TIME Business

5 Things You Need to Know Before Changing Jobs

Eric Barker writes Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

5 insights with links to the research backing them up:

For more on how to find the perfect career for you, click here.

This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

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TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Race

How Minority Job Seekers Battle Bias in the Hiring Process

The job search process plays an important role in shaping, reinforcing and sometimes counteracting inequality in the labor market

Discrimination in the hiring process has limited the opportunities available to both racial minorities – such as African Americans – and women, with important consequences for their well-being and careers.

For example, research has shown that white job applicants receive 50% more callbacks for interviews than equally qualified African American applicants. And, in the low-wage labor market, scholars have found that African American men without criminal records receive similar callback rates for interviews as white men just released from prison. Researchers have also documented discrimination in hiring against women, with particularly strong penalties against mothers.

But how does this reality affect these groups – African Americans and women – as they hunt for jobs? Do they tailor their searches narrowly to help them avoid discrimination, sticking to job opportunities deemed “appropriate” for them? Or do they cast a wider net with the hopes of maximizing their chances of finding a job that does not discriminate?

Until now, we have known little about this issue, largely because no existing data source has closely followed individuals through their job search.

New research that we recently published in the American Journal of Sociology attempts to address this limitation by drawing on two original datasets that track job seekers and the positions to which they apply.

The results of our study point to three general conclusions about the job search process:

  1. African Americans cast a wider net than whites while searching for work.
  2. Women tend to apply to a narrower set of job types than men, often targeting roles that have historically been dominated by women.
  3. Past experiences of discrimination appear to drive, at least in part, the broader job search patterns of African Americans.

On an important side note, these racial differences exist for both men and women and these gender differences exist for both whites and African Americans.

Let’s go into a little more detail on these three main findings.

Casting a wide net

Our analysis shows that African Americans apply to a greater range of job types with a broader range of occupational characteristics than similar whites.

For example, one of our survey respondents was previously employed as a “material moving worker.” Over the course of the survey, this respondent applied for jobs consistent with his prior work experience, such as “material handler” and “warehouse worker.”

However, the respondent also reported applying for jobs in retail sales, as an IT technician, a delivery driver, a security guard, a mail-room clerk and a short order cook. This respondent applied to jobs in a total of seven distinct occupations over the course of the survey, which represents a fairly broad approach to job search.

While this is just one example, it was typical. In both of the datasets we examined, African Americans systematically applied to a larger number of distinct job types than whites with similar levels of education and work experience.

Women and self-selection

Our study demonstrates that women pursued a search strategy very different than that of African Americans.

Women appeared to self-select into distinctive occupational categories consistent with historically gendered job types, such as office and administrative support positions.

During their job search, women also applied to a narrower range of occupations than men with similar education and work experience.

For example, women wanting to work in retail sales were more likely to apply strictly for that type of position during their job search. Men with similar aspirations, on the other hand, were more likely to branch out and apply to adjacent job types, such as wholesale, advertising or insurance sales.

Past discrimination drives blacks’ behavior

So what accounts for these race and gender differences in how people search for a job?

For African American job seekers, we found that perceptions of or experiences with racial discrimination played an important role in explaining their greater search breadth.

In one of the surveys we conducted, we asked job seekers about their experiences with racial discrimination at work. In our analysis, we found that individuals who reported that they had previously observed or experienced racial discrimination in the workplace were more likely to cast a wide net in their job search compared with those without such experience.

A gender-segregated workforce

But if discrimination, in part, drives the search behavior of African Americans, why do we not see similar adaptations by women, who also undoubtedly face employment discrimination?

We suspect the answer is related to the deeper and more explicit nature of gender inequality in the labor market. Occupations remain highly segregated by gender, and individuals from an early age can identify male- and female-typed jobs.

This reality affects women’s occupational aspirations as well as perceptions of the constraints they may encounter when deviating from gendered patterns. In either scenario, women’s self-selection into female-typed occupations may allow them to avoid jobs where they are more likely to experience discrimination. At the same time, this strategy likely reproduces gender segregation at work, which is an important source of gender inequality.

For African Americans, things are quite different. There are far fewer readily identifiable “black” or “white” jobs. The barriers facing African American job seekers can pop up across the labor market. Thus, it is more difficult for African Americans to target jobs where they will be able to avoid discrimination.

But a broad job search allows black job seekers to reach otherwise difficult-to-identify job opportunities in which racial discrimination is less prevalent. Given the challenges of anticipating where and when discrimination is likely to occur, applying to a broad set of job types raises the probability that an African American job seeker will apply to a job that does not discriminate.

Key consequences and takeaways

Job search strategies matter and can make a big difference in everything from lifetime earnings to potential career opportunities.

We find that broad search is associated with being more likely to receive a job offer, but also with receiving lower wage offers. Thus, job seekers appear to face a trade-off between the goals of finding any job and finding a good job. The broader search patterns among African Americans, therefore, may reduce some of the employment gap but contribute to the long-standing racial disparity in wages.

Second, to the extent that broad search leads job seekers to occupations that are different from their past work experiences, this strategy may limit African Americans’ ability to build coherent careers that are consistent with their experience and aspirations. Given significant racial differences in search breadth, these dynamics are likely to contribute to persistent racial inequalities in labor market outcomes.

In the case of women, limiting the scope of their search likely reinforces existing patterns of occupational segregation, which has consequences for the gender earnings gap and implications for other forms of persistent gender inequality.

Where does this leave us?

Together, the findings from our study suggest that the job search process plays an important role in shaping, reinforcing and sometimes counteracting inequality in the labor market.

At the same time, discrimination and other barriers to employment must be considered to fully understand how labor market inequality is generated.

And, as the comparison of race and gender suggests, how individuals adapt to workplace barriers can take different forms and have distinct consequences.

Our research points to the importance of systematically examining both job search processes as well as discriminatory behavior and other constraints in the workplace if we hope to fully understand and rectify persistent racial and gender inequalities in the labor market.

This article originally appeared on The ConversationThe Conversation

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Careers & Workplace

10 Common Mistakes to Avoid on Your Resume

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Be cautious to list skills or acronyms that you may not be familiar with

1. Lack of Clarity

If a potential employer cannot understand your work history, skills, or any other portion of the resume clearly and easily, you have already lost the job. They will not take the time to figure it out. They have tens or even hundreds of other candidates, and your resume goes in the trash. — Scott Kennard, 911 Restoration

2. Cramming Too Much Information Onto the Page

Resumes that include too-small font, dense paragraphs, etc., can be overwhelming and unappealing to employers. If you make it too hard for them to read your resume, they simply won’t, and they will move on to the next candidate. Use the appropriate font size, and break up information by using appropriate headings, bullet points, and bold font (sparingly). Use white space to direct the eyes and make your resume easier to read and more aesthetically appealing. — Cachet Prescott, Career Coach and Consultant

3. Not Using the Right Key Words

Many candidates do not use the correct SEO word choices that will aid in the applicant tracking system’s (ATS) selection of the resume. These systems search for key words based on the job description. An example could be the use of the term ‘recruiter,’ versus ‘talent acquisitor’ — depending on the industry, either term may be used. Reflect on the wording in the job posting — that is how the resume should be worded. — Lisa Chenofsky Singer, Chenofsky Singer and Associates

4. Taking a One-Size-Fits-All Approach

If you try to develop a one-size-fits-all resume to send to a variety of employers, you will most likely end up with your resume tossed in the wastebasket. Employers want you to write a resume specifically for them. They expect you to clearly show how and why you fit the position in a specific organization. If you’re simply sending out the same resume to each employer, it shows potential hiring managers that you’re not interested in the particular job they’re offering. If you’re not willing to read the job description and tailor your resume for the job, they think you don’t care enough about the job to do it, and they won’t think it’s worth their time to give you a chance. — Jennifer Magas, Magas Media Consultants, LLC

5. Making It All About You

Another common mistake is writing a resume as though it is all about you. It really is not: it is about the prospective employer. Having objective statements and detailing what you are looking for is of no interest the employer. Their biggest question is, What can you do for me? The mistake is in not answering that question.

In that top quarter of your resume, you will be lucky to get a 3-10 second review, and therefore, it is critical to answer this question to ensure the reader continues to evaluate your resume. Start with the most important skill sets, abilities, accomplishments or attributes — most important to the employer — that you bring to the table. Set the stage for them to see you in the role that you are pursuing. Align your resume with the prospective employer and position, allowing the reader to easily identify you in that position. — Lisa K. McDonald, Career Polish

6. Using an Inappropriate Email Address

Don’t use a personal email address geared more for playtime than work. If you use an email address which references your partying or intimate behaviors — such as ‘wildwoman’ or ‘drunknhorny’ — I question your judgment. It is too easy to get a generic, free email account from Gmail or Yahoo for your interview correspondence to represent yourself in such a manner. Keep the other address for communicating with your friends — not potential employers. — Cassie Dennis, SocialRaise

7. Focusing on Tasks Instead of Results

Future behavior can be predicted by past behavior, so use those bullets under each job to showcase your accomplishments, not the tasks assigned to the role. Did you standardize a set of processes? Develop industry knowledge? Save time or other resources? Use the bullets to describe your achievements using the skills the employer seeks. — Marilyn Santiesteban, Bush School of Government & Public Service, Texas A&M University

8. Listing Skills They Don’t Really Have

One of the most common resume mistakes I have seen is when candidates list skills they don’t actually have. Remember: anything that is listed on your resume is fair game for an interview. Candidates should be cautious to list skills or acronyms when they really have no understanding of or experience with that skill or technology. — Nick Santora, Curricula

9. Not Providing Enough Context

It’s great to list your day-to-day responsibilities, but unless we know what your company does, your goals within your department, or what you’ve accomplished in your role, these tasks come across as relatively meaningless. — Sarah Dabby, ClickTime

10. Forgetting to Be Themselves

I’ve seen many resumes that do not sound or look like the person I’m sitting across from. In some cases, professional resume writers craft the resume’s content to the point where the candidate cannot speak to the experience listed.

Be sure you will feel proud and focused when you hand over your resume. Can you speak to every job, result, and accomplishment listed? Does your resume reflect your humor, energy, passion, and confidence? If your resume looks sophisticated and professional, yet you are relaxed and casual, it will be a challenge to get a hiring manager to see that you are the same person listed on the pages. — Lida Citroen, LIDA360

This article originally appeared on Recruiter.com

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MONEY Jobs

Finally, Some Better News For Job Seekers

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There are more jobs, and they're paying better

If you’ve looked for work within the past several years, you know the job market offers pretty slim pickings, even more so if you’re not in a highly-sought-after field like technology. There finally seems to be a light at the end of the tunnel, though: A new survey of employers finds that more of them are optimistic about the future and plan to grow their head count. Even better is the news that a substantial number of them are willing to pay more to do so.

CareerBuilder released its mid-year jobs forecast Thursday, and it definitely paints a sunnier picture than we’ve seen in a long time. For starters, roughly half of the 2,300 HR and hiring managers surveyed say they plan to hire full-time workers in the second half of 2015, an increase over 2014. Just over a third plan to hire temps, and 28% will add part-time workers, both increases from a year ago.

What’s even better news is that more HR departments are willing to pay to attract this new talent. Almost half of respondents say they’ll raise starting salaries in the next year, an increase of four percentage points in a year, and about one in six say they’ll hike what they pay new hires by more than 5%.

“This is the best forecast from our survey since the recession,” says CareerBuilder spokeswoman Jennifer Grasz. “Companies are hiring across industries, company sizes and geographies.”

The industries that plan to pick up the pace the most are a diverse lot: IT and healthcare are at the top of the heap, but not all of the fast-growing fields are just for high-skill workers. Hospitality and retail are also outperforming the average. Even embattled industries like financial services and manufacturing are enjoying better-than-average hiring rates.

Hiring is expected to be especially strong at small businesses and tech companies, the survey finds. Although 62% of big companies will add workers, compared with 37% of businesses with fewer than 250 workers, the increase in hiring is rising faster at smaller firms. “Enterprise organizations bounced back first and are considerably more likely to hire, but what’s encouraging is that small businesses have gained confidence every year, and that’s translating into more robust job creation,” Grasz says.

And while the picture is pretty good across the U.S., the Northeast has the biggest uptick: 52% of companies say they plan to add people in the second half of 2015, up from 48% last year. Grasz says the growing investment in technology in this part of the country is one reason for the acceleration, along with other regionally strong industries like healthcare and financial services continuing to rebound.

“This is a very different scenario for the labor market than four or five years ago,” Grasz says. It’s definitely a market job seekers of all types are likely to greet with a sigh of relief.

TIME Careers & Workplace

How to Set Yourself Apart During Job Interview

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Focus on the strengths

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“Just take a chance on me.”

It was a common line in my cover letters a few years ago, when I was desperate to make the switch out of management and into marketing—without a related degree or experience. Even so, I was so sure that if the employer just gave me a chance, he or she wouldn’t regret it.

But when an employer has a pool of fully qualified candidates, why would he or she take a chance on someone who’s on the edge of meeting the job requirements?

I’ll tell you this much: It takes more than including a pretty unconvincing pick-up line in your cover letter. Here are a few tips to get your foot in the door.

Don’t Draw Attention to Your Lack of Skills or Experience

The key to this whole process isn’t necessarily to convince the hiring manager to take a chance on you, but to get him or her to actually think you’re a good fit for the role. So the very first thing you have to do is stop apologizing for your lack of skills or experience.

Whenever you include a sentence in your cover letter such as “While I’ve never been in a marketing role before…” or “Although I don’t have any management experience…” or even “If you would just take a chance on me…” all you’re doing is telling the hiring manager you can’t do the job.

“Instead of drawing attention to your weaknesses, a better way to move on to your qualifications is to state your skills and ability to contribute directly,” recommends career counselor Lily Zhang. “Stay positive, focus on your strengths, and immediately launch into your transferable skills and infectious enthusiasm for the position.”

Showcase What Sets You Apart

No matter what you’re transitioning from or to, you do have transferable skills.

For example, while my management roles didn’t involve any true marketing, they did require me to network and form relationships with other businesses in the community, manage multiple projects at a time, and communicate effectively with our customers—all of which would be helpful in a marketing role. (Here’s a great cover letter template that can help you show off your transferable skills.)

Even more important is demonstrating your additive skills, says career expert Sara McCord. That means fully embracing your career background and finding a way to express how that background will uniquely suit you for this job.

“Think about it: If you’re slightly underqualified, there’s a reason why,” she says. “If you spent the first two years of your career in a different sector, you bring experience from that industry.”

For example, when I first wanted to write for The Muse, I had absolutely no writing experience—but I did have management experience, which made me an ideal candidate to write management content.

Take a Risk

To get a hiring manager to choose you out of a sea of other applicants, especially when you may not be as qualified as the others, you might as well take a risk to stand out. Otherwise, you may simply pass under the radar. (And let’s be honest: What do you have to lose?)

For example, just take a look at some of the boldest applications we’ve seen around the web: an action figure resume, an interactive resume, and an infographic resume.

These types of applications certainly get the attention of the hiring manager, clearly conveying that the person just might have something the tips the scale in his or her favor. (Just make sure to follow these tips to make sure you’re not going too over the top.)

But maybe you don’t want (or don’t have the means) to be that bold. You can stand out in plenty of other ways, says counselor and Muse columnist Caris Thetford. For example, maybe you submit a project proposal with your application or compile your writing samples in an online profile. This can help you stand out from the other applicants just enough to show the hiring manager that you may deserve another look—and ideally, an interview.

Do Everything Else Right

You can’t afford to slip up when you think your resume might be on the bottom of the pile. That means sending every thank you note on time, following up in a timely (but not annoying) fashion, and proofreading your resume and cover letter a dozen times over to check for errors.

These may seem like small and insignificant gestures, but the smallest flaws can remove a candidate from the hiring process—and you don’t want that to be you.

By proving your worth in your application materials, you’ll have a much better chance of landing an interview—and then, you can showcase your cultural fit and passion face-to-face. Do that well, and you just may convince the hiring manager to take a chance on you.

This post is in partnership with The Muse. The article above was originally published on The Muse.

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MONEY job search

3 Ways to Fire Up Your Job Search During the Summer Slowdown

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Summertime can be a great opportunity for the determined job seeker.

It’s a myth that people don’t get hired over the summer. Yes, people are on vacation, so hiring typically slows down as interviews are harder to schedule, but people do get hired. As a job seeker, this means that the summer is a great time to rev up your search – your competition may take time off, assuming a hiring slowdown. Your hard-to-reach networking contacts may have a lighter, summer schedule and actually be reachable. Depending on your search goals, you might even have new opportunities because of the summer season. Here are three ways to tailor your job search activity for the summer:

1) Make it easy to schedule time with you

Summer is already a scheduling nightmare on the employer side because multiple vacation demands need to be considered. Make yourself readily available. Always carry an updated calendar with you — sync your phone with your main computer if you keep calendars in different places; sync your family calendar with your business one. You might also try an online scheduler, like TimeTrade or ScheduleOnce, where you can provide a link for the other person to see your availability and schedule directly.

2) Incorporate summer’s unique value proposition into your search activity

Propose outdoor networking meetings to take advantage of the warm weather. Reconnect with lost networking contacts by asking about vacation plans or sharing exciting plans of your own – the conversation may turn back to business but in the meantime at least you’ve kept in touch. If you have kids at sleepaway camp, take advantage of the quiet time by adding evening networking events. Many people work better when it’s brighter so exploit the longer summer days and get up earlier to put in extra research time and stay out later to add in more networking.

3) Pitch for summer “internships”

Many companies offer a summer internship program to take advantage of the off season for students. But with more of the workforce now in freelance and temporary roles, experienced professionals should consider tapping into summer opportunities for their own employment prospects. After all a company might need vacation coverage for experienced employees that is beyond the scope of what an intern can provide. Or the company may want to get a jumpstart on a longer-term project during the lighter summer season and could use extra experienced hands to get started. If you have only been focused on permanent, full-time jobs, consider adding consulting services to your pitch.

If you’re just starting your search, don’t assume the summer is too slow to gain traction. Use the summer to research company targets, update your marketing material, and rekindle personal contacts so that when the busy fall season hits you’re ready to move quickly.

If you’re in the busy part of a search and the summer vacation scheduling has put a delay in otherwise fast-moving interviews, don’t get discouraged. Check in regularly with whomever is coordinating your interviews — HR and/or the hiring manager. Give them lots of availability, and keep them posted if other prospective employers are moving faster than they are (employers are competitive and will not want to lose you to their competitors).

Regardless of where you are in your job search, summer is still a good time to stay active and make progress.

TIME career

5 Ways to Work and Live Abroad

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Get your passport ready

If you’ve always dreamed of frolicking through the Jardin du Luxembourg or living near the crystal-clear waters of the Caribbean, perhaps now is a great time to explore jobs abroad. International work can round out your resume, not to mention provide invaluable cultural experiences. And what better time than when you’re young and free to feed your wanderlust? Here, we spoke with several women about the positive impact these five jobs abroad had on their lives. Get your passport ready!

1. Work for a study-abroad program.

For Kelly Garofalo, living abroad was a family tradition. Several of her aunts and uncles studied through the John Felice Rome Center, a campus of Loyola University Chicago in Rome, Italy. Following in their adventurous footsteps, Garofalo studied abroad there her senior year. But that wasn’t the end of her time in Europe; after graduation, she returned to work as a student life assistant. “I just had to go back,” she says. “I couldn’t tell you why, but the feeling was that I just had unfinished business there.” As a student life assistant, Garofalo was responsible for orientation, behavior monitoring and floor activities, among other duties.

One of the biggest takeaways from Garofalo’s travels was letting go of the “American” idea of success: Go to college, have an internship, get a job, get married, get a promotion, have kids. “Once I moved out of the U.S., I realized how American this is,” she says. “In Italy, it was totally OK to work in a pizzeria if it’s what you loved. That was just as successful as a lawyer. Once I realized that, I started exploring many different career paths that I never would have before.” Garofalo went on to get a masters degree in Sustainable Tourism Development and Destination Management and is currently working at a startup in the field.

How to apply for an RA/SLA position: Ask your school’s study-abroad office about opportunities for working in another country. If you’re a student at Loyola, visit the school’s SLA application site.

2. Teach English.

In 2009—four years after graduating college—Stormy Chapman was following a traditional career path, working at Dell in Oklahoma, making a good salary and loving her job. But an enlightening talk with a friend who was teaching English in South Korea prompted Chapman to drastically change her life’s course; within three weeks of their chat, she quit her job, packed her life in a couple suitcases and waved goodbye to the U.S.

While in South Korea, Chapman taught English to children and teens ages 5 to 16. She stayed for two years (the first time) and met the man who would become her husband. Chapman loved her time in South Korea so much that she and her husband returned for another year, where she taught kindergarten and after-school programs for 13- to 16-year-olds. As it turns out, Chapman discovered a real calling for teaching and went back to school for her U.S. teaching degree. “It was the best thing I’ve ever done,” Chapman says of living abroad.

The same was true for Natalie Smith, whose time overseas led to a permanent career path. Smith worked for two years at the Global Vision Christian School in Eumseong, South Korea, and now teaches English as a second language in Texas. She advises those with an itch to go abroad: “Do it! You can always come home if it does not work out.”

How to apply for a teaching position: First, determine the country where you’d like to teach English, then research options online. Destinations such as France and South Korea have many programs from which to choose. Check out sites including Dave’s ESL Cafe (where Chapman found her job), or the Teaching Assistant Program in France. Be sure to check the requirements, but many times a bachelor’s degree in any subject is all that’s needed.

3. Board a cruise ship.

Post-graduation, Christina Chen found herself aboard a Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines ship as a dancer and aerialist. During her time living on the ship (the entertainment crew spends six-plus months performing six shows a week) Chen had the opportunity to see places including Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and many Caribbean islands. “It was the opportunity of a lifetime,” Chen says. “I don’t even think I realized that I would get to see so much of the world, and I had no idea the richness that I would experience, meeting people from 60-plus different countries.”

And the experience had some serious resume perks, too: The aerial shows aboard Royal’s ships are choreographed, taught, and produced by a Chicago-based company called C5 Create With No Limits. After her most recent contract with Royal, C5 contacted Chen and asked if she would be interested in performing with them in Chicago. This led to other performing opportunities with C5, as well as a gig teaching an aerial show.

How to apply for a cruise ship staff position: Check out Royal Caribbean and All Cruise Jobs for a range of options (not just dancing).

4. Join the Peace Corps.

Lauren DeFino, who’s now a teacher in the Bronx, wanted to see the world and help others at the same time. From 2005 to 2007, DeFino worked with the Peace Corps in Jamaica, where she was assigned to the Montego Bay Marine Park, and also worked as an education officer performing outreach in schools. Like Chapman and Smith, DeFino says her job abroad led her to pursue teaching in the U.S. Not only has the Peace Corps been a great resume builder, DeFino says, but it also helped her make connections around the world.

How to apply for the Peace Corps: Visit the organization’s website here.

5. Become scuba certified.

DeFino traveled the world through other jobs, as well. Before joining the Peace Corps, she became a certified scuba instructor in Honduras, where she lived for six months. And after returning from her Peace Corps stint in Jamaica, she again turned to scuba instruction for a chance to live abroad—this time in St. Martin. “I lived on a catamaran and would sail to different countries,” she says. “It’s really a great job if you want to travel.” Of course, she says, scuba instruction isn’t for everyone—you must love the water.

How to get scuba certified: Check out the Professional Organization of Diving Instructors or Utila Dive Center.

Want to learn more about jobs abroad? We’re also digging this roundup from The Abroad Guide.

This article originally appeared on Levo.com.

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TIME Careers & Workplace

How to Ace Your Job Interview After a Long Employment Gap

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Expect the interviewer to ask about your unemployment

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After being unemployed for a while, you’ve (finally) landed a job interview. In addition to feeling excited, you may also be a little nervous. Especially since being out of work likely caused your confidence and general outlook on life to take a little dip.

Good news: You’re not alone. A study of German adults published in February in the Journal of Applied Psychology found that “mean levels of agreeableness, conscientiousness, and openness,” decreased over time in unemployed participants. However, your comeback interview isn’t the time to dwell on the challenges of being unemployed. After all, this opportunity means you’re back in the game.

Yes, this could be your big chance to return to work! So, shift your focus to acing the interview. Here are three tips that will help you do just that—even if you’re out of practice or lacking your old confidence.

1. Talk it Out

If it’s been a long time since your last interview, you’ll want to practice your conversation skills. Before the interview, chat with contacts in person or on the phone—rather than connecting via email or text. Meet an old colleague for lunch, call a family member, or ask your mentor to meet for coffee. If you practice talking about your experience and career goals, you’ll feel more confident heading into your interview.

Still unsure who to reach out to? Get in touch with your (potential) references. It’s important to connect with them right away and make sure you’re both on the same page as to how you’ll be presenting your unemployment. That way, there won’t be any conflicting accounts if the hiring manager follows up. Once you’ve sorted everything out, use them as interview sounding boards, too.

2. Prepare for the Expected

You know that question is coming. The interviewer will ask about your unemployment—so there’s no reason to be unprepared.

Instead, know what you’re going to say and how you’re going to say it. Be honest and focus on the positives. Center the conversation on what you’ve learned from your unemployment, the skills you worked on during your time off, the hobbies you picked up, or the volunteer work you did. Highlighting these experiences enthusiastically will make you more desirable to employers.

Remember this throughout the process: Your unemployment does not define you—you are a complex person with multiple skills and interests. Make sure your interview reflects that accurately.

3. Keep the Conversation Moving

Now that we’ve covered how to discuss your unemployment, you know the last thing I’d recommend is glossing over that resume gap. But, at the same time, it shouldn’t be the center of attention either (that honor belongs to you!). Say what you need to say about it, and then move on to discuss your skills and the position.

If you feel the conversation is lingering on the subject, redirect it. Connect your past experience to the current opportunity by discussing skills you acquired that would be applicable to the new role. Find a way to relate the old to the new.

Or, ask the interviewer questions about the position or the company. You can say something like, “I learned a lot from that experience, but I’m really looking toward my future and the opportunity with your company. Can you tell me a little more about X?”

Another great strategy is to follow up on your personal narrative with some facts about the industry. This is an easy way to show the hiring manager that you’re still on top of the latest news and trends. It sounds like this: “When I worked for X company, Y was a big issue. But recently, Z has been a major factor in the industry. How is the company prepared to deal with that?”

Remember, even if the interviewer doesn’t ask any further questions about your familiarity with the sector, knowing that you are prepared will help you feel knowledgeable, relevant, and ready to tackle the job.

Yes, your current situation may be a challenge—but it doesn’t have to be a setback. After all, it’s led you to this interview, which may just start your next chapter. Show the interviewer that you have a positive attitude and are focused on the future by coming to your interview fully prepared.

This post is in partnership with The Muse. The article above was originally published on The Muse.

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TIME Careers & Workplace

3 Mistakes to Avoid for Your Next Job Interview

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Not giving specific examples

Humans are not perfect. We all make mistakes. This is why it is vital for candidates to acknowledge that errors will occur during an interview; trying to achieve a totally error free interview is both futile and counterproductive. If you are hyper-focused on a flawless delivery, you’ll be over stressed, unnecessarily nervy, and needlessly high-strung. The errorless interview is an impossible aim.

Rather than focus on perfection to a fault – potentially undermining your performance — focus on avoiding a smaller, more manageable shortlist of the most criminal interview mistakes. To start you off, here are three errors you should try never to make.

1. Not Providing Examples When Answering Questions

Research shows that the most reliable way to assess a candidate is by using behavioral interviewing techniques. Behavioral interview questions focus on past performance, e.g., “Give me an example of a time in your job when you faced this situation.” This question has a specific purpose: get you to provide concrete examples of how you have successfully managed the situation in question. Behavioral questions don’t want hypothetical answers; they want specific evidence of real performance.

Despite this, candidates still fail to respond to these questions correctly. That is, they don’t provide specific examples. According to a CareerBuilder study, failure to provide specific examples in answer to behavioral questions is one of the most common and detrimental mistakes candidates make. Make sure you prep for behavioral questions before the interview, so that you can give example-heavy, rather than hypothetical, answers.

2. Being Too Focused on Money and Not Focused Enough on Job Satisfaction

It’s right to be focused on money — in the right way at the right time. However, appearing fixated on money is a massive mistake often made by hungry candidates, and being so fixated can dent your chances of landing the job. Most good employers know that pay alone is not enough to get you excited about and engaged with your job — which is what employers want.

Research shows that what actually motivates workers, day in and day out, is a job that they find meaningful, empowering, career-nurturing, and fulfilling. This is why it’s a big mistake to be too fixated on money during the interview. Employers could see this as a sign that you are interested in the paycheck, not the job. People like that rarely make the best employees.

By all means, fight for the salary you deserve. At the same time, you need to demonstrate clearly that you find the job and the organizational culture to be meaningful and exciting. Make sure you prove to prospective employers that you are a perfect fit for the job. Ask pertinent questions and demonstrate your interest and curiosity.

Show the employer that the job/company itself is the main pull for you, and not the money. Failure to do this will seriously handicap your chances. Take heed of the fact that a CareerBuilder study found that the most detrimental interview mistake was appearing disinterested in the job.

3. Accepting the First Salary That Is Offered

This is not a ticket to be uncooperative and argumentative. If the employer has smashed the ball out of the park when it comes to their first amazing salary offer, it’s probably a mistake to contest it.

On the other hand, not negotiating a low-ball offer could mean you are leaving good money on the table, as84 percent of employers expect candidates to negotiate salary. Furthermore, 70 percent of employers make lowball offers on purpose, fully expecting to be negotiated upwards. By accepting the first salary offered, you could be leaving up to around $5,000 a year on the table, suggests a study from George Mason and Temple Universities.

A word of caution: if you are to negotiate, make sure you conduct a reasonable and fair negotiation; know when to accept what is being offered as final. Pushing beyond the point of reason could harm your employment prospects.

Our mission at Recruiter is to open doors for people. We help connect the next generation of job seekers with exciting, meaningful opportunities with top employers. We build technology, content and services that help take the pain out of job search.

This article originally appeared on Recruiter.com.

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This Is How Social Media Could Affect Your Job Search

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It can help you become memorable—or rather forgettable

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Everywhere you look, social media is filled with overused hyperbole.

I tripped on the way to the bathroom today, epic fail.

I am looking for the world’s best quiche recipe. Go!

My husband is the best ever <3

#daverocks

Hyperbole—exaggerated statements or claims not to be taken literally—can be a useful device to make a point, and it brings added spice to a conversations. Spice is good, but who wants to eat a spoonful of paprika? Right, me neither.

The Problem With Status Updates

Social media allows you to be more transparent and more connected than ever before, but it also encourages you to be more superficial, branding yourself in a certain way that hides your faults and gives your friends FOMO. Social media peer pressure subconsciously draws you to conform: You become addicted to likes—tempted to exaggerate further or put out a message people will respond to even if it’s not fully honest.

Many people use this strategy in their job search, unaware that it’s holding them back from being genuine and authentic. Have you ever used an absurd hashtag or related a regular difficulty as an epic fail? If so, you’re participating in social media norms that cause word-inflation—the process by which powerful words mean less and less over time from repetition (e.g., you’re not “dying” over fashion; your life isn’t “over” because you’re late to work; and your ex isn’t “the worst person who ever lived”).

When you post hyperbole as fact regularly, it becomes your standard method of expressing yourself, and it prevents you from learning how to describe—and maybe even assess—yourself and your reality. So while social media is poised to be an outlet where you can learn to be creative and uniquely expressive, it can entrench you in using over-the-top phrases, statements, and slang to convey your thoughts, feelings, and situation.

Social Media and Your Candidacy

When you look for a new job, whether it’s out of necessity or because you’re ready for the next thing, it’s usually a stressful time. When stressed, many people fall back on what they’re used to. And if you’re used to exaggerating on social media, you may not realize the extent to which this language bleeds onto your application, which can make you unlikable—or worse.

Hyperbolic buzzwords such as amazing team player, driven, out-of-the-box-thinker, and results-oriented appear on hundreds of resumes, but they’re never the reason someone is hired. Why? Because they don’t show your unique value. When the majority of the resumes that a hiring manager reviews contain the same buzzwords, how will she know you’re special? What does amazing team player even mean at that point? Nothing.

I have interviewed hundreds of people: There is a stark difference between those who rely on buzzwords because that’s what they think I want to hear and those who have a unique story to tell. One type is forgettable, the other memorable. I’ll let you choose which is which.

Of course, being an amazing team player is a positive and valuable thing to have in an employee. But, when thrown around without context, it actually makes it more difficult to connect with you. First, it throws you into the pool with all of the other “amazing team players,” and second, there are a hundred different ways of being an amazing team player, so without providing specifics, it doesn’t really tell me anything about you.

Are you the person in a group who can understand all of the different ideas being shared and combine them into an action plan? Or are you the person who doesn’t say much but works behind the scenes to make sure all the Ts are crossed and Is are dotted? Do you make sure others are heard? Are you a natural leader or a follower or both? You show your value not by using buzzwords, but by highlighting your specific accomplishments. Prove you are an amazing team player by relaying a story of a time you successfully worked as part of a team.

So, What’s the Solution?

The good news is: The problem is actually the key to the solution. Revitalize your current and future job search by avoiding catch phrases and hyperbole and practicing sincerity and accuracy in your language. Learn to use language creatively to describe or express your thoughts. In the words of Vince Lombardi, “…perfect practice makes perfect,” and social media is a platform on which you can master the use of words to sell yourself, your ideas, and your positions. This mastery will not only help you to better connect with your friends, family, and network, but it will also help you develop skills to describe your value to a new company that will set you apart from all the team players you’re competing against.

Besides, who wants to be a team player on a team of results oriented, outside-the-box thinking team players? I would rather be a member of a team where I can add unique value. Once you do get hired,then you can appropriately share: I got hired for my dream job! #Epic! Dave for the win!

This post is in partnership with The Muse. The article above was originally published on The Muse.

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