Has your job search stalled? Here is what to do.

Has your job search stalled? Here is what to do.

When a job search starts, most people approach it with energy and enthusiasm. After a while, like with a diet or exercise regime that is not showing results, job seekers can start to get discouraged if there are no results from all of their hard work. Like a sailboat with no wind, you may feel you are in a dead calm. This is not a time for panic. This is also not a time to give up. Many job seekers find themselves without any wind at their back. Fortunately, there are several things you can do to start making forward progress again.

 Diagnosis of the problem

 In order to get back on the path of job search success, you need to analyze your job search activities and figure out what is not working and why. While it is easy to blame others for your lack of success, the majority of the time the issue is you and how you are conducting your job search. As Albert Einstein famously said, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.”

First, you need to diagnose the stage in the job search process where there is a roadblock. To use your time effectively, you need to understand the part of the process which is problematic for you and then determine possible solutions.

 You apply for jobs and do not hear anything back      

This is a very common issue. If you are sending out hundreds of resumes and are receiving few responses, there could be a few causes: 

  • You are applying to jobs where you do not meet the majority of the qualifications

  • Your resume has a lot of job duties but not a lot of accomplishments

  • You are only applying to jobs posted on job boards

  • Your social media presence is poor or non-existent 

I will address each. If you are applying to jobs where you do not meet the majority of the qualifications, then you will continue to get rejected. The truth is that many employers do not have the time or money to train you. If the position requires a high level of Excel skills and your experience with Excel has been to do simple addition, you are not qualified for this particular job. You are expected to come in with the expert Excel skills; the employer does not want you to learn Excel on-the-job. If this type of work is appealing to you, then your path to job search success is to take courses in Excel and perhaps get a certificate of proficiency. Otherwise, you are wasting your time and effort applying to positions where you do not have the required technical skills. What about those employers that post a laundry list of knowledge and skills required for the job? Look closely as to what is required and what is preferred. If it is required, take the employer at their word and do not apply if you do not have the skill. If the requirement is listed as preferred, then know that if you do not have the skill, you may be less qualified than other applicants. A good rule of thumb is to apply to positions where you meet 75-80% of the listed requirements. 

Many job seekers have resumes that read like their job description. Having statements like “responsible for X” or “oversaw Y” does not tell the hiring team much about you. Yes, you may have been asked to do those activities at your job, but there is no way for a future employer to tell if you were any good doing them. To make your resume stronger, outline what you have achieved.  

Instead of saying, “Responsible for the operations of a 30 person call center” say instead,

 “Head manager for the highest grossing call center in the company, with sales 25% over forecast in 2018.”

 Which candidate would you be more interested in contacting? 

Resumes should be targeted for each employer. Having a generic resume that is being sent out to every employer will often result in hearing nothing back from prospective employers. Each resume should showcase how you will meet the stated needs of that particular employer. If the job posting emphasizes people skills, your resume has to show your achievements in working well with others. If selling skills are important, you need to demonstrate your success in selling, especially in the type of environment of this employer (i.e. inside or outside sales). Make the necessary changes to your resume before sending it out. That should bring more job search success. 

If you are only applying to jobs posted on job boards, you are competing against many other job seekers. Unless you are a strong fit for the position, it is likely that only others who meet all the job criteria are being contacted. Additionally, with hiring teams receiving hundreds of resumes for each job posting, you may find that the applicant tracking system software may even be screening you out if you do not have all the “keywords” of the job posting featured in your resume (and a reason why tailoring your resume for each job is so important).  So what should you be doing? Networking! Yes, you need to be contacting people in your personal and professional circle (and making new contacts) to find job opportunities. Many jobs are not posted. Getting your resume in front of the hiring manager is powerful. Having someone refer you that is trusted by the hiring manager holds a lot of weight. You will still need to make your case that you can do the job, but at least you are more likely to be given that chance in an interview. 

Do you have a profile on LinkedIn that is fully completed? Are you engaging with people in your profession on social media? Have you made posts on social media that could be considered derogatory or unprofessional? Yes, your social media presence does matter. If you do not have a LinkedIn profile, you are missing out on the opportunity to be seen by both third party recruiters and company HR professionals. Many companies are actively searching for candidates and LinkedIn is a popular tool that is used. If you do not engage with others in a professional way on social media, you lose the opportunity for others to get to know you in a professional capacity. Having a social presence is powerful tool to attract the attention of recruiters and hiring managers. Wouldn’t it be great if people contacted you directly about openings they think you might be interested in? Lastly, always do a check of your social media posts and pictures and delete any that could put you in a bad light. Untag (or better yet have the individual delete) any pictures where you may be seen in an unflattering light (like the video of that night out with friends that shows you mooning pedestrians walking by). Yes, companies do check your social media presence out and yes, you could be rejected from the job search process because of it.

Your get phone interviews but get no further

If you are getting phone interviews, congratulations! You are one step closer to finding your dream job. If you are not getting further than this stage, then there is an issue with how you are presenting yourself on the phone. Phone interviews are often, but not always, conducted by third party recruiters and human resources to clarify information on your resume and to ask additional job related questions. You may have 15 to 30 minutes on the phone to convey this information. Here are some reasons why you are not having success at this stage in the job search process:

·         You have not researched the company in advance of the phone call

·         You have not practiced crafting powerful answers to common questions

·         You need to improve your delivery skills

I have conducted thousands of phone interviews. If it is apparent that the applicant is not familiar with the company business and has no idea about the role, this is a big turnoff. If you are caught off-guard and asked to do a phone interview on the fly and not pre-scheduled, see if it is possible to push the phone interview off, if even for a few hours so you can prepare. Researching the company and reviewing the role allows you to get a better sense of the type of company and therefore what might be asked of you. Additionally, you know that you will be asked about salary requirements, so it will also give you an opportunity to research the job market and the salary range for this type of role in this industry and location. If you are really interested in a particular role, make sure your salary requirements align with the market rate for the job. If your requirements are higher than typically what the role will offer, then this could be a reason why you are screened out.

Success in a phone interview (as well as in an in-person interview) often hinges on how you answer questions. Many job seekers don’t really listen to the question in the context of what you have learned about the company or role from your research. If you do not understand the intent behind the question, then you will not understand the best way to answer the questions asked. As an example, if the company has recently been acquired (which you would know from your research), then the company is going through change. Things may be in a state of flux. If you are asked about how you deal with change, and you answer that you do not like change and like to have processes that are written down and have specific steps, you should know that based on where the company is at this particular time, this will not be a winning answer. I am not saying you should lie to the interviewer. I am just saying knowing what the interview will want to hear, you should craft an answer that will best meet their needs. So a better answer to the question about change would be, “I have been in environments where there has been a lot of change. I am okay with ambiguity as long as I have an idea of what the company is trying to achieve. Then, I can base my decisions on how to best get us to that end goal.” On the internet there are many sites with common phone interview questions. Make sure that you review the often asked questions before the phone interview and have a prepared response. Since it is a phone interview, you can even outline your answers on cards that can be seen by you while you speak.

Another issue that you may be facing is not just the information you are giving but also how you give it. Are you coming across as personable or reserved? Are you projecting positivity or negativity? You should make sure you are doing the following things to help foster a positive impression with the person conducting the phone interview:

·         Use the first name of the interviewer during the phone interview. Everyone likes to hear their name.

·         Smile. When you smile, people can “hear” this over the phone.

·         Stand up while talking. You will feel more confident.

·         Make sure your answers are brief. There is a very limited amount of time for the call. Answers should be kept to two to four minutes. If the interviewer wants more information, they will ask follow up questions.

·         Do not do a phone interview in the car or walking. There are too many distractions (and it is not safe!). Find a quiet place with good reception.

Your get in-person interviews but get no further

A few things are different between a phone interview and an in-person interview. Here are things that might be tripping you up at this stage:

·         You are not able to tell a compelling story about yourself

·         Your body language is problematic

·         You were not able to “connect” with the hiring manager

If you have gotten to the in-person interview stage, the company has already screened your information and believes you may be a fit. Whether you are a weak fit or a strong fit you do not know. Your job is to “tell and sell” your skills. Based upon your company research and information gleaned from a phone interview (if you had one), you should have some idea about what the company is looking for in a successful candidate. Are you able to articulate a compelling story of what you can offer to the company? How can you address the hiring manager’s pain points? In your answer to each question, you should be addressing what you have accomplished and how it relates to the job at hand.  If you are missing any of the skills needed for the role (or they are not apparent to the hiring manager), you need to address this and how you can overcome this. Like any sales person, you need to figure out the problems of the hiring manager and how the product that is “you” can address them.

It is possible that you can tell a compelling story of yourself, but your body language during the interview is problematic. If you slouch in your chair, have a limp handshake or have a nervous tic like bouncing your foot, the hiring manager might find your behavior distracting or off-putting. How you present yourself can be improved with practice. Video yourself while you are conducting a mock interview with another person. What do you see? Is there anything you can change? You may not be aware of the behaviors while they are happening, but the video (or feedback from others that have witnessed you in an interview situation) should provide information on where you can improve.

Hiring managers generally hire people that they like. Being likable is a great asset in the hiring process. An individual may not be the most qualified, but that often is discounted if the hiring manager feels a connection. How do you foster that connection? One is to be genuine and open. Try to manage your nerves so that you can present your true self. Before the interview, make sure you are feeling confident. Dress in a way that makes you feel powerful. Know your story and believe in it. Smile. Learn a bit about the interviewers (interests, hobbies, college attended and previous employers) to make a connection. While you can’t force a connection, you can foster one.

Go through this checklist to figure out how to get the wind back in your sail. There should be a few changes you can make that may make all the difference with your job search success. If you are at a true loss on how to proceed, it might be time to engage a job coach to assist you. I, as well as others, can go through your job search activities, provide mock interviews and work with you on crafting answers that show you in the best light. Either way, don’t give up! You can do this.


Terrible questions to ask if you really want the job

Terrible questions to ask if you really want the job

What is urgent/important in your job search?

What is urgent/important in your job search?

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