by Teri Fritsma
It’s not an ideal time to be job hunting. Here in Minnesota, there are about 8 job seekers for every job vacancy (to put that in perspective, there were fewer than 3 in 2007). If you’ve been on the market for weeks, months, or longer, it’s quite possible that the sheer number of job seekers is the reason you haven’t gotten a job offer. You’re competing with dozens or even hundreds of other applicants for each position you apply for, and a lot is out of your control.
Still, if you’ve been at it awhile, try reading the signals you’ve been getting from prospective employers to see what, if anything, is going wrong. Do the scenarios below apply to you?
You’ve sent your materials out to dozens of employers and haven’t heard a peep.
If you’re not even getting in the door for an interview, there might be a problem with your resume or cover letter. Below are some problems to look for and some tips for what to do about them.
- You aren’t tailoring your materials to each job ad. In this job market, you absolutely must show each prospective employer why you’re the perfect candidate for the job. If you’re applying for positions that don’t seem like an obvious match for your skills or experience, you have to connect the dots for the employer.
- Your cover letter or resume are poorly written or have typos. Have a friend or relative who’s a good writer look over your materials with a critical eye. And remember: brightly colored or perfumed paper, personal information and pictures are almost never appreciated.
- You have gaps in your employment history. Consider using a functional (rather than a chronological) resume format, which emphasizes skills and accomplishments over job history.
- You aren’t selling yourself well. You don’t have to be a salesperson, but you do have to be able to communicate what’s special and unique about what you have to offer. If you’re not sure where to start, try taking a skills assessment, which will give you a structured way to evaluate your professional skill set.
- You aren’t using the right keywords. If you’re posting your resume to online job banks, keep in mind that many of these job banks (like MinnesotaWorks) use a keyword matching system to match resumes to job openings. To describe your skills, experience, and education, choose the same words that prospective employers are likely to use. You can often find good keywords in the job ad or position description.
You’re getting interviews, but no job offers.
If you’re being invited to interview but not getting any further, something might be going wrong in the interview process. Could any of these be the problem?
- You aren’t able to impress the employer because you don’t know enough about their business or mission. Researching the employer is an important step in applying for any job. Ideally, you’ve done your homework before you even send out your materials, but you really must do this before going to an interview. You’ll understand what the employer is talking about, be able to ask good questions, and be better prepared for the questions that the employer asks you.
- Your interviewing skills just aren’t up to par. There are lots of ways to flub an interview. Get prepared by reading these interview tips and by being ready for common questions. Consider scheduling a mock interview with a friend or family member, or with a career counselor at a WorkForce Center. Another possibility (if you have the equipment and the time) is to videotape yourself answering common interview questions—then watch the video back to evaluate your answers and your style. You can even post your video on YouTube as this person did and ask for feedback!
- The salary question got you into trouble. Employers will typically ask questions about your salary requirement or your previous salary. This is a minefield for the applicant. Name a salary that’s too high and you could be put in the discard pile. Too low, and you might get a job offer but be working for far less than what the employer might have paid you. This recent blog post offers tips on how to handle the salary question.
Finally, a personal note: job hunting in a tight labor market can be a grueling process that exposes you to rejection and disappointment, which can quickly take a toll on your emotional, mental, and physical well-being. Look for ways to stay as positive as you can and to deal with the stress of job hunting. Keep a routine; exercise, eat right, and get enough sleep. Find more tips for dealing with job transitions here.