Dear Sarah – Should I Stay or Should I Go?

Hi Sarah,

I asked my boss for a raise but he said I didn’t deserve it so I sent him my resignation letter. Now he is asking me to stay with a higher salary.

Should I accept his offer or start my job search?

Best,

Lost and Confused

Hi LaC,

70-80% of people who accept counteroffers either leave or are let go within a year.

Why? Counteroffers are retention tools. It takes a great deal of time, energy and money to rehire, something that employers typically prefer to avoid all together. While accepting a counteroffer may seem workable in the short-term, you have already established yourself as untrustworthy. It’s difficult to overcome being viewed in this light and may affect the types of projects you’re given or future pay hikes.

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Start looking for a new job. In the future, should you need a raise, here is my advice: appeal to your employer’s priorities without being threatening (i.e.: presenting them with ultimatums or resignations).

There’s a lot to be said for the spirit of cooperation-

“I’ve been receiving a bunch of competing offers as of late. I’m not interested and I’m definitely not thinking about leaving, as I love my team and appreciate the direction this company is going. I understand the company can’t match these offers, but I was wondering if we can close the gap a bit. If not, of course I understand.”

The above example speaks to an understanding and awareness that any employer would appreciate. You’re not requesting a match, but a bump. Asking for a raise isn’t an art form; it can be as easy and straightforward as understanding your manager’s priorities and goals.

Pro-tip: If/When you’re actively interviewing for a new position and you’re inevitably asked “So why are you choosing to leave your current job”, it’s important to remember you are interviewing the company, as well. Let the company sell themselves a bit: “I’m very happy with my current job. I learned from [recruiter name/referral] of the interesting work you’re doing and I’m always open to new opportunities.”

Good luck!

(P.S. Connect with one of our talented mentors [former hiring managers] for interview practice and more advice regarding how to navigate the counteroffer!)

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3 Tips to ‘Storify’ Your Resume

Beyond tips and tricks, ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts’, the ultimate purpose of a resume is to tell a story. Your story. Hiring managers rely on resumes to make the case that the candidate being represented is the best person for the job. So, how do you tell a compelling story using a standard resume?

Looks Matter

Resume real estate is extremely valuable, in that you only have 1 page to make an impression. There’s much debate around acceptable resume length, but at the end of the day less in more when time is against you. Achieving the right balance with an effective usage of white space is the cornerstone of any resume, as are bullet points and a consistent use of italics, boldface type and capitalization.

Hiring managers will not spend time looking for the key facts that make you the perfect candidate, so your formatting must do that for them.

Pro-tip: Your font size should never be less than 10pt or more than 12pt. We recommend the following fonts- Tahoma, Arial, Century Gothic, Bookman, Garamond, Verdana, Cambria, and Times New Roman.

Include Unique Sections

All resumes should have the following 4 sections, regardless:

  • Contact Info
  • Experience Section
  • Education Section
  • Key Skills Section

but, beyond the standard there are many ways to further your story with unique sections. For instance, hobbies, volunteer work, training/certifications, honors, associations, languages, and projects are all great selling points for being a good cultural fit and generally a well-rounded professional.

Pro-tip: 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.

Consider Relevancy

No one likes a long and boring story; too much information is difficult to navigate. Forcing every job you’ve had onto one page isn’t necessary nor advisable. Instead of describing your day-to-day job responsibilities focus on what you did. Obviously, the hiring manager knows what the job itself entails so by focusing on your personal accomplishments you’re crafting a narrative that grabs the reader’s attention.

Consider why you’re listing various items and how that will ultimately improve your candidacy. 

Pro-tip: Past work experience should be written in the past tense.

Conclusion

The climax of your “story” is your goal: to get the job. ‘Storifying’ your resume helps create an image beyond bullet points and highlights your professional accomplishments in a unique, memorable way.

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).

 

Dear Sarah – Was my resume trashed?

Hi Sarah,

What do hiring managers absolutely hate seeing on resumes/CVs? What would get you automatically disqualified?

Best,

DQ

Hi DQ,

There are many things that might disqualify you as a candidate. Recruiters and hiring managers default to saying ‘no’ due to their own time constraints; identifying ‘red flags’ becomes second nature when there’s an overwhelming candidate pool. I’ll touch on a few:

First, avoid dumb mistakes. Spelling, grammar, and punctuation challenged resumes are the worst offender. Why? It’s avoidable with basic proofreading (and do so more than once). Don’t expect your spellcheck to catch everything, like, ‘higher’ instead of ‘hire. (Yep, we’ve seen it.)

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Earlier this year, we were actively hiring to fill a position on the TalentWorks team. Of the 426 applicants for our last job, 25% (108 applicants) was basically spam, e.g. outsourcers, recruiters. Almost 10% (40 applicants) made dumb mistakes, e.g. misspellings, forgot to include their email!

Second, a resume without a clear indication of professional progression is another potential ‘red flag’. Hiring managers look for promotions within the same company,  title changes and a logical career flow. If your resume indicates a career plateau (or a career gone backwards, so-to-speak) make sure you add color to your cover letter. (Don’t forget the cover letter!)

Thirdly, if you’re a mid-level employee applying for a ‘lower position’ make sure your resume doesn’t indicate over-qualification, another potential ‘red flag’. Only indicate relevant work history and degrees. Focus on the exact skills and responsibilities highlighted in the job description, which will help distract from titles. 

Lastly, another (very) avoidable mistake that will immediately disqualify you from candidacy is a failure to follow directions. If the job posting asks you to include/attach certain documents, list a salary requirement or fill out their online resume form (I know, I know, it’s tedious)…just do it because there are plenty of people who won’t hesitate.

Good luck!

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How do I build a resume if I don’t have a ton of professional experience?

Dear Sarah,

I’m a recent college grad applying to jobs. The thing is, I don’t have a lot of ‘pertinent’ experience for these positions and have only worked retail while in school. What is the best way to flesh out my resume?

Best,

Coming up short

Hi Short,

First off, good on you for holding down a job while at school. Regardless of the position, be it retail related or an internship, balancing both speaks volumes about your work ethic…which leads me to my point.

Many hiring managers expect that a recent college graduate has a limited work history for obvious reasons; it’s how you sell yourself that matters. Even people with minimal or no professional experience possess relevant skills (i.e.: strong work ethic, creativity, etc). Using your example, a retail job requires sales leadership, communication and people management; these are all pertinent responsibilities that could span any job. (PS- We’ve worked with jobseekers that have taken their retail experience, pursued positions in tech recruiting, and are now working at Salesforce ;))

Include a “Key Skills” section in your resume highlighting your abilities.

Doing so will increase your chances for an interview by almost 60%. Use exact wording from the job post when applicable, as well. Even smaller companies use resume parsers (or ‘ATS’) and this will help get you to the next step of the process.

Identify actual ‘entry-level’ positions.

We recently did a little experience and analyzed 95,363 Marketing Assistant jobs, 52% (49,245) were supposedly entry-level (based on what the employer said). Of those, our hypothetical job-searcher — a Marketing Assistant in LA, say — was only interested in 3% (1,286). Of those 1,286 supposedly entry-level Marketing Assistant and other jobs, we found 240 for actual entry-level Marketing Assistants.

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It’s unfortunate that many supposedly entry level positions require experience and it certainly takes time to seek them out. With a bit of patience, you can identify the ~5% of jobs that actually match your needs. (We can help, as well!)

One last point: Our data suggests that recent college grads with <1 year of work experience who had an explicit ‘objective’ listed got 7% more interviews. It may seem statistically insignificant, but these little resume alterations add up!

Good luck!

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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%!

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

Creativity

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

Loyalty

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

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

Communication

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

Conclusion

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

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

How 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.

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The best time to apply for a job is between 6am and 10am. During this time, you have an 13% chance of getting an interview — nearly 5x as if you applied to the same job after work. Whatever you do, don’t apply after 4pm.

7.) Don’t Use Personal Pronouns

Any usage of personal pronouns (I, me, my, myself) automatically hurts your hireability by 54.7%. Yes, doing so is a bit arbitrary as you’re obviously referring to yourself, but it is a recruitment standard.

Instead, use action words and you will increase your chances of an interview by 140%. Here is an example:

Say this:

Developed a world-positive, high-impact student loan product that didn’t screw over people after 100+ customer interviews.

Not this:

After 100+ customer interviews, the world-positive, high-impact student loan product was developed by me.

 8.) Don’t Forget Buzzwords

Surprise! We’ve found that using industry jargon throughout your resume actually increases your hireability by 29.3%!

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We recommend name dropping a buzzword every 3-6 sentences. Companies often use parsing tools to help widdle down large applicant pools and doing so will help you to get past the robots. (Avoid going overboard though, because using too much jargon can be a turn off to actual, non-robot hiring managers.)

9.) Don’t Send off Your Resume Without A Cover Letter

Although there are companies that will never explicitly ask for cover letters (or read them for that matter), you should always include one. A cover letter is an opportunity to go beyond the resume and provide information you maybe didn’t have room for in your resume such as clarifying examples. There isn’t a hiring manager out there that doesn’t appreciate the effort even if they never open the file.

10.) Don’t Include Objectives

In May, we did an analysis of the hotly debated issue of resume objectives and found that job applicants whose resume contained an objective were 29.6% less hireable.

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Unless you’re a recent college graduate or dramatically changing job industries, objectives hurt your chances of landing an interview. Why? They provide zero information regarding how your skills relate to the position at hand. At best, you can hope hiring managers will ignore it. At worst, it’ll give hiring managers an excuse to disqualify you.

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

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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