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    7 Interview Questions You Never Have to Answer (& How You Should Respond)

    When you’re interviewing for a job — and particularly one you really want — it can be tempting to tell your interviewer everything they want to hear. But some seemingly innocent questions can actually be inappropriate (and often illegal). 

    First things first: An interview is about your qualifications for the job

    Understanding whether a candidate fits a certain position and the company culture is a primary task of employers throughout an interview. Along with aptitude assessments, screening, and testing, questions are a key evaluation tool for HR teams and hiring managers. Yet, there are some fine legal lines between what’s acceptable and what’s not when it comes to job interviews. The general rule of thumb is anything you’re asked should relate to your qualifications for the job in question.

    At a high level, regulations around interview questions and employment decisions are designed to protect potential employees from discrimination unrelated to their ability to do the job. Some jobs have mandatory qualifications, referred to as Bona Fide Occupational Qualifications (BFOQs). These may initially seem out of line but are valid in the context of a certain employer or role. 

    Asking someone’s age, for example, is generally off-limits. However, it may be permissible to ask airline pilots as broader safety regulations exist around this. BFOQs are related to hiring based on age, sex, race, national origin, or religion. Most tech roles, however, shouldn’t come with any BFOQs so a feeling of discomfort is more than likely signals an inappropriate ask.

    What’s actually off-limits?

    Companies are not allowed to make hiring decisions based on any of the following (excluding in the case of BFOQs): 

    AgeMarital and family statusDisabilitiesRace or colorGenderReligionBirthplace, nationality, or ancestrySalary history (in some places—check your state and city regulations)

    While many seemingly innocent questions appear to be the interviewer’s attempt to get to know you (and may well be!), answering questions about your family status, religion, etc. may unfairly bias your interviewer and distract them from the real topic at hand: whether you’re the best candidate for this role.

    Be prepared to answer questions related to education, work experience, motivation, personal qualities, and future career plans. Be wary of questions violating personal boundaries. Employers are actually not entitled to ask such questions, and you do not need to answer them. As a jobseeker, this right is protected by the law.

    Whether you’re being asked maliciously or not, here’s your guide to handling inappropriate questions if they come up in an interview.

    1. Are you married?

    It’s unlikely you will come across such a direct question. In fact, all questions related to a candidate’s marital status are technically illegal. However, some employers might overstep boundaries and ask about plans for marriage or work after the birth of children. This could be in an attempt to tease out answers about a candidate’s commitment to the company in the future. 

    According to research, only 12% of respondents said they were asked in an interview about their future plans for marriage. As many as 28% reported the interviewer asked about their marital status. 

    How to respond

    In order to shift the conversation back to a work-related topic, you can respond with:

    “I’m not quite ready yet for this discussion, but I’m very interested in career development in your company. Could you tell me more about this?” 

    This will demonstrate your motivation and commitment to career growth, while simultaneously setting boundaries.

    2. Do you have children? If not, do you plan on it? 

    Often, employers ask probing questions about family in a misled attempt to understand the candidate as a potential employee. Women, for example, receive questions about having children amid a common stereotype about employees with small children taking more time off and sick leave. 

    Studies show 25% of interviewers asked women if they had children. Since, in the modern world, a man can also go on maternity leave, such questions are invalid, inappropriate, and even meaningless. 

    To some candidates, this question is unacceptable and discourages them from working with a team where personal boundaries are violated.

    How to respond

    One of the possible answers:

    “Yes, I do. However, I’d prefer to keep this conversation focused on my professional skills”, or “I know it can be challenging to find the right work-life balance. However, I can assure you I do not allow my personal life to interfere with my professional duties.”

    3. What was your salary in your last job?

    A potential employer can discuss with the candidate financial issues relating exclusively to salary expectations for the position the company is interviewing. 

    The employer does not have the right to share information about wages at the previous place of work. Currently, it’s illegal for some or all employers to ask you about your payment history in several cities and states. It’s called a salary ban.

    What is a salary ban?

    Salary history bans are policies preventing employers from asking about a candidate’s previous salary. The bans aim to reduce pay discrimination in hiring decisions and are a step toward promoting equal pay. 

    Jobseekers may rephrase the question regarding salary expectations into a current salary negotiation. Candidates can also share a figure of their expectations if they think it will work in their favor. 

    How to respond

    For instance: 

    “I’m not comfortable discussing my salary history, but I do know my target salary for this position is X amount” or “My previous employer was very strict about privacy and security. Thus, I’m not entitled to disclose information about the salaries they offer.”

    4. How would you handle managing a team of all men/women?

    Unfortunately, gender discrimination is still far too common in the labor market. It’s especially visible through wage inequality. While there are myths and stereotypes related to “male” and “female” professions, and the ability to perform certain jobs, interview questions related to these matters remain taboo. 

    During interviews, employers may ask candidates to prove their ability to perform tasks they believe are appropriate for members of the opposite sex. In this case, candidates should focus all attention on their achievements and results.

    How to respond

    In this case, we advise dropping the gender aspect and focusing on your managerial skills in an answer. For example: 

    “I’m very comfortable in a management role. In fact, in my last position, I managed these responsibilities well for over a year.”

    5. What country are you originally from?

    Many employers may have trouble hiring employees who are legally prohibited from working in the country. This has led companies to take tougher measures in finding out more about the origin of future employees. 

    But the only legal way to find out is to ask directly: “Are you legally allowed to work in this country?” Phrasing the question as “Where were you born?” or “Where are you from?” and making citizenship inquiries are illegal. 

    According to a CareerBuilder and Harris Poll survey of more than 2,100 hiring and Human Resources managers, about 20% unwittingly asked candidates illegal questions in an interview. 

    How to respond

    Candidates can gracefully evade this by saying: “I have lived in different places, but by law, I have the right to work in this country.”

    6. What religion do you practice?

    The employer does not have the right to demand an answer about which church you go to or whether you go at all. 

    If you do decide to answer this question, pay attention to how important it is to the interviewer. Ardent adherence to a certain idea may indicate an unhealthy atmosphere in the company.

    How to respond

    You can note you have your religion, but also respect that of others. To eliminate the abusive effect of this question, you can say: “I’m certain I’ll be able to work the schedule you need for this position, so no worries.”

    7. Do you have any physical impairments or disabilities?

    Some companies require future employees to submit medical certificates about their health status. It can be a measure of concern for potential employees. 

    But employers cannot be interested in your well-being and chronic health problems in the interview out of idle interest — to estimate how often you will take sick leave, for example. This information is confidential and only applies to you and your doctor.

    Candidates can disclose their disabilities in advance if they feel comfortable doing so. If you are curious about disclosing a disability in the job search, read this guide. 

    How to respond

    For instance: 

    “I believe I have all the necessary skills and abilities to fulfill the responsibilities related to the role.”

    Moving Forward

    At the end of the day, innocent-enough intentions are behind most interview questions. However, illegal or inappropriate questions may be a red flag in regard to the company’s HR professionalism and culture as a whole. Directly answering them can violate your personal boundaries and/or lead to discrimination. Don’t feel obligated to answer questions that detract from what matters: your qualifications, interest in, and ability to do the job.  More

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    Meet Hired’s Candidate Experience Team: Supporting Jobseekers Every Step of the Way

    A top resource for jobseekers looking for Tech & Sales roles  

    A positive candidate experience is an essential part of a successful hiring process, so we have a team dedicated to supporting jobseekers on the Hired platform. 

    Get to know the Candidate Experience Team

    The Candidate Experience (CX) Team currently consists of six members whose responsibilities include: 

    Profile polishing at the onboarding stageCareer coaching and providing resources for navigating the job searchInterview check-ins and interview requests (IVRs) helpGeneral support using the Hired platform

    While the CX team is available to Hired jobseekers at any stage, we typically assign a dedicated CX team member after a jobseeker accepts their first IVR to ensure smooth sailing during the interview process. 

    CX helps bridge the gap between candidates and employers to create a streamlined process. For instance, if a candidate has not heard back from a company, CX can work with the organization’s account manager to get them back in touch with the candidate. The team advocates for transparency on both ends and encourages jobseekers to maintain clear communication with potential employers too.

    If candidates receive an offer, CX checks in again to congratulate them of course, and see if they can provide further support. This could be advice for an offer negotiation or to act as a sounding board to weigh opportunities. From coaching to even some much-needed encouragement (the job search is tough!), CX is here for candidates. 

    Here to help every candidate have a great experience

    First, the Candidate Experience Team is a resource for you. They’re here to help and they work hard behind the scenes too, constantly collaborating with every team across Hired to find ways to improve the candidate experience and help you land your dream job. 

    Second, are you subscribed to The Hired Download email newsletter? They’re the folks sending it! Third, have you attended a How Hired Helps: Ask Me Anything Webinar to get your job search questions answered? They help make those events happen too! 

    Speaking of Hired resources for candidates, we asked team members to share their favorite items to support jobseekers. Here’s what they recommend: 

    “My experience with Hired was great! I landed a job interview offer almost immediately and at the end of the day managed to land a new job via Hired! I also had some great assistance in both the form of website popups as well as regular emails from the team. I would be happy to use Hired again if I need to change my job.”

    Mykola Y., Hired User

    5 of the CX Team’s top tips to find new tech & sales roles on Hired

    Respond to interview requests quickly! Even if you aren’t available to interview for several weeks, you can always accept the interview request and schedule the interview in advance. Being responsive shows you’re interested and proactive. Employers respond well to quick communication.Be courteous when interviewing. Likewise, send thank you notes after interviews and follow up if you haven’t heard back from a company. Displaying a genuine interest in the opportunity and putting your best foot forward in the interview process is as important as any other skill you bring to the table!Be transparent and keep your profile and resume up-to-date. Include all relevant experience and make sure the information on your resume aligns with your profile and LinkedIn – employers check for consistency.Make sure to polish your profile so employers have all the information they need – any extra information is always a bonus! Use the “Must-Have,” “Nice To Have,” & “Do not Want” sections of your profile. Employers also love it when they’re able to get a glimpse of your personality through your profile. It helps them understand if you like working in specific environments, like pair programming. It also helps them personalize their IVRs to you if something in your profile (even interests and hobbies!) aligns with their team. Another reason is if they feel certain benefits or projects would resonate with you.Focus on hard skills when completing the “Primary Area of Expertise” section. Using skills as keywords helps us match you for available roles. Plus, most recruiters search this way using keywords as filters.

    Related: Get more guidance in this blog featuring a video presentation: Want More Interviews and Better Matches? 5 Key Tips! 

    Why the Candidate Experience Team loves what they do

    We’ve shared lots of reasons for you to love the CX Team so let’s wrap up with what the team loves about working with jobseekers: 

    “The CX role is a rewarding one. Navigating a candidate to a destination ‘dream job’ is what we do best!”“It’s an extremely rewarding experience helping people get jobs they’re excited about! A lot goes into the interview process and it can be tiring, so seeing candidates overcome that tall task to get a role they love makes it all worth it!”“It’s brilliant speaking to candidates daily to ensure they’re doing well on the platform and helping them where they need it. I think it really helps to have someone on the platform solely to support them and to assist where needed! It’s a great moment (and truly rewarding) when they secure a role and are thrilled about their new venture. That’s what Hired is all about: connecting great candidates to great employers!”

    A note from the team: We welcome feedback about our candidates’ experiences using Hired. That includes what works and what doesn’t. We encourage you to share your experience with us! We appreciate it and use it to continuously improve the platform.

    Get personalized job search support

    To conclude, the CX Team is ready to partner with you, so use them to navigate the job search process. In addition, Hired partners with organizations to support jobseekers with resume enhancement, technical interview prep, upskilling, and more. Discover organizations to fit your career advancement needs. Plus, many offer discounts on their services to Hired platform candidates!

    The Hired Summit

    Lastly, mark your calendar for April 26th, 2023, for Hired’s Summit. It’s a free one-day virtual event to share job search tips and tricks and connect top talent to companies. The Summit offers tech and sales talent a variety of workshops, panel discussions, networking rooms, and so much more. 

    Discover upcoming events to get job search guidance and connect with top employers. More

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    Should You Disclose a Disability During Your Job Search? The Complete Guide

    Searching for a new job can be a stressful, anxiety-inducing process for anyone. If you’re one of the 61 million U.S. adults (26% of the population) who lives with a disability, a job search can be even more complex and worrisome.

    Are you legally required to share information about your disability in the first place? Can employers opt to pass over your candidacy due to a disability? When is the best time to disclose your disability during the application and interview process? How specific do you have to get?

    These are just some of the many questions that might be passing through your mind as you think about applying for your next job. 

    Luckily, being prepared is half the battle. By researching what to expect during the process, you can take some of the pressure out of applying for a job with a disability.

    What types of disability forms will I come across during my job search?

    The most common disability form you’ll encounter during your job search is the Voluntary Self-Identification of Disability form issued by the Office of Management and Budget. 

    A disability form is a government-required step in the application process for a company in order to provide equal employment opportunities for those with disabilities. In the United States, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission enforces Federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. An equal opportunity employer is one that pledges to not discriminate against employees based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability or genetic information. Therefore, companies ask — but do not require — applicants to fill out this form.

    In a nutshell, this form explains the reasoning behind requesting the information, tells you which conditions qualify as disabilities, and gives you three options for answers: 

    Yes, I have a disability or have a history/record of having a disabilityNo, I don’t have a disability or a history/record of having a disabilityI don’t wish to answer

    Do I need to disclose my disability to employers in the first place?

    This question is often top of mind for folks. When the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law in 1990, it became illegal for employers to discriminate against hiring qualified individuals due to mental or physical disability. 

    On top of that, the ADA also requires employers to make “reasonable accommodations” to ensure that qualified individuals with disabilitiesf can perform effectively at work (e.g., putting in a wheelchair ramp to access an office building). 

    Unfortunately, despite the progress since 1990, discrimination is still common and not all cases get solved. In 2021 alone, 22,843 disability claims were filed nationally, making it the most commonly reported type of discrimination in the workforce. 

    Refocusing on the positives, know that you are in control of what to share. You are not legally required to disclose your disability status to a potential employer. 

    It’s also worth noting that you might not be required to get into the specifics of your condition — which might give candidates who don’t want to be associated with the stigma of their disability peace of mind. While the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) hasn’t issued formal guidance on whether employers can ask for the precise diagnosis, some states, including California and Connecticut, do not allow companies to ask for detailed information about your medical history. 

    Despite the legal protections that exist (more on this in a bit), it’s perfectly understandable why someone with a disability might hesitate to disclose that information. All other factors the same, might an employer opt to hire a candidate without a disability over one with a disability? It’s a very valid concern.

    Before we take a look at some of the scenarios where it makes sense to disclose your condition, let’s take a step back and examine your legal rights as a jobseeker with a disability.

    Legal protection for jobseekers with disabilities

    If you’re qualifed for the essential functions of the job you’re applying for and you have a disability, the ADA protects you from getting passed over due to discrimination. “Qualification” includes having the requisite education, experience, and skill set needed to excel in the position — and the ability to perform the job responsibilities, with or without accommodation.

    This means that employers cannot discriminate against you during the recruiting, hiring, and training processes, and they also can’t discriminate against you when it comes to promotions, benefits, pay, and job assignments. During the interview process, employers are also not allowed to ask you questions about your medical history or health, whether you’ve filed workers’ comp claims, or whether you have disabilities. They can, however, ask questions about whether you are able to perform job responsibilities with reasonable accommodation. 

    While this protection creates an ideal scenario, discirimination can be difficult to prove in many cases. In the event you feel as though you’re being discriminated against, you need to file a claim with the EEOC within 180 days of said event taking place. Read more on how to file a complaint. 

    When is the best time to disclose a disability while job hunting?

    When it comes to disclosing your disability to a prospective employer, there’s no such thing as the perfect time. Some people have found being up front about it from the get-go has worked well, while others say early disclosure isn’t the best move for everyone. 

    When it boils down to it, timing your disclosure is up to you. Generally speaking, if you’re going to disclose your disability, you’ll have three options:

    Before the interview – this could be ideal for candidates who have visible disabilities so the interview can focus entirely on qualifications and experience During the interview – mentioning your disability during an interview can demonstrate your confidence to prospective employers and reassure them that your condition does not impact your performance and ability to meet the responsibilities of the roleAfter the interview – if you’ve got a job offer and haven’t disclosed your disability, now could be the best time, particularly if you’ll need accommodations

    Keep in mind that, while the ADA prevents employers from asking questions about disabilities during the interview process, they are allowed to ask after they’ve extended a job offer — as long as they ask the same questions to other candidates offered similar positions. If you decide to disclose information about a disability after an offer, know the employer cannot revoke it unless you cannot perform the primary job tasks or present a risk to yourself or others.

    Before you decide your strategy, spend some time researching the company to determine whether they have any public stance on hiring individuals with disabilities. In the age of diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives, many organizations are proactively searching for underrepresented individuals and putting effort and resources forward to foster a sense of belonging for all. In this light, revealing your disability could result in floodgates of support opening up. Not to mention, being your true, authentic self will really allow you to thrive in the workplace.

    If you’re still feeling unsure, we highly recommend clicking into the pages linked in this piece, as they go into extensive detail about various scenarios and may provide more specific information for your condition.

    Tips for discussing a disability during the job interview

    Catarina Rivera, disabled public speaker, offers guidance based on her experience with Usher syndrome. 

    Do not leave employers wondering whether you can perform the role. Explain to them how you will perform the tasks and functions essential to the position. Be confident and share your adaptations. This showcases your strengths and highlights exactly what you will bring to the table. 

    It is important, though, to avoid over explaining your diagnosis or disability. For example, if you have Usher syndrome. Instead of going into detail about what it is, you could say, “I wear hearing aids and have a limited field of vision due to a vision disability.” Don’t feel pressure to overshare or provide more information than necessary. You can keep it simple.  

    You have the right to request accommodations without stating your disability. For instance, as a person who is hard of hearing, you might say, “I benefit from closed captions. Can you please provide them during this virtual interview?” You can ask for what you need without elaborating or specifically having to say why. If the employer is truly inclusive, they will put in the effort. 

    If you’re feeling down on your luck, remember that you are not alone. There are numerous organizations that support people with disabilities in seeking meaningful work. Check out the resources below as you look for additional support and information.

    Diversability, an organization promoting disability pride

    Diversability is an award-winning ecosystem of over 70K (across all digital platforms) on a mission to elevate disability pride through disability community, visibility, and engaged allyship. Diversability works to break the cycle of social isolation and exclusion for disabled people, improving their overall wellbeing. Through the connections within the community and the work of the organization, Diversability aims to achieve representation and economic self-sufficiency for disabled people.

    Hired works with Diversability to provide community members a resource to find employment within the tech and sales space. This partnership aligns in the vision to create a world where all hiring is equitable, efficient, and transparent. Diversability encourages people with and without disabilities to check out their resources and community to connect with others, find support, or become an ally.

    Hired also partners with Diversability to educate the working world on disability representation and support in the workplace. If you’re an employer looking to make sure your organization creates a safe and accessible workplace for disabled employees, check out this article from Diversability: “Top 10 Disability Workplace Accommodations: How Does Your Company Measure Up?”

    Other resources for disclosing a disability during a job search

    Here’s to landing your dream job however you ultimately decide to navigate the process. Don’t forget to check out other listings on the Hired blog to assist with getting your job ready.

    Hired is the most efficient way to find a tech or a sales role you love today. With unbiased insights, DEI tools, skill assessments, and dedicated Candidate Experience Managers, Hired works with over 10,000 companies around the world to connect thousands of active and qualified candidates to employ their full potential. After registering, platform job seekers match with top employers thanks to better data, preference curation, and compensation transparency. Backed by The Adecco Group, Hired is rated by G2 as a leader in Recruiting Automation, Job Search Sites, and Diversity Recruiting. 

    Catarina Rivera, MSEd, MPH, CPACC, a disabled public speaker, DEI consultant, and content creator contributed to this article. More

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    Recently Laid Off? A Jobseeker’s Guide to Bounce Back Better Than Ever

    About this eBook

    If you’ve ever been laid off you know it’s often an emotional time full of uncertainty – but it doesn’t have to be that way! Learn what to do after a layoff and the steps to take to set yourself up for a successful job search. From getting financially organized to strengthening your network, preparation will build your confidence and put you in control of turning the page on this chapter. 

    What You’ll Learn

    How to process emotions and get your financial house in orderPractices around leveraging your network, informational interviews, and job search preparationWays to confidently approach interviewing and become a top candidate More

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    Interviewing After a Layoff? How to Be Confident & Become a Top Candidate

    The third article in our series to help jobseekers bounce back better than ever…

    Once you’ve absorbed the news of a layoff, organized your financials, and taken the next steps to kick off your job search, you’re ready. It’s time to begin interviewing after your layoff. Employed but concerned about the stability of your role or company? Use this article series to get organized and feel more prepared for changes.

    Win at Interviewing after a Layoff

    Securing interviews starts with job applications. Prioritize your job applications at a high volume, but what’s the best way to end with success? According to Pathrise Growth Marketing Associate Alex Macpherson and Career Strategist Mentor Ash Ayvar, it’s best to diversify your application sources by using multiple job boards and sending personalized cold emails to recruiters.

    Cold Email Tips and Tricks for Communicating with Hiring Teams from Pathrise

    Before you start sending out cold emails, there are a few things you need to know:

    Make sure to submit your application alongside or before you send a cold email.Focus your cold emailing efforts toward roles you feel passionate about and companies you would be excited to join. Narrow your focus to organizations with less than 500 people. This increases the likelihood someone will read and take action on your message.Stick to the weekends or early in the week when sending cold emails – if you send them on a Thursday or Friday, they’re less likely to be read. If you must, use ‘schedule send’ features, like in Gmail.It’s ok to send your cold email to multiple people within an organization, but keep the number of contacts to three or four at max. Choose contacts from different teams and divisions, too, or else you risk your email coming off as spammy. Don’t CC – send a separate email to each contact, even if your copy is the same.

    Pro Tip:

    These emails don’t have to be totally “cold.” Follow the guidance in Chapter 2 of this series, to grow your network through social media and informational interviews. That work may pay off in some “warm” leads on jobs or referrals. Proactive actions like this often reveal roles that haven’t been posted yet. In fact, this work cuts down on the outreach talent acquisition and sourcers need to do – you’re helping them!

    It’s worth noting, for technologists and sales or customer experience professionals who join the Hired platform, this type of outreach becomes unnecessary. Hired turns the job search dynamic upside down and once your profile is complete, we promote you to matching employers and roles. Employers search for you, requesting interviews with compensation information upfront. You decide which interviews you wish to accept – you can even pause your profile if you get too many interview requests at once. See how Hired works here.

    When Interviewing After a Layoff, Be Authentic and Upfront

    Many candidates suffer some anxiety and nervousness about discussing their layoffs in subsequent interviews. Fortunately, you really don’t need to worry so much about it. Be upfront and authentic in how you talk about the situation. Keep your answers focused – there’s no need to go into lots of information about the layoff and waste valuable interview time. 

    Do acknowledge the layoff and explain it with relevant context. It may be helpful to give specific details. For example, is there a factual number or percentage of how many employees on your team or overall were laid off? Weave it in. Doing so helps your interviewer better understand your situation and illustrates you were one of many. 

    Was the reduction in force (RIF) part of a merger or acquisition? If the employer is a publicly-traded company, they may have disclosed multiple reasons in shareholder communications or in published articles you could reference. Layoffs happen for a variety of causes and the point is not to dwell on it, especially when such workforce decisions are beyond your control. 

    In general, employers know layoffs are painful to talk about and will respect the information you choose to provide. Find a positive from the experience and lean into it. It might be how proud you were of your team while there, because XYZ. Or, how the time off allowed you to pursue a certification you didn’t have time for before. Maybe the change inspired you to do something you wouldn’t have done otherwise, like train for a marathon or pivot careers. Perhaps it allowed you time to spend with loved ones when they needed you. 

    Pro Tip:

    As part of your pre-interview research, study any “core values” or mission statements the company has. Do not parrot these, but think about how your experiences, while working and while laid off, align with these ideals and echo them in your answers. 

    For example, JPMorgan Chase & Co., says on their site, “In a fast-moving and increasingly complex global economy, our success depends on how faithfully we adhere to our core principles: delivering exceptional client service; acting with integrity and responsibility; and supporting the growth of our employees.” 

    When discussing your career or time during a layoff, could you share examples where you: 

    delivered exceptional service, or went above and beyond expectations? acted with integrity and responsibility, or did the right thing, even when it may have been difficult? supported the growth of employees, or facilitated the development of others, as a volunteer, a coach, or a parent? 

    Related: How to Answer “Tell Me About Yourself” Interview Question for Tech Talent, Video Interviews 101: How to Impress in the Digital Age

    Highlight Your Growth During Employment Gaps

    Resume or employment gaps are another area of concern for job seekers following a layoff, no matter how much time has passed. How will you explain that time? 

    Focus on how you’ve grown during this period and turn this gap into an asset. Highlight what you’ve done to enhance your skills instead of allowing them to fade during this period.

    Tell your interviewer about the things you’ve done to improve your skills and build new ones during the layoff period. Whether you took an online course or worked a temporary contract job, it shows you have been proactive. Maybe you volunteered your skills to a local nonprofit. 

    Employers know layoffs put individuals in less-than-ideal circumstances, so they appreciate an interviewee who has demonstrated commitment to professional growth and development in spite of them. 

    Related: Flip the Script: How to Handle an Employment Gap on Your Resume

    Spotlight Your Past Performance & Growth

    Share the value you’ve provided through your work, even on your last team. When you offer achievements and results, this information becomes more impactful to your candidacy than your layoff. Detail the metrics of your work and share highlights of your past projects establishing you as a valuable asset to your team or organization.

    Keep Your Head Up – You Can Do This

    The layoff period is often a humbling time for many. During these days, weeks, or months, you’ve likely done your fair share of reflection on your experience and your career. Share insights about what you learned during this period while highlighting your resilience and unwavering confidence. 

    No matter what you’ve been through during your layoff, it’s crucial to remain optimistic about the interview process. No matter what role you are interviewing for, character matters. Your positivity in spite of an unfortunate situation reflects best on your character. Resist any urges to speak bitterly about your past employers and focus on the new opportunities ahead of you.

    Interviewing After a Layoff is for You, Too

    Post-layoff job seeking can be tricky. While you want to secure a new job as soon as possible, don’t rush yourself too much. Balance this time between searching for new roles and making sure the urge to get hired right away doesn’t lead you to compromise your career goals.

    The interview can teach you a lot about your potential new work environment so you can decide if it’s the right fit – both culture-wise and in terms of job security. Here are some example questions to help you elicit this information when interviewing after a layoff:

    Why are you proud to work here?Do you feel supported in your career growth and professional development by this organization? How does the organization make you feel that way?What’s the process like for providing feedback to a team member?Is collaboration encouraged here? If so, how?Tell me about a time when you saw the company’s main values in action.Has this company ever gone through layoffs in the past? If so, how were they handled?Can you tell me about the company’s financial situation? Is it profitable? Are future investments secured? The company’s solvency is a legitimate question, especially if you’ve experienced layoffs due to cost-cutting measures. Be respectful, and read the room, but don’t feel like you can’t politely inquire at all. Also, do your homework. Don’t ask questions with answers available to you via Google. 

    Related: Ace Your Interview & Get Your Questions Answered

    Cheers to Your New Role!

    The discomfort of interviewing after a layoff doesn’t have to derail your future job search. Take the time to process the situation and decide what you want moving forward. Set yourself up for success during your job search by honing your network beforehand. When it’s time for interviews, be confident and highlight the positives you’ve achieved over this time.

    Related: Chapter 1: Part of a Layoff? Steps Jobseekers in Tech & Sales Need to Take First

    Chapter 2: Laid Off? Next Steps to Find Your Dream Job in Tech or Sales More

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    What are the Best Programming Languages to Get a Software Developer Job?

    Hired & Exponent partner for engineering career advice video series

    Hired, along with our partner Exponent, recently completed a video series exploring such as what the best programming languages for software developers to get a job. The series featured three of our talented engineers: Nico Thiebaut, Prakash Patel, and Dan Baker, discussing subjects such as:

    How to Become a Machine Learning EngineerTop Programming Languages to Land a Job (in 2022).Engineering Manager vs. Individual Contributor (IC) Path

    Dan Baker is a former boot camper, now an Engineering Manager at Hired, a tech marketplace that matches talent with employers for roles around the world. He’s currently leading the work on the Hired Assessments product, helping candidates show their skills and find their dream jobs. 

    Based on the Hired State of Software Engineers report, these “top” skills or languages are taken from data on more than 360,000 interactions between companies and candidates on the platform. 

    Here’s a quick summary of the conversation Dan Baker had with Lucas from Exponent. To watch the full interview, scroll down to the bottom of the article.

    First, what are the top programming languages for individual contributors (IC) in software development? 

    Based on the report data: Go, Ruby on Rails, Scala, Ruby, and React Native. 

    What are the most in-demand programming skills for managers?

    Ruby on Rails, Scala, AWS, Google Cloud, and Ruby. 

    What are engineers’ favorite programming languages and skills?

    According to survey data of tech talent on the Hired platform, it’s Python, Javascript, Java, Typescript, C-Sharp, and Go.

    What did you find the most interesting about the top programming languages among developers this year?

    Well-established technologies valuable to new programmers due to their staying power

    When I got started, Ruby was the main language that was normal. It was easy for people to understand. It was the first language for a lot of people. It’s no surprise to me that Ruby on Rails, as the first usable framework, has so much popularity. 

    Today there are probably not that many projects getting started in Ruby but there are many being maintained in it. That really speaks to the legacy nature of coding. 

    Trendy or not, programming languages on the rise help employability

    What stands out to me are languages like Go and Scala because they seem to be newer languages on the rise. People aren’t learning Go and getting Go engineers because they have to. It’s because they want to build new things with Go. 

    To an extent, that’s the truth with React Native but it’s more so the nature of React dominating the front-end framework landscape.

    Do you encourage your team to regularly learn new technical skills? What skills specifically? 

    I frame my advice to my direct reports around:

    How we can position the story for the resume for their next job? What’s the best way to sell this for you to get a promotion internally? How can you sell this for yourself for your next role? 

    Usually, it’s less about the technology and more about solving a business case. That’s what will matter to the hiring manager in the future. The technology is usually secondary. 

    One of my engineers is deep in Terraform right now, another knows more about React than anybody it seems, and then another knows the ins and outs of Django in a way that probably very few people know. When I’m suggesting people learn new skills it’s really catered to the use case, 100%.

    What programming language is best for someone just learning to code?

    If I was speaking to somebody who is just starting to code, I would recommend learning Rust. It’s exciting because it’s a new language approaching programming from a very type-centric point of view and is very low-level control while having high-level usability. 

    Insight from Exponent 

    There are often technologies probably best suited to solve a particular business case and are extremely important to learn for that reason. There are also technologies probably always very popular amongst engineers, maybe because they scratch an itch and they’re kind of technically interesting but maybe they are the wrong puzzle piece or are a bit too new for whatever you’re trying to solve on the job. 

    What’s a programming language mistake?

    Many times I’ve seen companies make the wrong decision by supporting engineers to do things they’re curious about that don’t align with the business case. Then, the current business case they need to move forward is not addressed so they have to pivot to something that does make sense. The engineer maybe gets a skillset but it isn’t even that sellable – why? It never was usable at the business.

    What about jobseekers who don’t know these ‘best programming languages?’ How do you recommend they stay competitive in their job search?

    The top five skills are interesting because you get an idea of the heavy hitters and what languages people for the most. It depends on where you are in your career and how much you understand about where you want your career to go. 

    For an engineer who has a little bit of experience but has a good idea of what they want to do, I would say, look in that subset and maybe it doesn’t matter which is the top language.

    Maybe it’s more so, which programming language do you have some experience in – and will it be viable to enough potential employers? Looking at this list, I guarantee the people who are best at Scala don’t know much about React Native. 

    Tip from Exponent

    Most engineers won’t become an expert in all of these. You definitely want to assess where your own experience is and take it based on that. 

    Can you describe how Hired Technical Assessments are designed to assess a candidate’s technical ability? How can jobseekers do well in technical assessments?

    Benefits of Hired Assessments

    My advice to any potential client using the product is to understand what an online technical assessment can do and what it can’t. The biggest value add is not that you’re going to get an automated answer to whether this candidate is right for the role. 

    You’re going to have an asynchronous interaction. A candidate’s going to do the assessment when it makes sense for them. The employer is going to review their work when it makes sense for them, that’s first and foremost. 

    Employers can review their work, and playback how they completed it. They can see if the candidate is within an acceptable range of performance, and how they executed problems. See what kind of approaches they took and if it makes sense to you (the employer). See if they are using coding patterns successfully demonstrating a level of expertise. 

    Benefits to jobseekers

    Candidates have the opportunity to show their thinking more than simply trying to solve the problem. In some cases, employers are looking, getting so many good candidates that they’re only able to look at the top one percent of them. 

    However, in these cases, no one really enjoys or does well in a game where only the top 1% are winning. You want to find a smaller pond where you can actually show a connection to the employer and show that you thought out your work. 

    For candidates, unfortunately, with the state of the industry and in online assessments, LeetCode reigns supreme. I recommend brushing up on that because that’s what most of these products are geared towards. 

    I do see a trend slowly moving away from purely LeetCode questions to framework-based questions that include a file system to find the bug, fix the bug, create a new file, and add a new pattern. 

    That’s where we see candidates thinking creatively and how they actually interact within an existing structure. That’s going to be more valuable – showing employers how you’re going to actually perform in the role. rather than you can do Fizz-buzz or bubble sort.

    Insight from Exponent

    In my own experience, I have seen more interviews where the company crafted a test case that more closely mirrored a real-world coding situation in which you had to diagnose a bug in a code base that probably looked like their actual code base.

    With that comes the impression that they care about your time and like to test skills that closely match what you’re going to do on the job. This is a bit different than the more esoteric LeetCode tests that you may be doing. I think it feels more valuable from a candidate’s perspective.

    Interviewing advice for software developers

    I think that’s something candidates need to be aware of as they choose which companies they engage with. As somebody interviewing a candidate I know I am selling as much as I am evaluating. Candidates should get a sense of how well the company they are interviewing with is selling them. 

    If they’re not selling you at all, what does that tell you about the company and the culture you’d enter? On the other hand, if they’re selling you 100%, they’re not really evaluating. What does that tell you about the mess you’d enter? 

    There’s a healthy balance where employers care about you and the experience you’re having, while also asking meaningful questions relevant to the role.

    Candidates should know who they want to interact with but it’s also really important for employers to ensure they’re creating an experience that makes a candidate feel safe in the context of their whole life cycle, from candidate to employee, to ex-employee. 

    Tip from Exponent

    The technical interview experience you go through is, to some degree, a proxy of the engineering culture you may enter. It can be the best signal you have before you sign the paper.

    Ask, where is the demand?

    One takeaway from looking at this is to understand where the demand is and how important it is to find the right demand/supply ratio. That could be one. If there’s one person that needs one engineer of one type, then there you go. You can get that role and you can be happily ever after at that company. 

    If you just choose the one most in demand, it also might be the most candidates going after that skill set as well. What you see yourself doing matters most because ultimately when you get the role you have to show up and do the work. So find something you’re interested in. That’s where you’re going to thrive and succeed long term.

    Insight from Exponent

    If you have spent the last five years working in databases and think you need to learn React to be employable but your passion is databases, then that might not be the technology to learn.

    Learn more languages 

    It’s easy to think back on when you learned the language that you actually made your bread and butter with, it was hard to learn and you probably don’t want to do that again. The truth is that with every year that passes, the way people learn coding languages is better and easier than it was the year before. Remember when Stack Overflow changed the game? There’s a time that didn’t even exist. You couldn’t ask a question – you’d get an odd forum and esoteric responses or you’d have to open a paper book. So, learn a little bit about more languages and realize you’re never pigeonholed to one.

    Tip from Exponent

    The first language you learn is going to be the hardest but after that, you establish mental models and understand how to read documentation. It’ll be much easier to pick up new technologies after mastering one or two.

    Understand concepts in programming  

    Learning more languages also speaks to how much you start understanding real, valuable concepts in programming. I recommend the book, Learning Javascript Design Patterns. It reviews what you need to do to write really complex code. There is the specific stuff like hoisting but also polymorphism, ways to curry different functions to build into other ones, and there’s direct inheritance.

    Understanding deeper patterns will make you a stronger programmer and enable you to do more powerful things. When an interviewer looks at a submission and says, “Oh they’re currying a function. That’s an interesting approach.” Even if you aren’t able to do it, if employers watch it (which we really encourage our clients to do), they’ll see you know your chops. At the end of the day, no business is making money by having a programmer who can write fizz-buzz the fastest. 

    Ready to complete a free profile and sit back while employers search for you? Learn how Hired works for jobseekers!

    Click below to watch the full interview, including when Dan and Exponent’s Lucas fall down a rabbit hole discussing the relationship between javascript, cryptocurrency, and building blockchain. 

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    How to Handle an Employment Gap on Your Resume (Flip the Script!)

    You’re not your work history

    Addressing an employment gap on a resume is one of the most common worries keeping job seekers up at night. It’s been drilled into our heads that if you’re not working, you’re wasting away. 

    There’s a prevailing, persistent belief out there that if a hiring manager or recruiter sees even a small gap on a resume they’ll automatically assume the applicant is a slacker who can’t hold down a job. 

    This simply isn’t true. Consider these recent stats from a 2021 LinkedIn survey: Just under four in five hiring managers (79%) say they would have no issues hiring a candidate with a gap in their resume.

    The relationship between “job hopping” and DEI 

    “Considering ‘job-hoppers’ for roles is a DEI practice many employers may not realize. In many cases, ‘job-hoppers’ have had more barriers than others in the workforce.” This could mean many things, including health challenges, economic hardships, caregiving responsibilities, or transportation issues.

    “To be frank,” being a serial “job-hopper” is one of the things I credit to my career success. My skills are varied, my familiarity with different industries is comprehensive, and my understanding of organizational culture is robust.”

    Brittany King, Senior Manager, TA-Talent Intelligence & Diversity, and a member of Sista Circle: Black Women in Tech. 

    Employment gap a deal breaker? Not anymore

    Not having a job for a year or longer may have been considered a deal breaker by most decision makers just 10 years ago or so, but the narrative surrounding career gaps has changed considerably since.

    You can probably guess the biggest reason why: COVID-19. The pandemic sparked an absolute tidal wave of layoffs, furloughs, and self-imposed sabbaticals to care for loved ones. 

    In light of everything that’s happened over the past few years, it doesn’t make business or ethical sense to discriminate against otherwise attractive job candidates due to a career break anymore (self-imposed or otherwise).

    That being said, you still absolutely have to touch on and explain your resume gaps. Here’s what Allison Rutledge-Parisi, senior vice president of People at Justworks, recently told Protocol: 

    “I sense in the atmosphere a change from the days earlier in my career. If you see a gap on a resume, it’s no longer a red flag at all. It’s an area of inquiry. But the inquiry is not assessing if it’s OK or not. The inquiry is more like, ‘Wow, what did you do?’”

    Give me a break!

    On a day to day basis, the average working professional has little time to consider the bigger picture of their career. When we’re preoccupied with what our current job needs from us on a particular day, it can be all too easy to forget about what we truly want from our careers.

    Another LinkedIn survey from earlier this year reports 69% of people say taking a career break helped them gain a new perspective and outlook on what they really want from life. 

    Even more revealing: That same survey tells us that just under half of hiring managers (48%) believe most candidates are too negative about their job gaps, undervaluing themselves in the process. Meanwhile, 64% of job seekers wish there were a better way to broach the subject of career gaps on resumes and during interviews.

    What does all of this tell us? Both employers and applicants are ready to put to bed the outdated notion that one must hold down a steady job from the moment they finish school to the time they retire. 

    Yes, your resume is about your career in your chosen field, but to a greater extent it’s about you. Your story isn’t limited to periods of employment. Here are a few ways to flip the script on career breaks, and use gaps in your resume to your advantage.

    There is no success without adversity 

    At Leet Resumes, we always encourage resume writers to emphasize their career wins and accomplishments. Showcasing successes sends a clear message to readers: “I’m good at what I do, and I’m ready for my next career challenge.”

    Well, what’s a success story without a little adversity to overcome? One research project published in the scientific journal Basic and Applied Social Psychology investigated what hiring managers want to hear from applicants during interviews. While achievements are great, the study found interviewers really wanted to hear about the setbacks and problems interviewees encountered on their way to those successes.

    Gaps in your work history can serve this adversarial role on your resume. Yes, taking a break from work for whatever reason isn’t ideal. But, if you frame these gaps in the right light, using the right verbiage, they may work in your favor by showcasing your resilience and commitment.

    Not working doesn’t mean not growing

    You may be wondering how exactly to frame unemployment as a positive, especially on paper. The simple answer comes down to staying busy. You need to address the time period you weren’t working in some other way on your resume.

    The best way to do this is via some type of institutional connection. Maybe you went back to school, or completed a new certification in your field. Volunteering for non-profit work, especially for a good cause, is another great way to show readers that you may not have been working – but you were still learning, growing, and pushing forward. 

    Consulting roles, attending industry conferences and virtual events, and even part-time or one-off freelancing gigs, can work too. 

    The biggest mistake you can make with an employment gap

    The #1 mistake to avoid here is leaving a year plus long gap on your resume totally unaddressed. Doing so virtually guarantees recruiters and hiring managers alike will assume you spent your time off moving exclusively from the couch to the kitchen.  

    Avoid lengthy explanations about an employment gap

    If we put COVID-19 aside for a moment, the three most common reasons people usually take an extended sabbatical from full-time work are:

    semi-retirement (taking a year off for travel, etc), they were fired, or electing to stay home as a full-time parent or caregiver.

    It’s likely that many who fall into one of those three categories did not maintain any type of formal institutional connection during their employment gap years. If this is your situation, don’t waste much room on your resume explaining the finer details of your story.

    At Leet Resumes, we believe brevity is best across all aspects of resume writing. Even when describing your biggest career wins it’s best to keep things short and sweet. This applies even more so when addressing gaps in work history.

    Instead, go with a single sentence addressing the time period in question with a positive spin toward the future.

    If you’ve spent the past couple years caring for your family, write something like:

    “Stay at home parent, family of five, excited to re-enter the workforce. 2020-2022”

    You can keep it even more vague:

    “Energized to return to work after a period of personal growth. 2020-2022” 

    You’ll have an opportunity to better explain your work gaps during the interviewing process. For now, there’s no reason to take up any more valuable space on your resume than needed. 

    Never adopt an apologetic tone about your employment gap

    It’s important to be transparent about your career breaks, but that doesn’t mean you should be apologetic. Again, the hiring handbook from a decade ago just doesn’t apply anymore. 

    Remember the statistic stating 48% of hiring managers believe candidates are too down on themselves over career lulls? If you frame your work gaps as a failure warranting an apology, or immediately sulk when the topic is brought up in an interview, it sends the wrong message. 

    “Do not apologize for doing what you need to do for your professional and personal growth.  Taking time off for whatever reason is sometimes necessary. Be confident in your decision to take time off and be prepared to be confident in your answer to why you did it.”

    Lexi B, Founder of Sista Circle: Black Women in Tech.

    Not all periods of unemployment are our own choice, but you always control the greater narrative of your story. Even if you were unceremoniously fired, turn it into motivation. Use it to propel you forward, not a hindrance holding you back.

    That was then, this is now

    Decision makers are no doubt more open to considering candidates with gaps in their work history nowadays, but they’ll still need to know that you’re serious about seeking employment. 

    Be sure to make it clear that today – in the here and now – you’re absolutely chomping at the bit to pick up where you left off and never look back. No employer wants to hire a new worker only to have them disappear shortly thereafter. It’s essential to frame your employment gaps as temporary siestas.

    Ideally, the message is you made meaningful use of your time off and you’re ready to return as an even better professional version of yourself.

    You’re not just your career

    As we wrap this article up, it may be useful to touch on resumes in general for a moment. Most people tend to think of their resume as a mere description of their careers, but that’s a gross oversimplification.

    “A resume is an art and not a science. As a recruiter I want to get a glimpse of the impact you’ve been able to accomplish and what you’re passionate about. The gaps in your experience are less important to me than the story I’m being told in your resume.” 

    Amal S., Fellowship Recruiter @ Formation

    When recruiters sit down to read your resume, they want to learn about you as a person – not just every job you’ve held since college. If you get the job, it’ll be you reporting for duty on Monday morning, not your resume.

    Addressing an employment gap the right way, and showing you didn’t let a bump in the road derail your journey, will speak to your character and persistence far more than any boring old corporate achievement.

    Need some help with your career?

    Feeling like you could use some assistance with your job search? 

    Consider creating a free profile on Hired and have companies apply to interview you for tech or customer-facing roles! 

    Related: 

    Hired partner Leet Resumes helps jobseekers revise their resumes for free. 

    Hired partner Sista Circle: Black Women in Tech (BWiT) is a solidarity group dedicated to supporting Black Women in technology, including providing community and networking.  More