It’s one of the most difficult and frustrating questions to face. Job seekers usually don’t receive feedback from hiring managers or interviewers, let alone hear why their resume may not have been selected for an interview. Instead, they are left to wonder if there is something wrong with them.
I don’t advise job seekers rely too much on the old stand-by reasons why they didn’t get the job: ageism (they want a 25-year old, and I’m 45), the economy is so bad/no one is getting hired (even if they are). There are no jobs in your town, and it would be impossible to sell the house right now. Your situation is unique — you took time off to care for an elderly parent, you want to return to paid work after retiring…The list goes on and on. There are plenty of “reasons” you can identify to explain away why you aren’t getting the job.
No matter what, though, in my experience, it usually comes back to several factors, and these factors are always in the job seeker’s control (unlike the items in the paragraph above, which are more difficult (although not impossible) for the job seeker to address).
– Your search itself — are you looking for a job or a company?
Even if you are getting interviews, it is possible you’re not connecting with the types of opportunities looking for someone like you. If you switch the way you are conducting your search, and instead of focusing on looking for job announcements, you look for companies with problems you know you can solve, you may have much more success.
Searching for a company instead of a job puts much more control in the job seeker’s hands. It can be very empowering to realize you can learn about an organization (via traditional and online research as well as networking) and, instead of trying to apply for a narrowly defined job, you can work on meeting people in the company and getting to know more about the organization. The goal? To be the “go to” person for the job before they even have posted a job. (Maybe before they even know they need to hire someone.)
– Your networking — and social networking
If your network isn’t working, think about making a change. Are you running around, telling everyone you know you need a job, and asking for their help? They probably have no idea how to help you. Instead, focus on letting everyone know about your expertise, take the focus off of the job. Explain what companies, industries or fields you are researching and ask if your contacts know anyone in those companies. However, try to remember not to make your job hunt the key factor when you meet with people. Think about projecting your expertise and leaving people with the impression that you are an expert in your field.
While social media won’t get you an interview, having a complete profile on LinkedIn and engaging on platforms such as Twitter can help you expand your network, which helps you improve your chances to land interviews.
– How you are applying
When you do apply for jobs, make sure your materials make it obvious that you’re well qualified and can do the job. If you are applying for a marketing job, make sure the entire resume isn’t about your sales accomplishments. You don’t want to confuse the reader — your materials should address their needs. Target your resume, online profiles, cover letter and all of your materials to their needs.
– Preparation for the interview
Prepare for an interview, even before you have one scheduled. How often will an employer expect you to be available “tomorrow” or the next day to discuss the job? Make sure you’re prepared to explain why you are qualified and why they should hire you. You’ll also need to know as much as possible about the company (which won’t be a problem if you’ve been looking for a company instead of a job!) Have stories to describe working with teams, leading, having problems with other people, overcoming difficult situations and a time when you came up against an obstacle. Be able to describe your successes and accomplishments and identify some weaknesses.
Have questions for the employer. These should be questions you cannot find answered elsewhere. It makes all the difference in an interview to sound well-prepared and interested in the job. Less prepared candidates will not make the cut in this competitive market.
– How you follow up
If you interview with six people, do you go the extra mile and send different, targeted thank you notes to each person? Or, are you emailing out the same messages, copied and pasted from one to the next? (Are you even sure you changed out the names correctly?) Making the extra effort to address each interviewer and mention what you discussed or clarify something you may have forgotten to mention can make a big difference when employers are trying to find evidence that you really are the type of candidate who will go above and beyond the call of duty.
Think about your follow up materials. How could you improve them to try to solidify your chance at the job?
Take a look at some of my other ideas on my U.S. News & World Report blog about this topic.
photo by Ciccio Pizzettaro