If you submit 10, 20 or more job applications weekly with no response, you are not alone.
Are you treating the job search as a numbers game, like telemarketing? “If I just send enough applications, it is inevitable that I will reach the top of the pile eventually.” Or do you believe those who say “nobody gets hired from online job postings”. If that was true, how long would employers continue to accept online submissions? Not very long! Someone is no longer unemployed. Why shouldn’t it be you?
Not every opening that is posted online is filled by an online applicant but some certainly are. If you aren’t hearing back, it probably has something to do with your qualification or how you are applying. But how can you know what to change? It may help to understand the hiring process from the employer’s perspective. When a position is posted, there may be thousands of applications. Often a junior staff member or a computer program screens on predetermined minimum qualifications. Now the pile is more manageable. Calls are then made for an initial screening interview by phone. So what if the prospective employer called the top 20 applicants but your phone didn’t ring? And what if that happened 50 times every week? No phone call, no interview, no job.
It would be helpful if somebody told you how close you came to getting the call. You still would be unemployed, but there is a big difference between missing the cut by one spot or by eight hundred! But all you know is they didn’t call you. Unless you know someone in the company, that’s all you will ever know. Not very helpful. No guidance for your next steps.
What can you do if not even one prospective employer invited you for an initial job interview after sending out hundreds of applications? Don’t despair. There is a simple (although not necessarily easy) strategy that will get you out of this rut. Let’s break this down. Apparently your resume and cover letter haven’t convinced the prospective employer that your experience and skills satisfy the requirements of the position as well as those of other applicants. That you already know.
What can you do to rank higher? First you need to do some research to distinguish between two possible explanations for your low ranking.
Hypothesis A is that the 20 applicants who did get a first interview are more qualified than you, in which case you need to upgrade your experience, accomplishments and credentials or forget about applying to jobs like this one.
Hypothesis B is that you deserve to be in the top 20 but your application isn’t very persuasive. In that case, you need to improve your cover letter and resume. Most of the time that is simpler but you still have to be willing to do some work.
How can you find out which hypothesis is true, A or B? Let’s take a look at A first. Here are a few suggestions, some of which are easy, but may be a little intimidating to an introvert.
- Compare the words you used in your resume and cover letter to those in the job postings. Use visual representations such as Wordle if that helps.
- Compare your application to examples of persuasive cover letters and resumes in books in the local library or bookstore. If you find it difficult to be objective, ask someone else to assist you with an honest critique. This is not the time to protect a fragile ego.
If you are confident that your application presents your qualifications as favourably as possible, it is time to check out Hypothesis B.
- Arrange an information interview with a hiring manager in your field. Ask for an honest appraisal of your application against a few actual job descriptions. Alternately, meet with an HR manager or a personnel recruiter in the same field.
- If you are still stumped, you may need to seek direct feedback from an actual employer on how your application was ranked. If you are persistent and make it clear that you just want to learn how to improve, you should be able to find someone willing to help. prospective employer
If all this seems like a lot of work or too far from your comfort zone, remember that much of the work you will be doing will also prepare you for the typical job interview questions that await you in the next stage.
If your resume writing skills are holding you back, you are not alone. Most resumes I have reviewed did not present the candidate well. Resume writing is a learned skill that most of us don’t practice often. Like many, you may underestimate how difficult it is to tailor a resume for the varying requirements of different employers for what appear to be similar positions, as I discussed in this earlier post. So you send the same resume and cover letter to every prospective employer when they are not seeking the same mix of skills, experience and credentials. To prove that to yourself, look at 10 different postings for a position like the one you would most like to have next. For those of you who are visual, use the Wordle approach to creating a visual representation of each one and look at them side by side. If two companies aren’t asking for the same qualifications, don’t sending the same resume and cover letter!
What if your skills are lacking? Perhaps you are highly competent technically but have very limited Microsoft Office skills. If you don’t have the specific experience, skills and credentials demanded by the prospective employer for the positions you want, it’s time to look at upgrading alternatives or start applying for positions more aligned with what you do offer!
“Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net”