13 Ways to Increase Your Odds of Landing an Interview (According to Data)


7 min read

One of the biggest factors that helped me save $100,000 by age 24 was landing a job as a data scientist with a salary of $80,000. Since I was able to live on less than $1,500 per month during my first two years out of college, I was able to save and invest thousands of dollars from each paycheck and increase my net worth rapidly.

I imagine that my master’s degree in applied statistics, my 1.5 years of previous experience as a data analyst, and my coding skills listed on my resume were the main factors that helped me land the interview for my current job.

However, according to an analysis by Talent Works, there are specific ways that you can increase your odds of landing an interview. Through analyzing over 4,000 job applications and job applicants, they identified 13 key factors that increase interview rates. They claim that 3 of the factors are out of your control while 10 of the factors are in your control.

Factors you can’t control:

1. Go back to school

From Talent Works:

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 Between Ages 28 to 35

From Talent Works:

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.

The following chart shows interview rate by age:

age-discrimination-job-search-tip.png

Interview rates increase steadily as you move through your 20s, peak around 28 to 35, then start to decline as you get older. Obviously this is just a trend and it doesn’t apply to everyone. There are plenty of people under age 28 and over age 35 who are highly qualified for jobs. Just keep in mind that ageism seems to exist and it can play a role in your chances of landing an interview. 

3. Be a Woman

From Talent Works:

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

 

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.

This section illustrates an interesting phenomenon: women don’t tend to get what they want because they’re not as likely to ask for what they want. However, when they do ask for what they want, they tend to get recognized for it.

Laurie from Three Year Experiment shared a similar sentiment in a recent post on negotiating as a woman:

About 31% of women don’t negotiate the pay they’re offered when they start a job. Some of this is because women feel uncomfortable negotiating, but some of it is related to the fact that women don’t realize what they’re worth in the market.

It might feel uncomfortable or awkward, but data shows that when women ask for what they want, they’re doing themselves a favor.

Factors you can control:

4. Use industry buzzwords on your resume

From Talent Works:

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.

I have personally experienced this phenomenon in my own field. As a data scientist, I’m essentially a statistician that works with big data. However, it turns out that calling myself a “data scientist” on my resume and on LinkedIn leads to more interest from recruiters than calling myself a “statistician”, “data analyst”, or another similar term.

5. Quantify how you made an impact with numbers

From Talent Works:

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.

They share the following chart to illustrate the effectiveness of using concrete numbers to quantify your past achievements:

concrete-numbers-resume-tip.png

6. Apply on Mondays. Don’t Apply on Fridays.

Apparently you should apply on Mondays and not on Fridays: 

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

I’m slightly skeptical of this chart. I’m not convinced that the sample size of Friday-appliers is large enough to draw conclusions on. Perhaps people who apply on Fridays are also procrastinators and are naturally less desirable applicants. I’d take this finding with a grain of salt.

7. Don’t be a “Team Player.”

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

From Talent Works:

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.

8. Use Leadership Words

Adding leadership-oriented words like “communicated”, “coordinated”, “leadership”, “managed”, and “organization” are shown to increase interview rates. Not much of a surprise there.

9. Don’t Use Personal Pronouns

Don’t use words like “I”, “Me”, or “My” in your resume. Talent Works found that applicants who used even one personal pronoun had a -54.7% lower chance of getting an interview callback. 

personal-pronoun-resume-tip.png

10. Include a Key Skills section

List out key skills, preferably ones that include industry buzzwords if possible.

11. Apply in the first 4 days.

Data shows that applicants who apply within 4 days of a job posting experience higher interview rates. This isn’t too surprising.

12. Apply between 6am and 10 am. 

The early bird gets the worm.

13. Start your sentences with distinct action words.

This finding is fascinating to me:

action-verbs-resume-tip.png

Action verbs make a huge difference in interview rates. From Talent Works:

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.

 

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.”

Conclusion

The findings from this study demonstrate that it’s possible to increase your interview rates simply by using the right words on your resume.

From Talent Works:

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.

Perhaps you don’t need to go back to school for another degree or spend months learning a new skill to increase your odds of landing an interview. Perhaps you just need to modify your resume.


My favorite free financial tool I’ve been using since 2015 to manage my net worth is Personal Capital. Each month I use their free Investment Checkup tool and Retirement Planner to track my investments and ensure that I’m on the fast track to financial freedom.


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4 Replies to “13 Ways to Increase Your Odds of Landing an Interview (According to Data)”

  1. Interesting stuff, god forbid I never have to interview anywhere ever again.

    I like the visuals/graphs in your posts and just put together that with your background and degree it makes a lot of sense! Duh…

  2. I’m loving these fact based posts!

    While I agree with all of points I think that they are particularly relevant when you’re applying for a job cold and need your CV to stand out from the pile.

    So I think the one thing that I would add to this is the power of knowing the people who are hiring – or knowing people who already work at the company who can vouch for you. I think that significantly increases the chance of landing an interview and of getting the job.

    If a potential employer knows you then you are less of a risk that a complete unknown. It’s why I’m a big fan of non-aggressive networking such as catching up with old colleagues over a coffee, saying hi to person next to you in the coffee queue at a conference and similar

    1. Completely agreed – if you know someone within the organization, that’s an instant in your odds of getting hired. I think this analysis provides some good tips on how to increase your odds assuming that you have an even chance of getting hired relative to everyone else.

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