You’ve filled out dozens of applications or sent out dozens of resumes. Maybe you’ve had some interviews. But it all ends there. You’re not getting hired. You’re getting frustrated, and you don’t know what’s going wrong. There are a few reasons why you may not be getting a job. Let’s talk about them.
Your resume and/or cover letter is (shudder) generic. If you’re not doing at least some tailoring to the job, you’re doing yourself a disservice. Make it obvious to them that you’ve read the job description and that your skills match on your resume. Highlight pertinent accomplishments on your cover letter. General cover letters look and read like form letters, which is an automatic turn off. Each cover letter you write should be direct to that particular employer and job. Your resume doesn’t have to be, but perhaps you need a resume that is written for each particular type of job, such as one for construction jobs, one for production jobs, etc.
Your resume isn’t ATS friendly. ATS is Applicant Tracking Software. What this means is that your resume (or application) is passed through a computer that looks for certain keywords. If those keywords aren’t there, a real person will never read it. So how do you what keywords to use? Read the job ad carefully for the skills and qualifications. You’ll see words like “excellent communicator”, “customer service”, or “C++ proficient”. There’s your keywords. They are one to two words that you need to make sure are on your resume. A Summary of Skills section on your resume will not only help with including keywords, it’ll make it easy to tailor for the job.
The job is wrong for your experience. I know, I know. You need a job! But if you have a lot of management experience and you’re applying for a stocking clerk job, the company will fear that if they hire you, you will quit in a short time due to boredom, finding a better job, etc.
If you really want the job that you’re overqualified for, make use of that cover letter to explain yourself in a positive way. Maybe you’re taking a step to complete your education, for a better work-life balance, or perhaps they’re your dream company and you’re willing to take an entry level job just to work for them.
You’re not networking. Everyone you know should know that you’re looking for work. Include former co-workers, friends, the people in your hobby club. Many jobs have been secured because a neighbor had a friend whose company was hiring. Take advantage of your connections.
You aren’t doing your research. So you’ve gotten some interviews, but nothing happens afterwards. Maybe you didn’t get to know the company, and it showed at the interview. It really is inexcusable since it’s so easy nowadays to research a company. Look up their website, social media, and recent news articles about them. Know their products/services. Know their values, vision, and mission. Try their product, if you can. There is no better way to show enthusiasm than being knowledgeable and being able to speak about the company.
You didn’t prep for the interview. There are always common interview questions that are almost always asked. In fact, we written two blogs article about them and haven’t even scratched the surface of them. Research common interview questions and prepare some answers to them, especially the tough ones like: Tell me about yourself. Granted you can’t prepare for every question; there’s always something they may ask that you didn’t expect. But the more prepared the better. It’s okay to stumble over one question, but not the whole interview. Don’t wing it.
You’ve neglected your interview skills. It’s more than answering the questions. It’s about the right eye contact, body language, and the ability to be an active listener. You need to show empathy, engage in small talk, and be able to story tell. Not sure what to do with any of these? Do some research, practice, and contact your local career center to do a mock interview.
You’re not passing the assessments/tests. They’re getting more common, and they can be frustrating. You’ll automatically be screened out for the wrong answers/failing. For assessments, try to think like a manager and what the company would like to see in an employee. Answer accordingly. Tests, like knowledge/technical tests, can be tougher. There’s no way around it but to study. If even after doing your due diligence, you’re still failing, consider if maybe you’re applying for job that you are truly underqualified for and need more practical knowledge at a lower level. For both, take your time to read thoroughly so you know you understand what is being asked. Yes, some of these assessments/tests may be timed, but it doesn’t mean you should rush through for a good time on them. There no point in a good time if your answers are all wrong.
You’re too eager. It’s okay to show enthusiasm, but there’s a fine line between excited and being a pest. Write a thank you note but don’t call every day for an update. Show up early for the interview but not an hour early. Show your knowledge of the company but don’t cite their entire history. You can tell them you want the job but don’t be overly animated about it. Be professional about it all.
You didn’t stand out. The interviewer may interview many candidates. You need to make an impression in the most positive way possible. Show passion for the work. Know the company. Keep the interview answers largely work related but with a personal touch here and there. For example, if you’re asked what your greatest accomplishment is, you should name a work related achievement, but then you could also throw in about finishing your first 5K. Adding some appropriate personal details can help build rapport. Maybe the interviewer is a runner herself.
Negativity. Don’t speak poorly of a former employer no matter how toxic. If asked, don’t point out all the company’s flaws. Name one thing you could see improved and move on. Don’t start any conversation with an employer with a reason they could reject you. For example, don’t start with the fact you were just fired, that you’re an ex-con, or that you have restrictions (yes, I’ve seen all of these happen). Maybe one of those reasons could be true, but you need to learn how to work that into the conversation or answer any questions about it. Your local career center can help with this.
Your references. Are they really good references (former supervisor, co-worker, subordinate, or client)? Did you let them know to expect a call so they’re not caught off guard? Are they somebody you can speak well of you? Take the time to talk to your references and make sure they know you want to use them as a reference, that they know what type of jobs you’re applying for, and that you are both on the same page. Not having good references or too few references can suggest that you’re not a good employee or not one that engages their co-workers (team player, anyone?).
Even with all this being corrected, there will always be some things out of your control. Maybe the company has an internal candidate already in mind but, by policy, are required to interview. Perhaps they’re interviewing as a matter of course. Or they just look at people with the most experience and that’s it. Focus on what you can control, and you’ll find yourself with a new job soon.