So you’ve been applying to jobs for a while now, but still haven’t landed one. Maybe it’s time to take a step back and examine why.
Finding a new job feels like a full-time job in and of itself. You spend hours hunched over your computer, scouring job boards for postings that fit your experience and ambitions, fixing up your resume and cover letters, and researching potential companies. Not to mention that the stress of being unemployed is often more stressful than actually having a full-time job! You’re worried about affording housing, food, clothes, etc.
Applying to new jobs is a lot of work and you want to make sure that hard work will pay off. It can be very demoralizing to apply for countless jobs, only to be rejected over and over again. There are a lot of obvious reasons you might not be getting hired. Maybe you’re underqualified, don’t have relevant experience, or your resume is a disaster. However, if these don't apply to you, there are a few less obvious reasons you might not be getting hired for the job you want. Let's take a look at those and see what you can do to switch up your strategy.
1. You’re Asking Generic Questions
You can go on google right now, search “what questions should I ask in a job interview?” and get thousands of different answers. Many of them are going to be generic though, and your interviewer has probably heard them countless times. Sure, there are some generic questions that you should always ask like “What’s it like to work at this company?” or “What would a normal day in this job look like?” But the interview is also a time to go above and beyond what’s expected of you.
Make sure you prepare by researching the prospective company (and your interviewer, if possible!) and by making a list of detailed questions that are relevant, specific, and interesting.
2. You’re Inauthentic
Job interviews often feel like putting on a performance, and in a lot of ways you are. You want to put your best foot forward, share your strengths, and convince your interviewer that you’re the best candidate for this position. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be genuine though. When you’re interviewing with someone or even just submitting an application, remember that you’re dealing with other human beings. Don’t just tell them what you think they want to hear, tell them what you actually think.
Qualifications aside, most people just want to hire a nice person who they won’t mind working with.
Make sure you’re coming across as authentic throughout the application process. Maybe that means you have a quirky cover letter that will catch a hiring manager’s attention, or you’re not afraid to crack an (appropriate) joke during the interview. Qualifications aside, most people just want to hire a nice person who they won’t mind spending 8 hours a day, 5 days a week with. Be that person.
3. You're Mass Applying Online
We can all agree that mass emails are MASSively annoying, right? Well, mass job applications are no different! Hiring managers can tell when the application they’re reading is the result of a mass send (especially if you forgot to change the company name on your cover letter). If you want people to take the time to read your application, then take the time to make it worth their while. Whenever you apply to a job, make an effort to personalize your submission – from the cover letter all the way down to your resume. Didn’t know you should be changing up your resume? See my next point.
4. You’re Not Changing Up Your Resume
You should be changing up your resume throughout the job application process. This doesn’t necessarily mean you need to change it for every single job you apply for, but there are ways to tweak your resume to showcase different skills required by different jobs. One great “hack” is to use keywords from the job posting in your resume and/or cover letter.
For example, if the job posting emphasizes that it's critical for applicants to be highly organized, have great time management, and familiarity with Excel then highlight those strengths on your resume. That is, highlight those strengths if they are actually your strengths. Changing up your resume does not mean that you should lie in your resume because that’s a recipe for disaster. It simply means you should tailor the details of your experience to different potential job criteria.
5. You’re Too Negative
True story: One time my colleagues and I were interviewing candidates for an open position, and we interviewed one applicant who had all the right credentials. Their portfolio was impressive and they had great experience, but they spent the entire interview complaining about their last job. It was 30 minutes of pure negativity, and it left a bad taste in all of our mouths. Even though this person was a great fit on paper, we did not offer them the job.
It’s easy to get bogged down in negativity when you’re on the job hunt, especially if you hate your current (or previous) position. But don’t let that negativity color your future. It’s fine to talk about specific aspects of previous positions that you didn’t like. Maybe the company refused to promote internally or you were being underpaid. Those are legitimate complaints, but make them a side dish in your application process. Your strengths and what you can do to help your prospective company should be the entree.
6. You’re Rambling during Your Interview
If you’re anything like me, you ramble when you get nervous, so it’s only natural that you might find yourself rambling a bit during your interview, but try not to do this. Practice your answers, meet with friends who can role play the interview with you – whatever it takes to help you shake your nerves. It’s okay to tell a long-winded story or two during an interview if it’s relevant, but don’t ramble on for so long that you end up wasting your time (and your interviewer’s).
Go into the details when you give answers — that’s where the nuggets of gold are.
7. You’re Not Being Specific
When an interviewer asks you a question or you answer a question on an application, don’t give a canned response. They’re asking you specific questions for a reason, so be specific in your answers. If they ask you something like “Tell me about some of the latest projects you worked on in your current job,” don’t give a generic answer like “email campaigns” or “building a new website.”
Talk about specific aspects of the email campaign or how you went about designing the website. Use your answers to key into the strengths that make you a good candidate for the job you’re applying for. Things you want your interviewer or hiring manager to remember. Go into the details when you give answers — that’s where the nuggets of gold are.
8. You’re Not Making the Most of Your Interview
Getting to the interview phase when you’re applying for a job is a big deal. It shows that this company is interested enough in you to give you some of their time. They value you, so reciprocate that value by making the most of your interview. This is an obvious tip, but make sure you look presentable. Remember that old saying “dress for the job you want, not the job you have”? Well, it’s true. You don’t need to wear a ballgown, but dress up a little bit as a sign of respect toward your interviewer.
Have a plan before you go in about key things you want to talk about like your strengths and past projects, as well as a list of unique questions you want to ask. Your interview is the make or break portion of the application process, so do everything in your power to ensure you nail it.
9. You’re Not Following Up
If you haven’t been sending follow-up emails after job interviews, that could be a major reason why you have not been hired yet. It’s a simple yet effective way to show that you’re thoughtful, courteous, and genuinely interested in the position. This email can be short and sweet, but make sure it’s not generic. Whenever I’ve sent follow-up emails in the past, I like to thank the person, emphasize how excited/interested I am in the position, and also reference a humorous joke, connection, or topic that came up during the interview as a way to personalize the email and come across as authentic.
The job application process can feel like a thankless slog at times, and if you’re in the midst of it right now, I feel you! I’ve been there before myself, but keep your chin up and try to stay positive. Hopefully some of these tips will help you find success with your next application!
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