10 Reasons Why It’s Hard to Get a Job Today

It’s not just you. Despite the unemployment rate being at a 49 year low, a good job is hard to come by even if you’re 100% qualified. Elements such as bad interviewers, not having ‘the right’ college degree, and stagnant wages are just some ways you’re not finding the job you deserve. Why?

The hiring system is broken:

#1: Priorities and perceived needs have shifted

Many companies do not prioritize their recruiting resources and in turn sacrifice both talent and job impact. An example of this is ‘experience inflation’ or ‘degree inflation’, whereby jobs that in the past did not require a certain requirement (such as a Bachelor of Arts degree) are now standard. An “entry-level” job requires years of experience (approximately 3 years!) and creates a credential gap that disadvantages middle-class workers.

Not only does this hurt jobseekers, but it costs employers money creating an unsustainable cycle.

#2: Increased Outsourcing + Remote Work

Today, you’re not only competing with local jobseekers, but jobseekers from all over the country (and possible world). Due to the low unemployment rates and talent shortage, employers are establishing more flexible work models which includes freelancers and contract work. The use of contractors has increased 24% since 2017, and more than half of hiring managers use the remote work model (59%).

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#3: Being ‘black-holed’ is commonplace

Our team coined the term ‘black-holed’ to mean resumes falling into the great abyss post-submission. You could have the perfect resume and be 100% qualified and this will enviably happen to you. “Ghosting” candidates (or lack of communication and transparency) contributes to the broken hiring system. As a result, it’s even becoming a trend where job candidates are ghosting hiring managers and new employers!

#4: Robots (aka the ‘ATS’)

The ‘ATS’ or applicant tracking systems are key word parsers that score resumes based on particular words being used; most often it will be the exact phrasing being used in job descriptions. If your resume is not machine parsable it will most likely not make it through to the actual human hiring manager. Both large and small companies use an ATS to widdle down large candidate pools. Be mindful of word choice and keywords and keep your resume short. The cover letter is where you have an opportunity to differentiate yourself and let your personality shine through.

#5: Heightened Competition

The normalization of higher education is creating a flatter, more even playing field. The power of education cannot be underestimated and should be upheld and fostered, but does pose a challenge in terms of competition where the college degree represents the new high school diploma. More qualified, educated people means more competition for jobs across industry.

#6: Time is against you

There will never be more than 10-15 interview slots for a job opening, no matter how many people applied. Any given manager’s calendar will usually be filled for days at a time with interviews during a hiring period. As an example, our CEO/founder Kushal shared his personal calendar when trying to hire for particular position. As you can see, it’s crazy:

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He said that to interview just 3% of the applicant pool, he basically did nothing but interviews for all of Friday (the blurred names are interviews). There were another ~2 days like this after having made a shortlist (3% of the total pool of hundreds).

#7: “The Perfect Candidate”

Many employers drag their feet in search of the ‘perfect hire’. It’s due to lack of recruiting priorities and not setting internal/external schedules for positions. For the candidate, that might mean waiting an unnecessarily extended period of time to hear a hiring update of any kind.

#8: Terrible Candidate Screening

There’s nothing worse than actually making it to an interview and the person sitting across conducting it asks half-hearted, unrelated, or uninformed questions:

  • What is your biggest weakness? 
  • Tell me what you think about the individuals you just met with?
  • How would you calculate the production and sales of all the white paint in the US?

Such lazy, oddball questions predict very little and may even create a sense of resentment from the get-go.

#9: Hiring Manager Biases

Employers are people too, and, of course, people are inherently (subconsciously) biased. This shows up more prominently in work environments with unstructured hiring processes and those that fail to set diversity standards.

Our data suggests that there are data-driven ways to force objectivity such as quantifying experience and avoiding collaboration-oriented words.

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#10:  Resume Blemishes

If you were previously fired, laid off or left a job before 18 months you have what is called a resume blemish and it hurts your hireability. How much does it hurt? Controlling for experience, people who were fired, laid off or quit in the first 15 months of a job were 43% less hireable when applying to new jobs.

Whereas everyone else saw a 13.4% interview callback rate, the callback rate was only 7.6% for these folks. Averaging across industries and cities, getting fired meant roughly same as wiping out ~5 years of experience for them.

Conclusion

It’s hard to have a favorable hiring experience in general when the system is broken. From submitting great resumes that fall into a black-hole to decisions being made weeks from whence you expected, it’s discouraging. Understand that you are not alone in feeling discouraged. Check out our ‘Science of the Job Search‘ blog series authored by TalentWorks Founder/CEO Kushal Chakrabarti for data-driven tips and tricks to navigating your next job.

Let us help you navigate! 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).

Computers Aren’t Sexist: AI + Recruiting

Recently it was reported that Amazon had scrapped their machine learning recruitment system because it was favoring male candidates. Their machine learning team spent years developing a way to automate the hiring process using a decade worth of past Amazon employee resumes; they would soon learn in doing so the system had taught itself to strategically weed out female candidates. For instance, any resume with the word ‘women’s’ in it was immediately downgraded and scored lower.

What gives? Learned historical data based on past hiring decisions will always produce a biased system because human beings are inherently, and (mostly) unconsciously biased.

Using our own AI technology, TalentWorks pinpoints the biases of hiring managers by analyzing and sampling 100,000+ jobs from our index of 91 million job postings. In doing so we’re able to identify the norms and outliers of the industry such as the number of applications per interview and how that relates to the greater labor market. Example: Racial bias.

How much does race still matter in the US job market?

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After analyzing thousands of job applications, outcomes and applicants, we discovered several key things:

  1. Non-white job applicants got 2.3x fewer interviews than their white counterparts;
  2. For non-white job applicants, if a resume mistake reinforced a racist stereotype, it basically disqualified them.

Through our data, we’ve found the following contributes significantly to combatting racial bias:

  • Limit the number of collaboration-oriented words in your resume, such as, “team player”, “helped”, and “assisted”. Doing so will improve your chances for objectivity by 63%.
  • Anchor your experience by using industry buzzwords and acronyms. This increases objectivity by 34%.
  • Use concrete numbers; specifically, for every 3 sentences use 1 number to demonstrate your impact. Especially for people of color, quantifying the impact that you made with numbers helps remove subjective bias (+23% boost).

Returning to gender bias, we’ve actually found that resumes with obviously female names had a +48.3% higher chance of getting an interview. Names such as ‘Monica’, ‘Zoe’, ‘Ashley’ and ‘Evelyn’ had a significant boost over men comparatively.

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This isn’t incredibly surprising when compared to what happened at Amazon, another tech company with a stark talent problem (men make up 73% of professional employees and 78% of senior executives and managers). The greater labor market suggests that there is an immense benefit for hiring womenWomen are outperforming men in school, and most recruiters are women (who want to support other women).

‘Tech’ is just one industry Talentworks analyzes. Our data is based on thousands of applications, applicants and outcomes across 681 cities and 140+ different roles/industries. Artificial intelligence and deep learning are the future of recruiting. We hope to empower jobseekers to find their ideal position.

Methodology

First, we randomly sampled 100,000 jobs from our index of 91 million job postings. We extracted the number 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?

We can boost the average job-seeker’s hireability by 5.8x right now with ApplicationAssistant. 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 findings. So that’s exactly what we’re going to do.

Creative Commons

We’re not only sharing this data but also sharing all of it under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license. In other words, as long as you follow a few license terms, this means you can:

  • Share: Copy, redistribute the material in any medium or format.
  • Adapt: Remix, transform, and build upon the material.

How to Focus your Job Search

The job hunt is a full-time job in and of itself. From networking to writing dozens of personalized cover letters every day, managing your time is fundamental. How do you do so without spinning your wheels, becoming complacent, or going bonkers?

Create a Daily ‘To-Do List’

When you’re at home looking for a job, routine keeps you honest. Make a job search specific list of items you wish to accomplish during the day. Having both daily and weekly goals will motivate smaller successes and help you to keep track of your accomplishments.

Here is an example:

Today’s Goals:

1.) Connect with 3 LinkedIn connections

2.) Follow-up on 5 positions

3.) Apply to 10 jobs

4.) Reach out to 1 2nd degree connection at XYZ Company and request an informal interview over coffee (my treat, of course) to learn more about their experience working there

Weekly Goal(s):

1.) Attend 1 networking ‘meetup’ this week

2.) Search for pro-bono projects

Figure out what you want

Whether you were laid-off, fired, left early of your own volition, or are looking while working, give yourself time to think concretely regarding your next step. In many ways, this may be the most fundamental aspect of the search.

Why? Without assessing where you currently are in your career and why you’re there you are simply going through the motions and may very well end up in the same position in the near future. Make this transition count and it will have been worth the process. 

Give yourself ‘me’ time

Incorporating time to yourself is another extremely important aspect of the job search. Looking for a new job can easily be all-consuming and borderline mentally draining. Avoid constantly checking your phone for recruiter emails. In fact, you might consider snoozing all notifications for a couple hours a day. You’d be amazed what closing your laptop and taking a walk does for your search.

Consider Smaller Companies

Our data suggests that applying to companies with <500 employees gives you 192% higher interview rate; this especially helps mitigate the effects of a recent firing or layoff. Regardless of your industry preference, this may be worth considering.

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Conclusion

Understanding that the job search is another life skill to be mastered will help you to focus your energy and better manage your time. Everyone who needs a job (which is most people) will do this in their lifetime and those who succeed above the rest do so with organization, ambition, and grace. Give yourself the tools to get the job you deserve.

Need some help getting focused? 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).

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).

Stagnant Wages and How to Negotiate from the Start

Picture this: You just received a job offer after months of searching. It’s now time to discuss salary. The initial offer is tempting, in fact, it’s 10% higher than what the recruiter offered during the preliminary screening. You take it. Months later your landlord hikes your rent. What was to be meaningful financial progress did not get you ahead at all.

That’s the reality many workers are facing. A recent Pew Research Study suggests that today’s wages have the same purchasing power as they did in 1974, especially for lower wage workers. Despite low unemployment and higher paychecks (adjusted for inflation) we’re just not financially progressing.

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It certainly seems bleak but you have control regarding your income. What can you do as a jobseeker to ensure your personal financial progression? 

“That’s a good place to start”

If you’re being lowballed in a salary negotiation, don’t be afraid to literally say “That’s a good place to start”. Hiring managers have wiggle-room and expect to use it if you plead your case. This initial offer does not anchor you to a set amount, so understand what the responsibilities are worth and where you need to be financially to re-anchor, so-to-speak.

Understand your buying power.

What do you need financially and what can you do about it? Firstly, understand your regional labor market. Wages vary depending on where you live; do your research before you go into negotiation. It stands that you should be making a reasonable salary per your city. An administrative assistant in the Bay Area should make more than one working in Cincinnati.

At Talent Works we’ve found that going back to school or earning additional accreditations actually improves your professional acumen by +21.9%. If going back to school isn’t possible, check-out what skills/online courses you can take to give you the edge over competition.

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Negotiation makes a difference. Need help? We’re the Jiminy Cricket to your job search.

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).