Unemployment is at a historic low. Employers seem to be scrambling for top talent. So why can’t you find a job? If you’ve been on the job hunt for a while and either can’t make it to the top of the resume slush pile or keep falling short of an offer, there may be a few issues at play.
YOU’RE LOSING TO THE ROBOTS
Have you ever heard of an applicant tracking system or ATS? If you haven’t, your resume may be getting blocked by artificial intelligence (AI) before it reaches any humans at all. Nearly half of employers these days use some sort of ATS to sort and process job applications automatically. When you’re asked to fill out and submit an application online or upload a resume to a website, those are sure signs you’re entering the AI “Matrix.” It’s gotten to the point in which 75% of resumes are never seen by an actual person.
To make it through an ATS screen, follow the instructions on the job listing precisely. Plus, you’ll need to tweak your experience and background to more closely match the keywords used in each job description. You may also need to watch your sentence structure, file format, and even the fonts you use. For more tips, check out our previous blog post on Acing the Automated Hiring Process.
YOUR TECHNICAL SKILLS ARE LACKING
If you’re in an IT or digital career, it’s important to understand the latest skills and certifications you should have to make yourself marketable. Pay attention to the keywords used for the jobs that attract your attention. Skills like cloud computing, AI, UX design, mobile application development, and data science are in the highest demand right now. Perhaps you have overlapping skills but aren’t describing them in ways that match what today’s potential employers are searching for. If you need to brush up in certain areas, look at this list of top-paying IT certifications.
Not in IT? You’re not off the hook. Tech has changed every job in the U.S. You may be putting yourself out of the running for your dream job if you’re not keeping up. Just think of the role of an administrative assistant as an example. Phone systems have evolved, word processing and database management have been transformed, digital filing and asset management have replaced physical files, virtual meetings and collaboration have overtaken face-to-face meetings. An administrative assistant today needs vastly different hard skills than they needed even 10 years ago to be considered proficient. The same is true whether you want to find a job in marketing, light manufacturing, healthcare, education, oil and gas, finance, and just about every single industry under the sun.
YOU NEED TO WORK ON YOUR SOFT SKILLS
Soft skills are how you think and behave. They include communication style, leadership skills, courteousness, and attitude. Believe it or not, many employers are more frustrated about the lack of necessary soft skills over hard (or technical) skills in today’s workforce. Nearly 60% of business leaders even say soft skills are more important than hard skills.
This area is tricky because soft skills can be subjective and often depend on culture fit. One employer may be looking for a natural leader while another one needs a consummate team player. Behavioral and personality assessment are commonly used to determine whether your soft skills are a match—sometimes you have what they need, sometimes you don’t. But if you recognize a pattern in your job search and suspect it could be a soft-skill deficiency, it’s time to reflect.
Work with your recruiter, a good friend, or a career coach to determine the possible problem. You can reword your resume or LinkedIn profile to highlight better how your soft skills contributed to your career accomplishments. Maybe you’re failing to highlight your best attributes during the interview process. Or there are areas like leadership, communication, or collaboration that still need work. LinkedIn’s recommendations for how to learn the top soft skills may help.
YOUR CONFIDENCE IS BACKFIRING
The candidate-driven job market may have you feeling like you can play coy or hardball with potential employers. Don’t do it. A sure-fire way to lose a job offer is to be so confident it borders on arrogance. Our recruiters point out several scenarios where this often plays out:
- Taking all the credit when answering common behavioral interview questions like “Name a time in which you succeeded in reaching a goal. Walk us through how you got there.” No one succeeds in a vacuum. Answers with “I” and “me” instead of giving team credit where it’s due are red flags.
- Being rude to support staff—they’re often asked how they were treated by you when setting up your interview or greeting you at the door.
- Not following up with a thank you note or email after every interview. It’s a simple gesture that still goes a long way.
- Asking too soon about compensation and benefits. Leave the negotiations to after the offer is made.
- Taking too long to accept the job offer, making unrealistic counter requests, or playing employers off one another with a game of counteroffer “tag.” Read here for more.
YOU’VE GOT SKELETONS IN YOUR CLOSET
At least 70% of employers use social media to screen their job candidates. It’s easy, completely legal, and it can be done without your consent. So go ahead and Google your name right now: What pops up that you’d rather employers not see? To find a job, clean up your social profiles and set your more personal accounts to private. Conversely, consider pouring energy into your LinkedIn profile so it’s the first thing employers will see.
If you’ve been fired in the past or had a poor work experience that might be drudged up during the interview or referral-checking process, here’s how to address it. You may have less public information like a criminal record or even poor credit you’re worried about. While employment background checks often cover these areas, potential employers must inform you before conducting them. Take a look at these tips.
If you believe you’re being discriminated against due to your age, race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, or disability, those are areas that should be addressed with the help of a knowledgeable legal expert. It’s extremely rare for a job seeker to be faced with systemic, overriding discrimination across multiple employers, but it can happen.
There are dozens of other areas that you may be falling short on when trying to find a job. Perhaps you’re not handling “stress questions” or phone interviews appropriately. Perhaps you seem overqualified for the jobs you’re seeking. If you’re already working with recruiters, talk to them about how you may be able to identify your Achilles heel in your job search. You may want to get your resume reviewed, speak to a career coach, do informational interviews, refine your social presence, or re-evaluate your salary requirements.
To find a job swiftly and successfully, knowledge is power. Sometimes you just need a little help to get there.