Thursday, 27 June 2013

Careers By the Numbers

I still remember the immense relief I felt, when at high school, I completed fifth form Maths. It was the all-encompassing rush of a nasty project being packed away forever in a "phew, I never have to do that again" exaltation. Little did I know that when I embarked upon my degree, that I would need to complete stats and calc papers. Oops, miscalculated there, then.

Regardless of my naivety, what I hadn't realised at my then tender age is that we all use numbers every day. Some feel dry as dust, some come packed with meaning: anniversaries, speed limits, bank interest, equity, credit card statements, weight, box numbers, lottery tickets, elections and deadlines.

When working with clients who are looking for new roles, the numbers are very important. Our clients want to be one of the micro percentage of the half-million online CVs which are selected for that interview. Sullivan (2013, citinget g Talent Function Group LLC) talks us through the "hiring funnel" numbers: 1,000 see the job ad; 200 start applying; 100 actually apply; 25 CVs get through the first cut, 5-ish to interview, 2-ish to second interview, 1 will get a job offer. Being able to convey that to our clients, and to build resiliency into their search process, is very important.

Sullivan (2013, citing Careerbuilder, and Adecco) talks us through some more critical numbers: a well-organised CV improves your chances of making the cut by 60%; 61% of recruiters reject CVs for typos, 43% for spelling, 76% for an unprofessional email address; and the average recruiter will spend only 2 seconds seeking keywords in your client's application of the entire 6 seconds they spend on the "in" or "out" decision. Ouch.

Considering the world of work, there is a huge variety of statistics on employment, retention, economic markers, confidence, sectors, prices and inflation factors out there. It is hard to know what is useful, and harder to find it! As one of my roles as Comms Director on NZ's national Career Development Association's Executive, I summarise key NZ markers every couple of months to help the organisation keep track of shifts in play for the careers area.

Numbers are important in any profession. But they figure largely for careers in defining and generalising personality types, multiple intelligences, ability to analyse, numeracy, left brain and logical thinking. The numbers help us form shapes, patterns and predictors which help hugely in self-analysis, self-development and self-leadership. Tests such as MBTI, HBDI, Holland codes or the Five Factor Model couldn't exist without the algorithms to categorise, count and crunch our responses. Data are the numbers, but that is not the end of it.

Careers people then have to turn those numbers into a story, into information that helps our clients to find their own path, their own pinnacle. And we have to be careful with the numbers and tales we tell from them. Numbers can be seen as an excuse to limit: to create a narrative about odds which are too great, too much of a stretch. For those clients, we need different stories. We need instead to tell the numbers as one step, after another, after another, on journeys with eyes lowered from the pinnacle, which lead them safely to their goal.

Numbers are important: not the only thread in the story, but one of the important threads, and should be remembered.

Reference: Sullivan, Dr John (13 May 2013). Why You Can't Get A Job …Recruiting Explained By the Numbers. USA: Electronic Recruiting Exchange (ERE) Media Inc. Retrieved 17 June 2013 from


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