing your objective section.

For most things job search, we can just take care of it for you. And if not, one our wonderful TalentAdvocates can help you.


Methodology

First, we took a random sample of 6,231 recent job applications, applicants and outcomes across 681 cities and 116 roles and industries from recent activity on TalentWorks.

For each resume and job, we respectively calculated the MAP global parse tree using a custom, dynamic-vocabulary PCFG (our ResumeParser) and extracted the objective subtree if present and extracted the MAP job role along with 10 other bits of metadata from our index of ~91 million job postings. Finally, we independently regressed hireability for each sub-population with a blended constant-Matern kernel using a Gaussian process.

We did all of the analysis with in-house algorithms and sklearn/scipy in python. All plots were generated with Bokeh in 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 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.

 

How should I explain my layoff in my job interview?

Dear Sarah,

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

Thanks,

Laid Off and Out

Hey LOO,

First of all, congrats on the job interview!

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

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

Be Transparent  

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

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

Explain your value add

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

Make available past work

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

Gather your references

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

All the best!

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Should I have more than one resume?

Dear Sarah,

I’m currently in the job market and have been applying to dozens of different positions a day. It just occurred to me that I might be shooting myself in the foot with just the one resume as I’m not getting any responses. Could this be why I’m still unemployed?

Thanks,

Debating Multiples

Hey DM,

Not knowing your situation fully I can’t attribute this as being The Reason why you’re still looking, but I would say your intuition is correct and here’s why:

Hiring managers are adept at spotting generic resumes. Trust me. It’s actually a big reason why you may be dismissed as a candidate. From the title of your attachment (i.e.: ‘JohnDoe_Marketing’) to the cadence of your cover letter, it’s much more effective and worth your time to tailor each resume to the desired job/position.

I know, I know. It’s easier to cast a wide net with the one resume, and sometimes that works. But, if your response rate is low or your not getting the ‘right’ responses for what you desire job-wise, please consider either adding more personalization or in some cases crafting multiple resumes.

If the jobs you’re applying to have distinctly different needs, it makes sense to have completely separate resumes. For example, if you’re a financial analyst for a non-profit but are looking to cross industries into marketing it would make sense to have two separate resumes where, for instance, you can focus on how your data driven background and brand knowledge precipitated your interest in business. Removing very specific, unadaptive skills and focusing on transferable skills is key.

Unless you’re making a drastic career change, having multiple resumes isn’t really necessary. It’s for this reason that I’d start with tailoring what you have to better suit the job.

Some quick personalization tips, I’d recommend:

  • Use keywords: You’re most likely competing with hundreds of other candidates. Hiring managers (especially in larger companies) are using quick scans and applicant tracking systems to quickly narrow down an applicant pool. Using words from the job description everywhere in your resume helps to ensure you’re still a contender.
  • Focus on the employer’s needs: Really look at the job description. If the role indicates “cross-functional collaboration” and you have the experience working in such an environment be sure to weave that into your resume. Use real examples, as well.
  •  Use numbers with your keywords: Adding numbers to your transferable achievements is extremely eye-catching. Were you responsible for “managing customer service”? Instead of using something ambiguous and vague, use it as an opportunity to tout your accomplishments: “Increased survey response rate by 15% with excellent customer service”. 

All the best!

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