You’ve spent hours scouring the job boards, refining your resume, squeezing as many credentials as possible onto a single page, crafting cover letters and so on.
But 30 job applications later, and still no interview requests. What gives?
To some extent, it’s just the fickle nature of the job search. On average, for every 250 resumes submitted, four to six job seekers will be called in for an interview. Only one candidate will be chosen.
Numbers aside though, we believe in making your own luck. Learning how to get a job interview is like anything else in life: It takes a bit of trial and error and a whole lot of practice.
One of the best places to start as you try to find a job is to ask yourself what you might be doing wrong in the early phases of your job hunt. We’ll give you head start. Here are a few reasons why you might not be getting called in:
Your resume doesn’t focus enough on accomplishments
It’s true that a recruiter or a hiring manager wants to know about your prior employment experience. But don’t just list off every job you’ve had since high school and what your duties entailed. This can make for a boring, cluttered and sort of unmemorable read. And the name of the game in the hiring process is “be remembered” – positively, of course.
For each job that you list, try to highlight at least one accomplishment. For instance, if you’re an information technology project manager, make sure that – in addition to sharing some responsibilities you had on the job – you also include an outcome for those duties. Maybe you overshot your deliverables on multiple occasions. Maybe you turned around a particularly risky account at a software design firm. If you can provide hard numbers, that’s always better (delivered projects under budget and ahead of schedule for two consecutive quarters). The point is, saying you’ve done the things listed in the job description isn’t as memorable as showing that you did them well.
Some job seekers fancy themselves the ideal candidate for roles that are either lateral moves, or that are actually a step backward. This is a particularly common pitfall for desperate or over-eager job hunters – for instance people who are miserable in their current role and are ready to pull the ripcord, or those who may have recently become unemployed. The problem is that hiring managers can see when you’re over-qualified, and they’ll likely dismiss you as someone who will ask for more money than they’re willing to pay. Even if money is a non-issue, many employers are privy to the fact that potentially desperate, over-qualified candidates have a higher risk of leaving at the next best opportunity. Other concerns are that the candidate will be bored on the job, or that they’ll butt heads with their supervisors because of how experienced they are.
Before you sell yourself to a potential employer, you need to be sold on, well, yourself. That means fully understanding your actual professional worth, and how that might come across to employers. Even in moments of joblessness, be honest about what you know you’re capable of. Because that matters to employers, and it will influence your chances of getting called in for an interview. While it’s OK to apply to some jobs you know you’re overqualified for, also apply for roles that are at or above your level.
You have too many gaps in your resume or a history of job-hopping
Maybe you had an unemployment spell because you were dealing with illness. Maybe you hopped around because you have a spouse in active military service. Whatever the reason, your resume could be giving off warning signs to prospective employers. For the most part, HR will be accepting of resume gaps since those are often the result of things that are outside of your control. But hopping from job to job is a big red flag. It costs a lot of money for employers to fill vacancies, and most companies want someone who will dedicate themselves to the organization. In theory, there may be a perfectly logical explanation, or you may be confident in your ability to make your case during a phone interview. Great! Problem is, you need to actually get on the line with an interviewer first.
First, there’s the cover letter. It’s an opportunity to explain shifts in your career trajectory, or make a case for yourself in a way that you can’t on your resume. Even that may not be necessary if you can tweak your resume a little to de-emphasize how many jobs you’ve had and how little time you’ve spent there. For instance, you don’t have to list every previous employer ever. Another tactic is to just list the year that you worked there (e.g., 2017, or even 2017-2018 if, say, you started in November and left in March). It might not work on the most experienced hiring managers, but it could get you on the phone with someone so you at least have a chance to make your case.
Your cover letters are too general
Long before employers assess your interview attire, your body language, eye contact, whether or not have a firm handshake, etc., they’ll assess your story. Not all hiring managers ask for a cover letter, but most do. And even those that don’t will almost certainly check out your LinkedIn profile to try to figure what you’re all about. The purpose of your cover letter isn’t to rehash your employment and your skills, but that’s what a lot of people accidentally end up doing. This is unfortunate, considering a cover letter is so often treated like a tie-breaker of sorts. Lots of candidates are a great fit – but why you over them, and why here at this particular company? It’s going to take a little more than simply saying you’re competent, hard-working and good at what you do.
Treat the cover letter like a professional mission statement that shows how your values intersect with the values of the company and serve the role you’re applying for. This is your chance to show that you care, and why you care. Writing a great cover letter is not easy. It takes some critical thinking. But put the effort in. Like pushing yourself at the gym, it gets easier and easier, until it feels almost second nature. (PS: Avoid buzzwords. IT and finance managers have seen phrases like “results-driven” and “highly qualified” so many times that these words have basically lost any real meaning.)
Your application isn’t actually getting in front of anyone
Let’s assume that you’re doing almost everything right: You’re highlighting accomplishments on your resume, you have a nice, clean, legible format, you’re listing all the right skills, credentials and certifications, you have a clean footprint on social media and you have an insightful cover letter. But you’re still not getting hits. The problem could very well stem from the fact that your applications are being slush-piled. Meaning – the employer is swamped, so they’re prioritizing referrals and recommendations from recruiters. You may in fact be the best fit for many of the jobs you’re applying to – but just need a push to get your resume on the right desk.
Be resourceful. For example, during the application process, consider reaching out to an employee at that company over LinkedIn to ask for more information about the role. That employee could be someone currently in that role, or it could be a manager. Either way, you can spark a conversation under the pretense that you have questions about the position. Try to be specific with your questions, and treat any ensuring correspondence – over email or on the phone – like a chance to make an impression on someone who could theoretically help you get a foot in the door. You may not have the time or energy to do this for every role you apply to, but it’s certainly worth a little extra labor if you suspect you may have stumbled upon your dream job.
We’d also recommend reaching out to third-party recruiters. Remember, their job is to get great candidates in front of their clients. That means they’ll vouch for you (totally free of charge) if they think you’re a great fit for a position that they’re trying to fill. If you get their attention, they’ll get their clients’ attention for you. And that brings you one step closer to an interview and, eventually, job offer.
Share your resume with prosourceIT
Our expert recruiters are dedicated to building mutually beneficial relationships between job candidates and the businesses that need them. If you’re on the hunt for an IT or finance job, submit your resume to us. We review all of them, and if we like what we see, we’ll make sure it gets in front of the right people.
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