This post will be most beneficial to the numerous people who’ve been fruitlessly searching for work for many months. Since the Recession of 2008 began, I’ve provided career counseling and coaching to a large group of clients in this category, and I’ve worked with them on numerous issues standing in the way of their success. Among these are:
1. Inadequate Networking
One of the most common complaints of the job seekers with whom I work is that they never hear back from the organizations to which they’ve applied. While this is certainly poor form on the employers’ part, it is not all that surprising in view of the fact that hundreds of applications may be received for a given position, and overstretched organizations and employers find themselves unwilling or unable to devote scarce resources to people they’ve decided to reject. The majority of jobs that are not filled internally are filled through referrals. and, as a result, a “cold call” application is far less likely to receive the attention it deserves than an application from a trusted referral source.
2. Poorly written resumes/cover letters
In the “good old days,” i.e. prior to the Great Recession, the unemployment rate stood at 5% or less, and virtually anyone with a reasonable set of skills and qualifications could land a job. Many applicants’ resumes started with an Objective statement, e.g. “Seeking employment by a progressive organization where I can sharpen my considerable skills in marketing and communications.” The emphasis was on what the applicant was seeking. This statement was followed by an employment history, which was where most employers focused their attention. Terms such as “administered,” “responsible for,” “supervised,” and “managed” were very common. Cover letters took a similar tack. In today’s far more competitive employment environment resumes and cover letters need to “sell” the applicant far more aggressively, with the focus on a) what the applicant offers that will tangibly benefit the employer; 2) an employment history that demonstrates these benefits. I look for “muscular” words like “created,” “spearheaded,” “developed.” or “directed” (see my post: “What Do You Bring to the Table?“).
3. Applying for a job for which the client is lacking the necessary qualifications
Read the job specs of a position very carefully. You must ensure that your cover letter and resume make it crystal clear that you have all the major qualifications that the employer is specifying. If 5 – 7 years of previous experience in defense-related or aerospace IT is specified, don’t bother applying if you have 4 years, or if your IT experience is in software development for transportation systems. You can be sure that people who meet the exact requirements will also be applying, and while you may be confident that your skills are transferable, the employer isn’t going to explore that possibility (unless perhaps you’re able to network in). Be sure to review your cover letter and resume to verify that they demonstrate how well you meet the exact requirements. If you don’t meet them, don’t apply.
4. Sub-par interviewing
You have to shine in the interview, whether it’s a “gatekeeper:” interview with the HR department, or with the CEO. Work with a professional to get the coaching necessary to: a) provide well-thought-through, polished answers to a wide variety of possible questions; b)make sure that your body language is open and appropriate (videotaping can help tremendously with this); c) check on your energy level (demonstrating enthusiasm without seeming manic, professionalism without being too dry).
While the four areas cited above (as well as several others) can torpedo a job search, the most common issue unsuccessful job seekers encounter is their own state of mind. After losing a job it is natural to feel a sense of failure, inadequacy, and defeatism – in a word, hopelessness. This is compounded after months of fruitlessly searching for re-employment. In my post “From Hopelessness to Motivation to Success” I gave a number of behavioral tips on how to deal with that negative state of mind. Next time, I will discuss some of the deeper issues that contribute to the hopelessness that so severely impedes a successful search for work.