The next time you walk into an interview, consider the following:
Your wedding or engagement ring can and may be used against you.
Those photos of kids on a hiring manager's desk? They may not actually be the manager's children -- but the photo is designed to get you talking about your kids, or whether you plan to have some eventually.
And then there's the trick that can land some applicants to $20,000 more when they start negotiating their salary.
In fact, LearnVest got the inside scoop from hiring managers across the country. Many spoke on the condition of anonymity because their methods were so controversial -- and not what you'd find in any company manual.
(Plus, we have a special giveaway for you! Find out what it is at the bottom of this post.)
Why do you need to know these secrets? Two reasons. The first is: What you don't know can hurt your chances of landing a job and commanding a higher salary. Second: Today, April 17th, is Equal Pay Day.
And new research out of the United States Census Bureau shows that women still earn less than their male counterparts at every education level. Although women are out-earning men in terms of college degrees and doctorates, our wages aren't keeping up. In fact, the gap only worsens at higher levels of education.
But armed with this insider knowledge -- straight from the mouths of those who hire you -- you can help improve both these statistics and your bottom line.
"I leave pictures of kids on my desk. They're not even my kids."
Legally, hiring managers aren't allowed to ask if you have kids, just as they're not supposed to discriminate against you on the hunch that your child might occasionally have a soccer game. But we spoke to one hiring manager who leaves pictures of her niece and nephew to find out (legally) who has kids. "I'm not allowed to ask about family situations, but if they bring it up, it's fair game. Kids are a distraction to this job, which requires long hours and weekends. I won't hire someone who has other priorities."
How to handle this: It's very easy to get nervous and resort to small talk. ("Oh, are those your kids? How old? Mine are 6 and 10... ") Commenting on kids' photos is easy bait, especially if you're a parent yourself, but avoid it if you can. Talk about the weather or find something to compliment your interviewer on instead.
"I check for wedding bands."
One hiring manager told us: "This is an entry-level job, and the people we hire are usually fresh out of college. If I see a wedding band, there's a good probability that candidate is going to start a family soon. If I hire her and she goes on maternity leave, I can't legally fire her, but I still have to find someone else to replace her while she's gone. When she comes back I can't fire her either, so now I'm stuck with two employees when all I needed was one. No thanks."
This one is an easy fix: Leave your wedding ring at home. You're not obligated to share any information about your relationship status, so try to avoid doing so.
"I regularly hire women for 65-75% of what I pay men."
Half a century after the Women's Right movement, the pay gap still leaves women making 77 cents for every dollar a man makes. Yet it was shocking to hear part of the reason why straight from the mouths of hiring managers. The causes are numerous, but if we had to narrow it down to one... women don't negotiate enough.
One manager offers men and women the same starting salary: "The women simply accept, while the men negotiate. I would have essentially the same candidate, the only difference being gender, and I was paying her $20,000 less."
Some jobs are truly non-negotiable, like an entry-level role at certain Fortune 100 companies. But far too often, people -- especially women -- leave money, vacation time or benefits on the table needlessly.
(Looking to make some progress of your own? Consult our tips on how to ask for a pay raise.)
"I don't hire old people."
Ageism is real. While this may be as simple as discrimination against people who don't seem as "with-it" as their younger counterparts, we pressed harder for the root cause of why people really care about age. It comes down to learning new technologies.
"Older people have a harder time adapting to newer technologies, and I'd rather not spend the time training them," one hiring manager confesses.
Casually let it slip that you've been working on gaining proficiency in the latest technology in your field. Bringing this up lets the interviewer know that you not only enjoy continuing to learn about the field, but also have no problem adapting to new developments.
"I prefer to hire someone who's currently employed."
It's a Catch-22: Hiring managers often would rather hire someone who currently has a job... but of course it's the unemployed people who need jobs the most. "If you've been unemployed for a long stretch of time, it makes me wonder what's wrong with you," one hiring manager says.
How can you combat this bias? Continue your education, volunteer your time at your favorite charity or even work or "consult" for free so you have something to write down that may mask a gap on your résumé.
"I'm looking for a reason NOT to hire you."
The issue with so many applicants applying for so few jobs is that hiring managers often look for reasons to exclude you rather than include you as a potentially perfect candidate. A typo, a poorly formatted résumé or a low GPA will often get you placed in the "no thanks" pile.
So, yes, you should perfect your application (then proofread it again), but an even better bet is to circumvent the application process altogether. It's estimated that 80% of jobs are found through personal connections, so tap your network, including old bosses, college networks and everyone you know (and they know) on LinkedIn. That will be the fastest way to rise above a huge pile of competing résumés.
"Don't tell me your previous salary. I'll use it against you."
In the age of pensions, it was uncommon for people to leave jobs. Now sometimes you have to look outside your own company to progress.
But your previous salary needn't follow you. While many companies will ask what it was, you have every right to deflect the question by saying you don't feel comfortable revealing it, or that your previous company preferred you keep it confidential.
"We were interviewing one candidate for a senior manager position and asked for her previous salary," our source says. "She said she signed an NDA [Non-Disclosure Agreement] to not reveal her previous salary. It was clever because I couldn't press her for more info, and also respected her for maintaining her integrity to her previous employer."
One caveat: If it's a job you really want, and the company is insisting, you may be smarter to divulge the number. Just explain that you're looking for an increase (and name your percentage) given all of the skills that you bring to the job in question.
"Don't apply online, you won't get anywhere."
There are too many walls to cross and red flags to trigger when you apply online. "We build our application process to weed out candidates, and extract information like previous salary to use against them," our source says. "Applying online is a losing game."
Once you find an open position online, don't apply. Instead, do some online stalking of the company's website and LinkedIn to find out who you might know there -- or to find another way in. Namely, a human, rather than a blind "submit your application" form. Then, send your résumé to that contact directly and say you heard about this opening -- and are interested in any roles that match that particular criteria.
"I was interviewing candidates and narrowed it down to my top three. Then the Creative Director sends me a résumé she received via email," says one hiring manager we spoke to. "What was I going to do? I had to bring her in for an interview. We ended up hiring that candidate."
"That hot guy you added on Facebook last week? Yeah, that was me."
We've heard for years how important protecting your online image can be and that companies may try to search for you before making a hiring decision. What we haven't heard are some of the ways they'll get you to open up your social media profile.
"I'll add several of her friends, so we have several friends in common, and then I'll add her," one hiring manager told us. "I now have access to her profile, wall posts, status updates and even those photos from her trip to Cancun she thought were private."
"I go through hundreds of résumés a day and spend less than 30 seconds on each one."
Take an honest look at your résumé. If it isn't easy to scan for highlights, it's not going to get you callbacks. One hiring manager at a technology company writes:
"If I have to spend more than 30 seconds finding out what you have accomplished, forget it ... Likely, I will ignore the whole thing, write down in my notes 'poor communicator,' and move on ... If you can't nail it in one sentence, do I really want to look forward to your rambling emails every day?
"To craft a great résumé, tailor it to my job posting. If I have a skill set in there like 'Windows Administration,' make sure you have at least one bullet point talking about... that skill."
If it's a job you really care about, you should have multiple people read over your application. It should be clear, concise and tailored specifically to the job you want.
"I have no clue what I'm doing."
At the end of the day, it's important to remember that some hiring managers are merely going through the motions. Their job is to get someone who can do the job for the least amount of money. Despite their best efforts, they may not be experienced interviewers, and even they may not know how many ping-pong balls fit in a plane... or if the right answer correlates to doing the best job.
But your best bet is to try to make your interviewer like you, because she'll be more likely to pass on a glowing recommendation (or include you in the résumé stack at all), even if she won't be making the ultimate decision about whether you get the job.
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This story originally appeared on LearnVest.com.