Even though the outlook’s been a bit sunnier lately, it’s still a tough job market out there. Recruiters and hiring managers are still getting dozens – if not hundreds – of qualified applications for each position. If yours has been getting lost in the shuffle, or you’re not getting any calls back after interviews, you may be making one of these easily-fixable mistakes.
You don’t have a strategy
What kind of job are you looking for? If you answered “one that pays the bills” you may be shooting a little too broadly. Narrowing down your options to a few career paths, job titles, and industries will help you discover resources you may never have found while taking the scattershot approach. Seek out specialized job boards in your field (which get fewer applications), mine your network for contacts in that industry, and attend industry conferences.
Not quite sure what you want to do? Talk to everyone you know. Back when I was waiting tables to pay for my English lit degree, I started asking friends, family and regulars what they did, and what they liked about it. I started pursuing copywriting jobs at the suggestion of one regular who’d worked as a copywriter – and I landed my first office job with her help in tailoring my resume and cover letters perfectly for the position.
Still at a total loss? Check out this skills test on ONetOnline.org, which matches the skills you check with potential occupations. You might have your eyes opened to something you never thought of.
You’re missing opportunities to show your skills
Too many people approach interviews as an oral resume exam, expecting to be quizzed about what they’ve done for work and education. But most interviewers will also ask you a series of behavioral questions designed to learn how you work. They’re looking for specific examples of things you’ve done to get results in the past.
Prepare for your interview by mining your work, volunteer, and educational history for compelling stories that demonstrate your qualifications, and show how you’ve accomplished measurable results in the past. Reread the job description to find key phrases that show what qualities your interviewer will be looking for, like “organized,” “able to troubleshoot problems,” etc. If it’s tough to blow your own horn, practice telling your success stories in front of the mirror, or with a friend.
You should also bring in a portfolio of your work (particularly of anything that brought about real results) and leave it with the hiring manager.
You’re ignoring your online profile
It’s so, so easy to do a Google search on prospective employees these days, and employers who do so may often get an eyeful. Take a look at your social media profiles, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Instagram, etc. Are your photos inappropriate? Are you highly vocal in your political views? Is your feed filled with rants about coworkers or former employers? These are the things that will come up if a potential employer searches for you, and they may scuttle your chances of getting the job.
If you’ve avoided social media entirely, you may have the opposite problem – there’s no way for a potential employer to discover you online. No need to start tweeting and liking everything in sight, though. For job seeking and networking LinkedIn is one of the best places to be, and it doesn’t require much time commitment. Spritz up your LinkedIn account today with your work history, examples of your portfolio, and references.
You’re sending out form cover letters and resumes
Don’t just batch-apply to a ton of different jobs – craft a cover letter that shows you’ve done your research, and that you’re the perfect person for the job. If possible, find the hiring manager’s name and address it to them specifically. Hiring managers can tell if you’re simply sending out the same generic resume and cover letter to every position on the job board.
This doesn’t mean it has to take you weeks to apply for one position. If you’re applying to a lot of jobs, develop an efficient system. Keep your pertinent portfolio pieces in a folder on your desktop so you can find them easier, type up a master resume that you can quickly modify, and save your best paragraphs from old cover letters to rework for new applications.
You’re not following up
If there’s one thing I’ve learned from both hunting for jobs and pitching articles to editors, it’s that you have to follow up. If I hadn’t followed up on my first copywriting job, they never would have called me – my original application had gotten lost in a HR personnel changeover. If you haven’t heard anything for a week or so, feel free to follow up with a call or email. At worst they’ll tell you they’re not interested and you can move on to other opportunities
Follow up after your interview, too. Drop a thank-you note in the mail (keep some pre-stamped ones in your briefcase and mail one on your way home), and follow up within a week if you haven’t heard back. This is particularly important if you’re applying for a job that requires you to be persistent. I joke that my husband actually “pestered” his way into his first sales position, but his boss was choosing between candidates who dropped off a resume and disappeared and a guy who called back to sell himself twice a week – who would you want on your sales team?