10 Hard Truths About Getting Hired That You Don't Want to Believe


No, it's not fair or fun. But these factors can affect whether or not you get hired.

1. Your Name Does Matter

This is a tough one for many people to swallow, but the evidence is overwhelming. Sadly, white-sounding names have a 50% greater chance of receiving a callback than African-American or ethnic names, according to a 2009 study by MIT. But even recent studies confirm that very little has changed.

As much as we want to believe we are a society free from racism, we're not. If you do have a name that is very far removed from John Smith or Jane Williams, you might have a hard time getting your foot in the door. However, there is a caveat to this. Some companies that are accused of having no diversity in the workforce will actively look for candidates with those ethnic names. So, occasionally, it can work in your favor.

2. Your Sex Makes a Difference

Similarly, we have not advanced as much as we'd hoped in the sexism arena, either. A recent study from Yale showed that when identical resumes were assigned to male and female applicants, the males received higher rankings and were offered more money. This, despite the fact that the only difference between the two resumes was that one belonged to John and the other to Jennifer. Women are still underpaid compared to their male counterparts, and this looks unlikely to change in the near future. (See also: Stupid Reasons Why People Make More Money)

3. Pretty People Get All the Breaks

Beauty is worshipped in our society. We revere it, in the same way we revere rare jewels, fancy cars, and fine wines. And beauty is something that doesn't just open doors, but also the wallets of many employers. Daniel Hamermesh outlines this very well in his 2011 book "Beauty Pays: Why Attractive People Are More Successful." Those attractive people at your office (maybe you're one of them), doing exactly the same job as people less beautiful, are getting 3-4% more money in their paychecks. They start on a higher salary, and it will grow more. Over a lifetime, that adds up to a lot of money. So, why do they get the breaks? Well, people trust attractive people more. They want to be around them.

4. If You're Short, the Odds Are Not in Your Favor

It may date back to our days as hunter/gatherers, or a simple assumption that height equates to strength, but our society gives bigger breaks to taller people. A recent study of large corporations shows that the average height of a male CEO is six feet. That's three inches taller than the average height of an adult male. And we all know the wealth and success that comes with the CEO title. Women find tall men attractive, and that goes back to number three — attractive people get more money, and more breaks. Society in general finds taller men and women to be better leaders. Of course, height has nothing to do with intelligence or leadership capabilities, but this superficial difference will improve your career prospects. (See also: How to Be a Good Leader by Listening)

5. Age Is Not Just a Number

Another sad but true statistic — your age plays a big part in the job you're going for.

Although laws exist to stop age discrimination in the workforce, it doesn't stop employers from getting around them. There are many reasons for this. Some do not want to invest time and energy training an older employee who will not be around as long as a younger one. There's also the case of money. A young employee will expect less money to do the same job as someone older. And there are also assumptions that older people won't be as mentally sharp or aggressive as the younger candidate. This means that a 50-year-old with better qualifications and experience will have a harder time getting a job than a person 20 years younger with less experience.

6. Computers Are Selecting Resumes

This is not the future. It's happening right now, right here. A piece of software called Applicant Tracking Software (ATS) scans the massive influx of resumes that employers are now getting for every job they post. It looks for certain keywords, grammatical errors, overuse of graphics and logos, and several other screening criteria. So, knowing this, you need to make sure your resume is buttoned up tight, and is catering to the specific job you are going after. (See also: Great Ways to Improve Your Resume)

7. Anyone Can Fail a Drug Test

Many employers these days are insisting on drug tests for successful applicants. But did you know that drug tests return false positives at least 10%, and as much as 30%, of the time? Codeine and Vicks Formula 44-M can produce a false positive for heroin. Advil can show up as marijuana. And NyQuil can give you a false positive for amphetamines. Remember the episode of "Seinfeld" that had Elaine failing a drug test due to poppy seed muffins? Well, it's not so funny in real life.

8. Social Media Like Twitter and Facebook Are Checked

It may seem like a complete invasion of privacy, but employers are using social networks to help them make hiring decisions. Those photos you posted of that crazy party, or the rant you threw out there about a political decision, can all be used against you. In fact, 92% of employers are looking into your social history. And they also look for positive associations, too. A candidate with affiliations to important groups, or people, will get bonus points. (See also: How to Avoid Social Media Slip-Ups at Work)

9. To Get a Job, You Need a Job

The old Catch 22 scenario is prevalent these days. Employers don't want to hire people who aren't currently employed. Why? Well, if they don't have a job, maybe they're not good enough. Maybe they're not worth hiring. Maybe they're unemployed for a reason. Why take that risk? Sadly, if you lose your job, you have to get back to work quickly, or you risk being caught in that trap.

10. First Impressions Really Do Count

The way you shake hands. What you're wearing. The time of your arrival. The questions you ask. The shine on your shoes. The list is endless, and varies from employer to employer. But what most interviewers agree on is that it takes just seconds to make a decision about someone.

A recent study says seven seconds is all they need! And you have the same processing skills, too. When you meet someone for the first time, instincts kick in. You know if you will like that person or not. They may say things over time to sway you one way or another, but in a job hunting situation, you don't have that luxury. So, even if the interview is 60 minutes long, the employer probably made up their mind 59 minutes ago.

Do you have any job-hunting experiences you'd like to share with us? Please leave your comments below.

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Guest's picture
Someone's Mom

It's true. Age does matter. Employers have told me on the phone that, based on my resume, they are very interested in me. After the interview, I get the usual "We will let you know within a week." I never hear from them. I cover my gray hair, but I can't afford a face lift so I'll look young enough to suit.

Guest's picture

I once had an interview at a car dealership and the guy did not ask me any questions. I sat there for 5 uncomfortable minutes waiting for him to ask a question. Then finally I asked "do you have any questions about my qualifications?" He mumbled something and the phone rang and he had a conversation with another person he was going to interview (he was very rude to THAT person and then after the call made fun of their resume). Then I waited for another question and was once again met with painful silence. They I asked if he could tell me a bit more about the job (admin assistant). Then the truth came out - the admin assistant job was really a telemarketing job, calling up people and trying to sell them extra service plans to convincing them to pay $75 for an oil change when they could get one for $25 elsewhere.

I suppose his incompetence did me a favor but I was pretty pissed that he wasted my time. In hindsight the question I really wanted to ask him was "how do you have a job?"

Guest's picture

It's sad that age does matter when it comes to getting a job. I had a friend who so much trouble finding a job because of his age. Although he is intelligent and has the skills that are required, he wasn't hired. Maybe we all just should look at the bright side and accept the fact of it but never give up in finding other opportunities for us.

Guest's picture

Does your interview include lunch out? If possible, order a bowl of soup (no, not the onion soup with the cheese, the kind you can eat neatly with a spoon, without slurping). It's hard to be comfortable when they ask a question right after you took a bite of your burger and you are still chewing. Also, less likely to drip ketchup on your suit or shirt. I did this for an interview once. We went to Olive Garden, so the bread sticks helped fill in the corners and I had not overeaten (which makes me sleepy).