Having bad luck with your job search? It might be useful to take a step back and break down your search into different stages to try to understand the root of the issue.
Are you not finding the right jobs to apply for in the first place? Are you applying but not getting any interviews? Are you getting initial interviews but never advancing to later rounds? Taking time to understand which of these categories you belong to is a great first step to take.
With that knowledge, you can then narrow the scope to more easily find the issues that are possibly causing you trouble — and figure out how to fix them. To point you in the right direction, we gathered some of the most common issues plaguing job seekers at each stage of the job search and tips on how you can improve in each area.
If you’re not finding the roles you want
If you’re having a difficult time finding the type of role you want, there are a number of things you can do to find new and exciting jobs. For one, if you’re not already working with one, working with a recruitment partner like ML6 is a great way to quickly gain access to more jobs.
With a recruitment partner, you have a job-seeking expert in your corner always looking for opportunities on your behalf. Plus, all jobs you’re connected with are heavily vetted to match your qualifications and interests. This added expertise can help save you time in only applying for jobs that are the right fit for you. And beyond connecting you with more jobs, recruitment partners also provide authoritative advice, help build your network, and put pressure on you to develop new job-seeking and career-related skills.
Outside of working with a recruitment partner, you can gain access to more jobs by signing up for more job boards, expanding your network to include friends of friends, former colleagues, and members of professional associations; you can even try your hand at cold outreach! For example, start by making a list of companies you’d like to work for and reach out via LinkedIn InMail inquiring about potential employment opportunities.
If you’re not getting interviews
While there may be several reasons why you may not hear back from an organization after applying, if you’re consistently not progressing to the next stage, then it may be time to review your resume.
But first, it’s important to understand the goal of a resume. A resume isn’t meant to highlight every single one of your achievements. But rather, to provide the right amount of information to pique an organization’s interest enough to move forward with you. Ultimately, the goal of a resume is to land an interview. With that in mind, here are a few tips on how to improve your resume to land an interview.
First things first, the easiest thing you can do is to look for spelling mistakes or grammatical errors. Think about it: if a job description says “must be detail-oriented” and it’s clear your resume hasn’t been proofread, that may be a red flag. As a best practice, always proofread and read your resume and cover letter aloud a couple of times to make sure they’re free of mistakes. And don’t forget to get a second set of eyes! You can also have a friend or family member proofread your resume before you send it to an employer.
If your resume is free of mistakes the next thing to look at is your resume’s formatting. Studies have shown that the average recruiter only scans a resume for six seconds. That means you have very little room for fluff. Your resume should only contain the most relevant skills and qualifications for the job.
The best way to format your resume is to ensure that the most relevant information is at the top. For example, if you’re a new grad looking for a software developer job and have little to no industry experience, then highlighting your degree in computer science and class projects is probably more relevant than highlighting your summer job as a lifeguard.
Next, you want to ensure you tailor your resume to each unique position you apply for. Not only is a copy-and-paste resume obvious to employers from a mile away, if you’re not optimizing your resume for each employer, then it may also make you appear less qualified than you actually are!
And remember to look to the job description for hints here. Organizations often use an applicant tracking system (ATS) to filter through resumes. These systems look for keywords that match the job description. So if your resume is missing these words, then your resume is likely not floating to the top. For example, if a job description says “technical knowledge of marketing automation platforms like Pardot and SalesLoft,” then your resume might read “managed high-volume of market qualified leads (MQLs) using Pardot.”
If you’re not advancing past the phone screen
Now that your resume has sparked the interest of an organization, the next step is typically a phone interview with a recruiter. In this stage, the recruiter will ask you about your background, skills, and experience to assess whether you might be a good fit for the role. They may also take this opportunity to learn more about your personality and working style to see if you would be a good culture fit for the company. If you’re finding yourself frequently not making it past this stage, there are a few different culprits to look at.
The first is a lack of employer research. Many candidates make the mistake of treating the phone interview as an informal conversation, and they don’t take it seriously. While this might be the case for some organizations, you should always expect to come prepared.
Start by reviewing the job description, to understand exactly what role you’re interviewing for and what the interviewer may ask you. Think of a few different responses to common questions like “tell me about yourself” or “why did you apply for this role?” And don’t forget to research the company as a whole! Check out their about page, blogs, and social media profiles to get a sense of the entire company’s mission, vision, values, and overall “vibe.”
Outside of doing your research, your performance as an interviewee is another area to consider. Phone interviews can be tricky to navigate because you don’t have the same physical cues as a video or in-person interview. As a best practice, we recommend trying to follow the interviewer’s lead. For example, instead of jumping right into business, they may start with some small talk like asking how your day is going or talking about the weather. Use this opportunity to set the tone. Be friendly, polite, and showcase a little bit of your personality!
Next, you’ll want to think about how you’re coming across. While the phone screen is also an opportunity for you to assess whether the organization is a good fit for you, it’s important to remember that the goal of the phone screen is to land a formal interview. You should consider phone interviews as your opportunity, to sum up what’s most attractive to you about the job and the company, as well as the skills and qualifications you bring to the table.
Some specific things to avoid are coming across as desperate or focusing too much on yourself (e.g. what the company can do for you vs. what you can do for them). Generally speaking, you want to demonstrate that your unique experience and knowledge can help the organization solve its biggest business challenges. So the more clearly and confidently you can show that hiring you will make their life easier, the better.
And don’t forget about salary. It’s not uncommon for recruiters to ask about your salary expectations at this stage. That’s because they want to ensure your expectations are aligned with their budget before going further with the process. So it’s important that you understand your value and come prepared with a number.
Keep in mind that asking too low can give the impression that you’re an underperformer, and asking too high may simply be out of the realm of possibility for your employer. For more assistance here, you can use tools like PayScale, or review salary guides — many large recruitment agencies publish salary guides annually.
If you’re not advancing past late-stage interviews
Making it to late-stage interviews but never actually getting the job often has less to do with your qualifications and more your interview skills. First things first, you want to make sure that you are remaining consistent and authentic in all your interactions. For example, if you’re providing different answers to the same questions across multiple interviews, this might appear as a red flag to employers. Even if it’s simply the result of nerves, inconsistencies can build a case against you that you’re not trustworthy.
Make sure to review your work history before the interview — and make sure what you say matches what’s on your resume. And remember, always be yourself! If you’re not your authentic self in the interview, then you will likely not last long on the job. That’s because if there’s a mismatch between yourself and the true reality of the work environment and expectations, then you’re going to experience a real disconnect that could be problematic.
Next, remember to focus on listening. Often when an interview doesn’t go well, it’s because you didn’t answer the question appropriately. We understand that it can be easy to get distracted during a job interview — it’s a stressful time to sit in the hot seat when it comes to having to respond to questions! That said, it’s okay not to respond right that second. Take a moment to reflect on the question and craft a thoughtful response.
And finally, come prepared with your own questions to ask! Almost every interview ends with the employer asking if you have any questions. That’s because interviews are not only an opportunity for them to evaluate you but also for you to evaluate whether they’re the right organization for you. You can ask about the job, the company culture, or about any details that you’d like to know more about. This is your final opportunity to show you have a genuine interest in the organization, so make sure you come ready to make a great last impression.
Armed with these tips, we hope you can turn your luck around on your job search, no matter where your sticking point may be. Of course, where possible, you can also ask employers for feedback, as this is often the quickest way to understanding the source of your bad luck.
For even more help with your job hunt, be sure to get in touch with our expert team of hiring professionals today!
ML6 is a recruitment and talent advisory firm located in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). We provide customized solutions to support our clients throughout the employee lifecycle. We help our clients attract and retain talent by advising on people programs, processes, and best practice