The Definitive Guide to the Science of the Job Search — 2018 In Review

Back in January, we announced our Science of the Job Search series — a real-world, data-driven look at what made some people hireable (and others not). What a year it’s been! It:

  • Instantly went viral, skyrocketing to the frontpage of Reddit in its first 6 hours;
  • Was featured on NBC, Forbes, Daily Caller, Fast Company, TechCrunch, US News and several other top news agencies.
  • Reached 1M+ readers from 18,396 cities (hi Fargo!) across 209 countries. (Alas, no one from Guinea-Bissau.)

We’ve published several dozen tips across 11 blog posts. There’s some really good stuff buried in there but, well, it’s buried. So, to cap off 2018, we’re republishing a skimmable, definitive summary of the 35 top discoveries from the 2018 Science of the Job Search:

12 Resume Tips — AKA: People Do Judge a Book By Its Cover

#1-3: Delete Your Objective [+30% BOOST]

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.

Exception: If you have less than ~8 months of experience, you might want to consider adding an objective. Given that your application probably looks really similar to other folks’ applications, this’ll help you stand out.

Exception: If you’re in a mission-driven field, you should add an objective. Your qualifications matter, but passion and trust matter even more.

Full Details: Job Applicants with Resume Objectives Were ~30% Less Hireable.

#4: Name-Drop Concrete Skills In Your Objective (If You Include One)

Most objectives suck. Why? Here are a few recent ones we’ve seen:

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

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

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

If you absolutely have to include an objective, focus on your concrete skills help differentiate you from others. Here are a few examples for applicants who were 30-50% more hireable than their competition:

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.

Exception: Don’t add an objective unless you really need to.

Full Details: Job Applicants with Resume Objectives Were ~30% Less Hireable.

#5: Demonstrate Results With Numbers [+40% BOOST]

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.

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.

Full Details: 13 Data-Backed Ways To Win

#6: Don’t Be a “Team Player” [+51% BOOST]

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). Lots of collaborative, team-oriented words have passive, subordinate, weasel-word undertones.

#7: Use Leadership Words To Convey Strength [+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:

communicated
coordinated
leadership
managed
organization

Even if you’re just an intern somewhere, you can still demonstrate leadership traits by proactively communicating with co-workers. Your future bosses want to know that!

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

#8: Don’t Use Personal Pronouns [+55% BOOST]

People who used even one personal pronoun (“you”, “he”, “she”, “me”, etc.) in their employment section had a 54.7% lower chance of getting an interview callback from a hiring manager.

Looking at the underlying resumes, the problem isn’t actually the pronouns themselves — instead, it’s that people who used such pronouns disproportionately had a weak, long-winded writing style. But, why risk it? Don’t use personal pronouns.

And while you’re at it, write succinct, strong sentences. The Elements of Style never goes out of style.

#9: Include 15-20 Industry and Posting Buzzwords  [+59% BOOST]

You should add 15-20 skills, buzzwords & acronyms to your resume. This is associated with a +58.8% boost in hireability on average.

It’s actually quite hard to do this without sounding awkward. In practice, we suggest including a Key Skills section where you can include common buzzwords from the job posting.

#10: Force An Objective Playing Field [+70% BOOST]

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 to improve customer reply times.

The first guy, right? It’s just better. But beyond it just sounding far more impressive, there’s actually another effect going on here.

We’ll get back to this in the discrimination section below, but unless your rich uncle owns the company or you’ve somehow got the wink-wink-nudge-nudge connection, it forces a hiring manager to hire you (and reject) others on your (objective) merits. Even if some other applicant does have the rich uncle hook-up, it makes it that much harder for the hiring manager to reject you.

Full Details: Racism, Outgroup Bias and KFC

#11: Start Achievements With (Distinct) Action Verbs [+140% BOOST]

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.

Full Details: 13 Data-Backed Ways To Win

And, finally, last but not least:

#12: Squeeze 475-600 Words Into Your 1-Page Resume [+75% BOOST]

There’s a clear sweet spot for resume length: between 475 and 600 words. Unsurprisingly, this corresponds to a densely-packed single page resume. 

Exception: If you’re in teaching, research or social service fields, this explicitly does not apply. We don’t have enough data in these cases to make a quantitative recommendation, but see lots of cases anecdotally where resume extend to 2-3 pages.

Full Details: Your Chances of an Interview Plummet If Your Resume Is Too Long

9 Job Search Tips — AKA: Life Definitely Isn’t Fair*

[* Your actual qualifications matter less than you think. There are dozens of variables that affect your hireability, including the day of the week you apply for a job.]

#13-14: Apply on Mondays (Don’t Apply on Fridays) [+46% BOOST]

Timing has a surprising effect on how likely you are to get an interview callback — this the first of three related tips.

In short, apply on Mondays — you have a 46% higher chance of getting an interview callback. If you apply on Sunday or during the middle of the week, you have a reasonable chance. But, whatever you do, don’t apply on Fridays or Saturdays.

Why? Imagine how you feel on Friday afternoons — you’re probably just trying to plow through your open tasks so you can get home and relax. Unless someone’s especially promising, that Friday afternoon job application is just another email standing between you and your weekend.

#15: Apply in the First 4 Days [+65% BOOST]

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.)

Full Details: Getting Ghosted on Your Job Applications? Here’s Fix #1: Apply Within 96 Hours

#16: Apply Before 10am [+89% BOOST]

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.)

Full Details: You’re 5x More Likely to Get a Job Interview If You Apply by 10am

#17: Meeting ~50% of Job “Requirements” Is Good Enough [+192% BOOST]

Project Manager needed. Must have 5+ years of experience, be Six Sigma certified, have advanced deep learning knowledge, and be able to perform surgery on occasion.

Who really has all that? Turns out, basically no one. You’re as likely to get a job interview meeting 50% of job requirements as meeting 90% of them.

Put simply:

  • if you meet <30% of a job’s requirements, you’re in trouble — you have a <5% chance of getting an interview callback.
  • if you meet 40-50% of the requirements, you’re +85% more hireable.
  • if you meet 50-60%, you’re +192% more hireable.
  • after 60%, it doesn’t really matter.

Even if you met 90% of a job’s requirements on paper, you’re still basically as hireable as if you met 60% of those requirements.

You should absolutely apply for a job if you meet 50%+ of a job’s requirements.

Exception: If you’re a woman, see below.

Full Details: You Only Need 50% of Job “Requirements”

#18: Apply for Jobs Within ±2 Years of Your Experience

Jr. Marketing Assistant. Perfect for new grads! Requirements: 3 years of digital marketing experience. Compensation: $12/hour.

The job search can feel like one big Catch-22: “How the hell am I supposed to get experience if I can’t get a job to get experience?” In fact, after analyzing a random sample of 95,363 jobs, we discovered that 61% of all full-time “entry-level” jobs require 3+ years of experience.

You don’t have to play by their rules. Based on our analysis, you can successfully apply to jobs if you’ve got ±2 years of the required experience.

Full Details: 61% of “Entry-Level” Jobs Require 3+ Years of Experience

#19-20: Apply For Mid-Level Jobs After 5+ Years of Experience

Employers are a superstitious bunch. How many jobs have you seen asking for 13 years of work experience? They’ll ask for 7, 10 and 15 years (but rarely 11-14). You can see job postings clump up by employers’ “lucky numbers” in the graph above.

But, here’s the rub— this isn’t just a cute gimmick. It lets us pinpoint how much experience you’ll (officially) need to qualify for different levels of jobs:

Level# Years of Experience% Jobs Qualified
Entry-Level~3 years75%
Mid-Level~5 years77%
Senior-Level~8 years72%

#21: Apply to 150-250 Jobs

Getting a job is hard. Even if you’re fully qualified, it can take 90+ days to get a job today in America.

 

Depending on your experience and industry, you’ll probably get an interview 5-15% of the time. Depending on how good you are in those interviews, you’ll probably get a job offer ~10% for any given interview.

If you work out the math, your chances of getting a job offer for any single application work out to, well, basically zero — 1%±0.5%.

And when you work out that math, depending on your experience, industry and interviewing ability, you basically need to apply to 150-250 jobs to be confident of getting a job offer.

Full Details: Why Is It So Hard To Get a Job?

3 (Harder) Employment Tips — AKA: When Good Things Go Bad…

#22: (Don’t) Go Back to School [+22% BOOST]

A lot of people think that they have to go back to school to build experience or credibility. Although it does help, it’s usually not worth it.

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

Full Details: 13 Data-Backed Ways To Win

#23: Keep Working, Somewhere If You’re Trying To Leave [+149% BOOST]

Is your New Year’s resolution to get a new job? Whether you’ve been laid off, can’t stand your current job or just think you need a new challenge, don’t quit just yet. Or, find a (creative) way to show that you’re currently employed on your resume. Trying to get a job from a cold start is hard.

People who showed they were currently employed (even if creatively) saw a +149% hireability boost compared to their previously-fired or laid-off competition.

Full Details: Getting Fired (or Laid Off) Costs You ~5 Years of Experience

#24: Tough It Out for 9+ Months If You Can [+85% BOOST]

American hiring managers are suspicious of job applicants who left a job in less than 15-16 months.

More specifically, there was a big difference between leaving after 6 vs. 9 vs. 18 months. People whose shortest job was 9+ months were 85% more hireable than people whose shortest job was 8 months or less.

Objectively speaking, your hireability is still severely affected if you leave after 12 months. Staying 18 months fully protects you from future employer suspicion.

Full Details: Getting Fired (or Laid Off) Costs You ~5 Years of Experience

Special Issues — AKA: Discrimination Isn’t Just For Minorities

2 Tips for Entry-Level Job-Seekers

#25: Identify (Actually) Entry-Level Jobs

Let’s be honest: looking for jobs is a *!@$* pain in the ass. Of a random sample of 95,363 jobs we analyzed, 52% (49,245) were supposedly entry-level (based on what the employer said). Of those, my job-searcher — a Marketing Assistant in LA — was only interested in 3% (1,286). Of those 1,286 supposedly entry-level Marketing Assistant and other jobs, I found 240 for actual entry-level Marketing Assistants.

It’s painful work, but someone’s gotta do it. If you’ve got the patience and the time (and stubbornness), rock on! If you don’t, you can pay us $10 to do it (and other stuff) for you.

Full Details: 61% of “Entry-Level” Jobs Require 3+ Years of Experience

#26: Use Freelance Jobs To Build Your Experience

One way to break past the job search Catch-22 is to play a different game. Instead of fighting with everyone else to get that first job, you can instead build up your work experience by doing freelance jobs on the side.

Not only will you get paid, you’ll also have far higher chances getting your 2nd job (everyone else’s 1st job). In the future, especially when experience inflation means you need 4+ years of experience to get your firstjob, this might be the only way to break into your job.

Full Details: 61% of “Entry-Level” Jobs Require 3+ Years of Experience

2 Tips for Older Job-Seekers [+268% BOOST]

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.

#27: Remove Your Graduation Date If You’re 35+

Here’s the thing: Hiring managers (subconsciously) guess your age based on your graduation date, how much work experience you have, etc. If you don’t list your graduation date, they can’t tell how old you are.

This obviously won’t get you past subtler age discrimination in an interview (give us a call for that), but it will at least get you past the first few filters.

Full Details: 61% of “Entry-Level” Jobs Require 3+ Years of Experience

#28: Don’t List More Than 3-4 Jobs

Removing your graduation date doesn’t help if you show your first job starting as May 1985. Show the most recent 3-4 jobs and summarize the remainder in a Key Skills and/or Employment Summary section.

Full Details: 61% of “Entry-Level” Jobs Require 3+ Years of Experience

3 Tips for Minorities [+287% BOOST]

I really hate being politically correct. Why? It makes it harder to talk about and fix real problems — sometimes, the very root causes of why we’re having to be politically correct in the first place.

So, let’s get right down to it. Minorities face stereotypes. Whether those stereotypes are justified or not, they’re very real and have very real effects, especially in the job search. What we’ve found is that while they’re bad for everyone, certain resume mistakes are catastrophic for minorities if they reinforce those stereotypes.

What are those stereotypes? Grossly over-simplifying: African-Americans are lazy welfare queens, Hispanic-Americans are mooching off healthcare and Asian-Americans can’t (or won’t) learn English.

#29: African- & Hispanic-Americans: Fill In Resume Gaps

Although they’re bad for everyone, resume gaps appear to be especially catastrophic for African-Americans and Hispanic-Americans. Make sure you remove or fully explain any resume gaps.

Full Details: Racism, Outgroup Bias and KFC

#30: Asian- & Hispanic-Americans: Triple-Check Your Grammar and Spelling

Again, although they’re bad for everyone, spelling and grammar mistakes are catastrophic for Asian-Americans (and to a lesser extent, Hispanic-Americans).

(This and the above are less hireability boosts and more avoiding catastrophic hireability penalties.)

Full Details: Racism, Outgroup Bias and KFC

#31: Force an Objective Playing Field [+199% BOOST]

Unlike the above, which are about avoiding mistakes, there’s something proactive you can do to level the playing field.

Although everyone benefited when they forced an objective playing field (tip #9 above), it had a massively greater effect for minorities and almost equalized the effects of the uneven playing field. Roughly speaking, forcing an objective playing field closed the racial discrimination gap in hiring by 54% (a 1.6x race penalty vs. 2.3x originally).

Full Details: Racism, Outgroup Bias and KFC

2 Tips for Women

As many others have noted, one of the biggest challenges that many women face in the workplace is second-guessing themselves. This applies in everything from salary negotiations to staff meetings to, you guessed it, the job search.

We’ve seen two especially interesting things in our analyses that reinforce the same basic point: When women do ask for what they deserve, they’re rewarded for it (more than men).

#32: Apply If You Meet 30%+ of Job “Requirements”

Whereas men have to meet ~50% of job requirements to be a viable candidate for a job interview, women only have to meet ~30% of job requirements.

Full Details: You Only Need 50% of Job “Requirements”

#33: Don’t Second-Guess Your Qualifications

But, here’s the twist: although hiring managers are willing to accept women who meet ~30% of their job requirements, 64% of women took themselves out of the running for jobs where they met the 50% “good enough” bar we suggest for everyone (let alone the 30% bar above). For comparison, only 37% of men did.

Put another way: Employers think you’re qualified. Stop telling yourself that you’re not.

Full Details: You Only Need 50% of Job “Requirements”

2 Tips for Laid-Off Job-Seekers

#34: Apply to Companies With <500 Employees [+192% BOOST]

The #1 thing you can do to mitigate a recent layoff or firing? Focus your job search on small- to medium-sized employers. 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%.

Full Details: Getting Fired (or Laid Off) Costs You ~5 Years of Experience

#35: Don’t List Jobs Shorter Than ~9 Months [+85% BOOST]

When hiring managers see a short job stint, they don’t know if it’s because you were fired (because you were bad at your job), laid off (officially not your fault, but sometimes still a flag), or quit early (which might mean you’re unreliable). American hiring managers are suspicious of job applicants whose shortest employment lasted less than 16 months.

Full Details: Getting Fired (or Laid Off) Costs You ~5 Years of Experience

Summary

So, to summarize: Demonstrate results with numbers. Don’t be a “team player.” Use leadership words to convey strength. Don’t use personal pronouns. Include 15-20 industry and posting buzzwords. Force an objective playing field. Start achievements with (distinct) action verbs. Squeeze 475-600 words into your 1-page resume. Apply on Mondays (don’t apply on Fridays or Saturdays). Apply in the first 4 days. Apply before 10am. Meeting ~50% of job “requirements” is good enough. Apply for jobs within ±2 years of your experience. Apply for mid-level jobs after 5+ years of experience. Apply to 150-250 jobs. (Don’t) go back to school. Keep working, somewhere if you’re trying to leave. Tough it out for 9+ months if you can. Identify (actually) entry-level jobs. Use freelance jobs to build your experience. Remove your graduation date if you’re 35+. Don’t list more than 3-4 jobs. Fill in resume gaps. Triple-check your grammar and spelling. Force an objective playing field. Apply if you meet 30%+ of job “requirements”. Don’t second-guess your qualifications. Apply to companies with <500 employees. Don’t list jobs shorter than ~9 months.

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 TalentWorks — we’ll just take care of it all for you! (No, seriously. [*]) Let us help you get back to a level-playing field.

[*] 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.

 


Why Are We Doing This?

With TalentWorks right now, we can boost the average job-seeker’s hireability by 580%. But, what makes TalentWorks 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.

The Science of the Job Search, Part VII: You Only Need 50% of Job “Requirements”

Project Manager needed. Must have 5+ years of experience, be Six Sigma certified, have advanced deep learning knowledge, and be able to perform surgery on occasion.

Who really has all that? Turns out, basically no one. You’re as likely to get a job interview meeting 50% of job requirements as meeting 90% of them.

requirements_required
So requirement is a bit of a flexible word in this context, then…

We were curious about how many job requirements are actually required, so we analyzed job postings and resumes for 6,000+ applications across 118 industries from our database of users. We found that while matching requirements is important, you don’t necessarily need to match all of them.

  • Your chances of getting an interview start to go up once you meet about 40% of job requirements.
  • You’re not any more likely to get an interview matching 90% of job requirements compared to matching just 50%.
  • For women, these numbers are about 10% lower i.e. women’s interview chances go up once they meet 30% of job requirements, and matching 40% of job requirements is as good as matching 90% for women.

You only need 50% of job requirements

You’re just as likely to get an interview matching 50% of requirements as matching 90%. We saw a clear upward trend in interview rates based on matching requirements, but with an upper bound. When users applied to jobs where they matched 40 – 50% of job requirements, they were 85% more likely to get an interview than when they matched less, and applying to jobs where they matched 50 – 60% of requirements made them an extra 192% more likely to get an interview over the 40 – 50% matches.

But after that point, you’re in diminishing returns. Applying to jobs where they matched 60% or more of job requirements didn’t provide any additional boost in interview rate.

Job Search Tip #1: Apply for jobs once you match 50% of job requirements.

For women, the % of requirements required is lower

You may have seen stories before about how women in particular don’t apply for jobs unless they’re 100% qualified. We wondered if they were on to something – maybe there’s gender discrimination at play and hiring managers look for women to meet more of the requirements. Turns out, our findings apply just as much to women as to men, and actually, for women, the chances of getting an interview start increasing as soon as you meet 30% of requirements.

requirements_required_by_gender
Women get interviews at higher rates with fewer matched requirements – if only they applied to those jobs in the first place.

As you can see in the graph above, we see the same general trend for women as for men, but for women, you’re as likely to get an interview matching 40% of the job requirements as matching 90%. Note also that, as we’ve seen in previous analysis, women in general have higher interview rates than men.

Yet, despite this, among our users, we’ve observed the same trend that has been studied elsewhere. Women are more likely to turn down jobs where they match some but not all of the qualifications – over the last 8 weeks, 64% of our female users rejected at least one job where they matched 50 – 60% of the requirements, while only 37% of male users did.

requirements_required_feedback_rates

So, yes, women, you too should be applying to jobs where you don’t meet all the requirements.

Job Search Tip #2: Stop second guessing yourself – you DO deserve that job.

You’re not guaranteed to get an interview, even when you match 90% of job requirements

Base case scenario, you’re looking at about a 15% chance of getting an interview. Applying for jobs is still fundamentally a numbers game – the more applications you put in, the more likely you are to get an interview, and the more interviews you have, the more likely you are to get a job offer.

Put another way, if you want to get a job offer, the number of jobs you need to apply to is a function of your interview rate (what % of applications do you get interviews for) and your job offer rate (what % of interviews do you get job offers for), specifically: # of applications needed to get n job offers = n / interview rate / job offer rate

Interview Rate Job Offer Rate # of Applications Needed to Get 1 Job Offer
5% 5% 400
10% 10% 100
15% 15% 45

Clearly, improving your interview rate and job offer rate pay off, but what if you can’t find 45 jobs that are perfect matches for you? It never hurts to broaden your search to jobs that feel like more of a stretch. Sure, your interview rate will be lower, but that’s balanced by applying to more jobs.

Job Search Tip #3: Apply to as many jobs as possible to increase your chances of an interview.

No time to fill in all those applications? We can help with that.

appbot
ApplicationAssistant will fill out all those applications for you (and submit them at the best days and times too).

Summary

When you’re out looking for the perfect job, don’t be intimidated by a long list of requirements!

  • Even if you only match 50% of the requirements, you should feel confident hitting “apply.”
  • This applies just as much to women as it does to men (actually, even more so!)
  • Cast an even broader net to improve your chances of getting an interview.

Remember, getting an interview is your big break – it’s your opportunity to prove that you can do the job even if you don’t meet all the “requirements.”

Methodology

First, we randomly sampled 6,348 applications for 668 different users from TalentWorks. Then we extracted the qualifications from the original job postings and the users’ submitted resumes using proprietary algorithms. Finally, we grouped the results based on qualification match and regressed the interview rate using a Bagging ensemble of Random Forest regressors. All analysis and graphing was done using python with pandas, sklearn, scipy, and bokeh.

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.

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)

resume-objective-is-bad-for-everyone-except-recent-grads.png
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.

having-resume-objective-doesnt-help-for-91-percent-roles.png
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 [*].

job-applicants-objective-30-percent-less-hireable.png
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.

The Science of The Job Search, Part III: 61% of “Entry-Level” Jobs Require 3+ Years of Experience

Jr. Marketing Assistant. Perfect for new grads! Requirements: 3 years of digital marketing experience. Compensation: $12/hour.

The job search can feel like one big Catch-22: “How the hell am I supposed to get experience if I can’t get a job to get experience?” In fact, after analyzing a random sample of 95,363 jobs, we discovered that 61% of all full-time “entry-level” jobs require 3+ years of experience.

entry-level-jobs-years-experience
61% of all supposedly “entry-level” jobs require 3+ years of experience. It’s not just you.

What gives? Before we get into that, here are 3 other interesting things we found:

  • Employers are driving “experience inflation”; as a result, the amount of experience required to get a job is increasing by 2.8% every year. That means your younger sister (or brother) will need ~4 years of work experience just to get their first job.
  • That’s bullshit, right? You don’t have to play by their rules. Based on our analysis, you can successfully apply to jobs if you’ve got ±2 years of the required experience.
  • 3, 5 and 8 are your magic numbers. After 5+ years of experience, you (officially) qualify for most mid-level jobs. After 8+ years, you qualify for senior ones.  And 3+ for entry-level, obvs.

Let’s dig in, shall we?

How Much Experience Do You Need?

Employers are a superstitious bunch. How many jobs have you seen asking for 13 years of work experience? They’ll ask for 7, 10 and 15 years (but rarely 11-14). You can see job postings clump up by employers’ “lucky numbers” in the graph above.

But, here’s the rub— this isn’t just a cute gimmick. It lets us pinpoint how much experience you’ll (officially) need to qualify for different levels of jobs:

Level# Years of Experience% Jobs Qualified
Entry-Level~3 years75%
Mid-Level~5 years77%
Senior-Level~8 years72%

Put another way, if you’ve got 3+ years of experience, you’ll qualify for 75% of entry-level jobs. 3 is the magic number here: below 3 years of experience, you don’t (officially) qualify for most entry-level jobs; above 3 years of experience, you do.

(“Officially” is the operative word here. Keep reading.)

Companies Gone Bad

Can You Be Overqualified?

After 8 years of experience, you qualify for most senior-level jobs out there. But even for senior roles, employers rarely ask for more than 10 years experience. (You can see this in the graph above.)

And from our first post in this The Science of The Job Search series: your hireability starts dropping by ~8% every year after age 35. Assuming today’s experienced folks graduated college around age ~23, this is almost exactly 10 years of experience. It’s no coincidence.

after-age-35-hireability-decreases-by-8-percent
After age 35, your hireability decreases by ~8% every year. Ageism is very real.

Age matters. A lot, sadly. Your chances of getting a job at age 20 aren’t great. At 30, they’re OK. After 40, they’re getting bad again. It’s illegal for companies to discriminate based on age, but ageism is very real.

What Gives? “Experience Inflation”

In addition to discriminating against older workers, employers have also been driving “experience inflation,” which is especially dangerous for younger workers. For entry-level jobs, the amount of work experience required to get a job has been steadily increasing at 2.8% per year.

Anecdotally, we all know this is true: 30 years ago, our parents could get an amazing job with just a college degree. These days, we don’t even know if a college degree is worth it and a college degree on its own doesn’t buy you much.

Over the next 5-10 years, recent graduates will start needing ~4 years of work experience just to get their first job. (Yes, I know this doesn’t make sense. Hold on.)

We’ll get into experience inflation in detail in next week’s post, but for now let’s focus on what options you have. This is all very depressing—

What Can You Do?

Honestly, the job search is unfair. (That’s fundamentally why we started TalentWorks, but that’s a different story for later.) So what? Folks still need jobs. Hell, maybe you need a job.

What can you do?

#4: Don’t List Your Graduation Date If You’re 35+

We’ve already briefly touched on fighting ageism. Hiring managers (subconsciously) guess your age based on your graduation date, how much work experience you have, etc. If you don’t list your graduation date or only show your most recent 2-3 jobs, they can’t tell how old you are.

#3: Use Freelance Jobs To Build Your Experience

One way to get past the job-searching Catch-22 is to play a different game. Instead of fighting with everyone else to get that first job, you can instead build up your work experience (and resume and portfolio) by doing freelance jobs on the side.

Not only will you get paid, you’ll also have far higher chances getting your 2nd job (everyone else’s 1st job). In the future, especially when experience inflation means you need 4+ years of experience to get your first job, this might be the only way to break into your job.

#2: Apply for Jobs Within ±2 Years of Your Experience

The #1 lesson: you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. From what we see, if you’re within ±2 years of required experience, hiring managers will often consider you “close enough.”

So, be flexible with what jobs you go after! You never know if something special in your application will catch the hiring manager’s eye. What’s the harm in applying?

#1: Identify (Actual) Entry-Level Jobs Near You

Let’s be honest: looking for jobs is a *!@$* pain in the ass. Of the 95,363 jobs we analyzed, 52% (49,245) were supposedly entry-level (based on what the employer said). Of those, my 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, I found 240 for actual entry-level Marketing Assistants.

In real life, folks need to apply to 150-250 jobs to get a job, so needing to review 1,286 job postings is actually pretty representative. (Afterwards, you’d still have to apply to the final 240 jobs, of course…)

job-search-pain-in-the-ass
Identifying 240 (actually good) entry-level Marketing Assistant jobs meant wasting 94% of my time. I reviewed 1,286 supposedly-good jobs and had to discard 94% as crap. OTOH, I found 168 great jobs out of 95,067 supposed baddies. Doing this was was a *!@$* pain in the ass.

It’s painful work, but someone’s gotta do it. If you’ve got the patience and the time (and stubbornness), rock on! If you don’t, you can pay us $10 to do it (and other stuff) for you.

Summary

Getting a job has always been hard, but it’s getting (quantifiably) harder. These days, you need to have ~3 years of experience (officially) to get the average entry-level job. It’s a full-on Catch-22: “No, you can’t have a job.” “Why?” “Because you don’t have a job.” “…”

With the right insights and tools, you can break the Catch-22 and get the job you deserve. To recap:

  1. Identify (actual) entry-level jobs near you. With a bit of patience (and a lot of stubbornness), you can identify the ~5% of jobs that actually match your needs.
  2. Apply for jobs within ±2 years of your experience. If you’re within ±2 years of required experience, hiring managers will often consider you “close enough.”
  3. Use freelance jobs to build your experience. Go guerrilla. Not only will you get paid, you’ll also have far higher chances getting your second job (everyone else’s first job).
  4. Don’t list your graduation date if you’re 35+. Ageism is real. If you don’t list your graduation date or only show your most recent 2-3 jobs, hiring managers can’t tell how old you are.

We’ve already added a filter for (actually) entry-level jobs in ApplicationAssistant. If you’re looking for an entry-level job, sign up for ApplicationAssistant and set “Entry Level” during setup. We’ll only look for (actual) entry-level jobs near you!

entry-level-talentworks.smaller.gif

(88% of recent graduates looking for entry-level jobs got an interview in 60 days or less using ApplicationAssistant — it’s backed by our Interview Guarantee.)


Methodology

First, we randomly sampled 100,000 jobs from our index of 91 million job postings. We extracted the # of years of experience, job level and employment type for each job using TalentWorks-proprietary parsing algorithms. We then used a blended Gaussian-linear kernel to calculate experience densities. Finally, we used an averaged ensemble of multiple independent RANSAC iterations to robustly calculate inflations against outliers. This was done in python with pandas, sklearn and scipy and plotted with bokeh.

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.

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!

job-applicants-interview-rate-histogram.png

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]

going-back-to-school-job-search.png

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-discrimination-job-search-tip.png

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]

women-men-more-hireable-job-search.png

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

Ashley
Dana
Evelyn
Iris
Monica
Zoe

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]

adding-industry-buzzwords-resume-tip.png

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]

concrete-numbers-resume-tip.png

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]

apply-on-mondays-job-search-tip.png

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.

dont-be-team-player-resume-tip.png

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]

demonstrating-leadership-resume-tip.png

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:

communicated
coordinated
leadership
managed
organization

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]

personal-pronoun-resume-tip.png

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]

industry-buzzwords-total-number-resume-tip.png

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]

action-verbs-resume-tip.png

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.)

Summary

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!


Methodology

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.

Analysis

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.

Visualization

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.