The Science of The Job Search

The Science of The Job Search

Kushal Chakrabarti has  written this fantastic breakdown of the data behind the job hunt.

(Feb 2023 update: The original page, and website, appear to be gone. But you can find an archived copy on Internet Archive. The opportunity costs of college also is in the archive)

Getting a job you deserve is hard, yes. But, it’s not as hard as you think. Kushal Chakrabarti 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. Turns out, that’s not necessarily true. Instead, you should start where the data points.

Looking for the #1 most effective tip? Change the words on your resume for a +139.6% boost. You don’t even need to change all 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: only a paltry +21.9% boost. It’ll cost you tens of thousands of dollars and years of effort for only a 20% increase, but you’ll get 6.4x more impact for changing a dozen words and takes you only a few minutes.

Here’s a summary of his points in order of impact:

  • Resume Tip: Start your job achievement sentences with (distinct) action verbs. [+139.6% BOOST]
  • Job Search Tip: Apply between 6am and 10am [+89.1% BOOST] – it gives you an +89.1% boost over your competition.
  • Job Search Tip: Apply in the first 4 days. [+64.7% 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.)
  • 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 hire-ability 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.
  • Resume Tip: Don’t use personal pronouns in your employment section. Ever. 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: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. Some of the words we detected as strong, active words:
    • communicated
    • coordinated
    • leadership
    • managed
    • organization
  • 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% hire-ability boost over the competition.
  • Job Search Tip: Apply on Mondays (+46.0% hireability boost). Don’t apply on Fridays or Saturdays.
  • 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.
  • Resume Tip: Name-drop a buzzword every 3-6 sentences. If you do that, you’ll gain a +29.3% boost over everyone else.
  • 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. Sadly, ageism is real and the data supports it.
    The lesson, however, is that this is your 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 1980’s.
  • 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. If you do go back, you will get a +21.9% hire-ability boost; but as we have seen, just updating your resume might get you far more than that. This is one of the lowest and most expensive in time and money ways of improving job prospects. One legitimate reason might be if you’re looking to switch careers, but get ready to start back out towards the bottom of your new field.

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