You’re unemployed and wondering why you’re not landing a job as fast as you’d like. You’re hearing there are plenty of jobs out there and wondering why you haven’t been contacted by employers. After all, you’re a great fit for all the jobs you’ve applied for.
We’re in the midst of the Great Resignation and employers are working with a skeleton crew. Yet, they aren’t hiring candidates fast enough. What gives? Here’s the issue: they’re scared. More accurately, they’re afraid of hiring the wrong candidate and then having to do it all over again.
It costs employers a significant amount of money to replace an employee. SHRM estimates it can cost 50%-60% of an employee’s annual salary to bring someone onboard which can include recruiting, interview, training, and other administrative costs.
Knowing this probably doesn’t make you feel better about being unemployed. However, you can take solace in knowing you’re not alone. “But the unemployment rate is low. They say there are jobs out there.” you protest.
True, the unemployment rate is hovering around 4% and there are jobs out there, but it’s obvious that employers need your help with speeding up the process. To help employers make their decision to hire you easier, you need to understand what you might be doing wrong and make adjustments to correct your mistakes.
Here are nine mistakes you might be making and solutions to correct them:
1. Your job search lacks focus
If you’re saying to yourself and others that you’ll take any job, this is the root cause of your problem. Without direction, you are spinning your wheels, spreading yourself too wide.
What’s more, employers can detect job seekers who lack focus if they’re applying for multiple jobs in their company.
What to do about it: Stop applying for jobs for one day to determine exactly what you want to do. Create a spreadsheet of two or three jobs you’d consider taking. Also make a list of your strongest job-related and transferable skills. Lastly, make a list of your values that employers must meet.
Now type in the search field of the job board/s you use five of your most pertinent skills. Make note of the job titles that pop up and determine which ones are appropriate for you. It’s not out of the realm of possibility that you were a compliance officer and one of the job titles that comes up is business operator.
When you engage with people during informational meetings or other networking events, mention your five greatest areas of expertise. This will help people to better understand what you can do going forward, instead of pigeonholing you into one particular job.
You might benefit from creating a Professional Networking Document for networking.
2. Your job search is one-sided
You’re using job boards 100% of the time. This is a recipe for a very long job search. Some estimates put this method of looking for work as low as 3% success if used alone. I’ve heard and read accounts of job seekers who’ve submitted 600 applications with a few or no interviews as a result.
On the flip side is using networking alone as a job-search method. Career coaches will swear by networking—I’m one of them—but they don’t expect you to abandon applying online. That would be ludicrous.
What to do about it: It’s no secret that one should employ various methods to search for work. Some people even put a percentage on each method. I’m guilty of having done this.
This said, determine which plan of attack is best for you. Some methods to consider are:
- Networking with other job seekers, professional associations, in the community, at your religious affiliations, friends, relatives, neighbors, basically everyone.
- Connecting with recruiters in your industry.
- Networking on social media, such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
- Joining a buddy group.
- Cruising the job boards including industry specific ones.
I’m also of the opinion that you shouldn’t spread yourself too thin. Like deciding what you want to do, you should decide what methods work best for you. For example, someone in my industry (nonprofit) would benefit in order: networking in person and online, and utilizing industry specific job boards.
3. Your resume is not written for human consumption
As of late, there has been a great deal of discussion surrounding applicant tracking systems (ATS’) and what they’re capable of doing. The misconception is that all ATS’ will automatically eliminate resumes based on lack of keywords. Thus, job seekers are writing resumes to “beat” the ATS’.
What to do about it: Hannah Morgan asked for my opinion on this matter in her 22 Job Search Trends and Predictions for 2022. Here’s how I answered:
In 2022 Job candidates will heed the words of hiring authorities and write resumes that speak to the needs of the employer if they want to succeed in getting their resumes into the hands of hiring authorities, not to “beat” the ATS‘.
For candidates to earn a chance to be interviewed, their resumes must accomplish the following:
- Be tailored to each job. This is huge if candidates want their resumes to demonstrate they have the qualifications for the job at hand.
- Demonstrate value. Instead of writing: “Led a team of software engineers to complete 4 projects.” Write: “Saved the company $493,020 in projected salary by championing a team of 6 software engineers to complete 4 projects in 2020. The projected number of projects was 3.”
- Only show 10-15 years of work history. The main reason for doing this is for showing relevant experience. The second reason is to avoid any possibility of age discrimination.
- Be easy to read. No paragraphs longer than 3 lines. No bullet point statements longer than 2 lines.
The labor market offers job candidates great potential but only if their resumes are written with the employer in mind. Worry less about the ATS and more about speaking to the employer’s needs.
4. You’re not on LinkedIn or not using it
Not being on LinkedIn hurts your job search three ways: recruiters and other hiring authorities can’t find you, it hinders your networking abilities, and it tells employers that you lack the interest or technical skills to use the most popular online networking tool out there.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard, “I have a profile, but I haven’t touched it in years.” Or, “I’m on LinkedIn but just started using it.”
Read this article to better understand how to write a strong profile: The Ultimate LinkedIn Profile Guide Revisited: a Look at 16 Major Sections
Next you’ll need to build a like-minded network. The obvious people to invite to your network are former colleagues, but you’ll need to reach out to people you don’t know. These folks would include people at your target company list (mentioned below), as well as people in your industry and recruiters.
Read this article to learn more about networking on LinkedIn: Tips from 6 Pros on How to Use LinkedIn to Network
Finally, you’ll need to engage with your connections. “Out of sight, out of mind,” the saying goes. I suggest commenting, not just reacting, to what others write to start out with. Then get bolder and posting your own content or sharing articles and commenting on the articles.
5. You’re not networking
I mentioned above how networking should be part of your job-search process. In fact, I listed it at the top of of ways to search for your next job. You’re most likely stalled in your job search if networking is not part of your menu. It doesn’t have to be 100% of your job search, but it should be a good chunk of it.
What to do about it: Remember that there are different ways to network. If attending large networking groups via Zoom is not your thing, try joining smaller groups. However, the principles are the same. You must a willing participant and offer help to others in the group.
There is more than one way to network. What comes to mind for most job seekers is initiating contact with other job seekers and nurturing a relationship until a game-winning interview occurs.
This is great, but what about contacting recruiters on LinkedIn, handing your resume to a neighbor who delivers it to the hiring manager of a company for which you’d like to work, or following up with employees in the company after applying online to initiate further contact with the hiring manager?
Lastly, take your job search into your own hands. Develop a company target list of 15-30 companies. Research said companies and then send an approach letter to each company asking for an informational meeting. If your ROI is six meetings, you are closer to your next job.
Bonus: Sarah Johnston talks about making lists, including a list of companies, in her LinkedIn Learning course called Find a Job in the Hidden Job Market.
6. You’re not prepared for interviews
I’m of the opinion that most job applicants fail in interviews because they don’t conduct research. If you’re not researching the position, company, and even the interviewers; you will most likely fail in the interview.
Another important component of interview success is practice answering question which, again, I see job seekers failing to do. They go into the interview thinking they can “wing” it. Don’t be that person.
You’ve dutifully researched the position for a project manager. Now it’s time to practice answering questions you predict will be asked in an interview. Follow these steps:
- Write at least 10 anticipated questions based on your research. For example, you read in the job ad that written and oral communication is a strong requirement.
- For this question, write, “Tell us about a time when your written communication was integral to the success of a major project.”
- Write the answer to this question. This might seem like hard work, but if you want to blow the interviewers away you’ll do this hard work.
- Practice answering questions like this in front of a mirror or with a willing networking partner. If you really want to take practicing questions to the next level, have your partner record the practice session on Zoom.
In addition to conducting research and practice answering the questions you predict will be asked, leverage your network to gather valuable information in terms of the position and company. Try to discover the pain points of the employer. Use the information you gain through networking in the interviews.
7. You’re not adapting to interviewing technology
According to Monster.com 40% of interviewing is conducted via smart phones. Gen Zs prefer this mode of interviewing because it’s easier for them; they can interview candidates anywhere and at anytime. This is one example of how interviewing has changed over time.
Even before the pandemic, interviews were conducted via video platforms such as Zoom, Skype, Teams, Facetime, and others. Personality and analytical assessments were the norm for large employers who want to hurry the process.
What to do about it: Embrace technology if you haven’t already. We won’t be returning to the “old fashion” method of in-person interviewing primarily, especially during the ongoing pandemic. You must accept this fact and take measures to correct your old ways.
Your first assignment is to c
Poor Internet connectivity is frustrating for interviewers when they have to wait for you to connect. To make eye contact, don’t look into the interviewers’ eyes, look at the camera. These are just a few must dos for proper presentation.
It might well be a waste of time. It certainly doesn’t wave in the best candidates. Understanding this is part of the process will help you in your job search, just as accepting the idea that ATS’ are here to stay.
Read about 7 Tools Employers are Using to Hire Job Candidates.
8. You’re not showing up for interviews
Not literally. You’ve prepared for interviews by researching understanding the technology, but you’re just not there. You’re not answering the tough interview questions. This is the big ball game, so bring your A game.
What to do about it: I’m brought back to a great piece Dan Roth from Amazon wrote for one of my articles. In it he advises to be prepared for the types of questions, most importantly the behavioral based ones, instead of focusing on certain ones.
Yes, you need to be prepared for the traditional ones, such as, “Why should we hire you?” There are also the situational ones, such as, “What would you do if you had to persuade your manager to agree with how you wanted to conduct a certain procedure?”
Most difficult of all are the behavioral-based questions because they require you to provide proof of what you’ve performed. These questions require a S.T.A.R. answer. Confused? Here’s what Dan writes:
“As recruiters a recruiter, I get asked all the time, “What is the hardest interview question you have ever heard?” I always pause, knowing I am not going to give them the answer they are expecting to hear.
“Instead of a specific question, my response is always, “It’s not the question that is hard. The hard part is making sure you are answering the question how the interviewer wants you to.” Roughly 90% of the time I get a quizzical look so I explain….“
Now read the rest of his contribution, Sage Interviewing Advice from 5 Recruiters.
9. You’re not following up
Following up with the interviewers completes the interview process and demonstrates excellent customer awareness. If you think this part of the journey doesn’t matter, you’re mistaken. As many as 75% of employers take note of candidates who don’t follow up, and as many as 20% base their hiring decision based on follow up messages.
What to do about it: There are two ways you can follow up, with email or via snail mail. The former is preferred more by employers and job candidates. It’s immediate and allows you to include more in your note. One might argue that thank-you notes show your age.
When you follow up is key. Generally speaking, you don’t want to wait longer than 24 hours. If an interview takes place on a Friday, following up on Monday is acceptable.
Lastly are the elements of your thank-you note:
1. Show your gratitude. Obviously you’re going to thank the interviewers for the time they took to interview you; after all, they’re busy folks and probably don’t enjoy interviewing people.
2. Reiterate you’re the right person for the job. This is the second most obvious statement you’ll make in your follow-up notes. Mention how you have the required skills and experience and, very importantly, you have the relevant accomplishments.
3. Interesting points made at the interview. Show you were paying attention at the interview. Each person with whom you spoke mentioned something of interest, or asked a pertinent question. Impress them with your listening skills by revisiting those interesting points.
4. Do some damage control: How many candidates wish they could have elaborated on a question, or totally blew it with a weak answer? Now’s your chance to correct your answer.
5. Suggest a solution to a problem: Prior to the interview you were unaware of a problem the company is facing. Now you know about the problem. If you have a solution to this problem, mention it in your follow-up or a more extensive proposal.
To succeed in 2022 you must shuck off the bad habits you’ve developed because of lack of job search or simply because you haven’t considered better ways to look for work. Do better in gaining focus, researching, writing resumes for human consumption, networking, preparing for interviews, adapting to technology, and following up.