Why Can’t I Find a Job and What to Do About It, According to 11 Experts

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What to do when you can’t find a job despite your best efforts?

Consider these valuable insights from experts:

Sue Andrews

Sue Andrews

HR & Business Consultant, KIS Finance

Why you might be struggling to find a job and how you can improve your chances:

Are you looking in the right places?

If you can’t find enough relevant opportunities in your sector you may not be looking in the right places. Many job boards are too generic, particularly if you’re looking for something quite specialized.

Try using an industry-specific site which may have more relevant vacancies and also contact any industry or professional membership organizations to find out the best place to find jobs advertised.

Make your network work for you by attending networking events in person or online and connect with those in the sector. You can then make it known that you’re open to new opportunities.

Gaps in your resume may be putting employers off

It’s not unusual to have gaps in your resume where maybe you’ve been out of work for a short period or have taken time out for personal reasons. But unexplained gaps will make most employer’s nervous and may lead to them discounting your application.

It’s therefore really important to provide details of any gaps along with any additional experiences you’ve gained whilst you weren’t working. This will show that you used that time doing something worthwhile and gained from that time even if it wasn’t spent in a formal work setting.

Think quality not quantity

It’s not how many applications you send out but how good each one is what counts. Every application needs to be tailored to fit the individual job opportunity as recruiters can spot mass-produced applications and will take this to mean that you’re not genuinely interested in working for their organization.

Think hard about why you really want to work for that particular company and personalize your application with some well thought out comments and reasons for wanting to work there.

You need to be flexible

Are you being too inflexible in your requirements as this may be causing a barrier? For example, do you want part-time work but only on specific days or are you only prepared to look for work in a relatively close radius to where you live?

These types of restrictions will really hinder your search and whilst in an ideal world you’d get a job that fitted all of your criteria, you may need to compromise to land a job in the first place. If an employer senses you are inflexible this is a sure-fire way to put them off.

Are you showing genuine enthusiasm?

Displaying genuine enthusiasm for the role goes a long way. Recruiters are busy people so if you don’t return their calls promptly they’ve probably moved onto the next task. If you appear indifferent then you can’t expect others to put in the effort of considering your application.

What you may see as being laid back can come across as arrogant to an employer and is a very quick way to have your application overlooked.

Spring clean your on-line presence

Look at your online presence – does it look professional and reflect the image that you want to portray to potential employers? If not you need to either clean up your current profiles to make them look more polished or create new profiles.

Being active online by following relevant debates and posting appropriate comments will enhance how you appear to potential employers.

Check that your salary expectations are realistic

Are your salary expectations unrealistic? Often people have a fixed idea of their worth and won’t budge from this, but for the right role, it’s worth being more flexible. It’s quite common for those with qualifications but not enough experience to price themselves out of the job.

Even if you have studied for a number of years to gain a qualification, the experience is what employers really value so you may need to lower your sights to get that next step on the ladder. You can always renegotiate after a year when you have a proven track record of success in the role.

If you’re getting interviews but still no job offers then think about the following:

Prepare real-life examples to showcase your skills

Think about the key skills that are relevant to the job and prepare some examples of things that you have actually done that demonstrate/showcase that skill. Be prepared to give full details as interviewers want you to do the talking and will welcome real-life examples that show you have what they are after.

Exude a positive attitude

Are you being negative about previous employers, as if there is one thing that’s likely to put off future employers it’s being derogatory about your former company?

Think carefully about the reason you give for leaving on your application form and at the interview and always try to find something positive to say about your time there.

For example, you might say that you left to enable you to take your next steps to progress your career or perhaps to try something new to broaden your experience.

Preparation is everything

Make sure you prepare for your interview and really know about the company that you’re applying to. Don’t just take the basic information from their website homepage, do some more detailed research.

Have they been involved in some key projects, or are they renown for something specific such as excellent service? You’ll then be able to talk about these things knowledgeably in your interview.

Practice really does make perfect

Interviews can be really stressful situations but it’s important to try to sound as natural and relaxed as possible, so practice your technique. Ask a friend who you trust, to be honest, to do a mock interview with you and to give some straight feedback.

Maybe your answers are too long and rambling, perhaps you have a nervous habit that you’re not aware of such as tapping your foot or overusing certain words.

These behaviors can make you look less professional and articulate but being aware can help you to avoid them in the future.

Frank Grossman

Frank Grossman

Founder, Resumes That Shine

Make sure you are qualified

I speak with many prospective clients that say they need a new resume because they are not getting interviews for the jobs they want to land. The first thing I ask them to do in this case is to send me examples of the job postings they are applying for.

Frequently, the job posting does not match their qualifications. For example, a young woman that recently completed a graduate degree in public policy sent me a posting for a UN job that specified years of experience in the agency’s business.

One way to assess whether you are qualified for a job is to create two columns–“Job Requirements” and “My Qualifications.” The rule-of-thumb is there should be an 80% match between the two columns. This may vary by industry and level.

Fill employment gaps

Another common issue is that some of us have gaps in our salaried employment history. Prospective employers are traditionally suspicious of gaps.

Most of us do not watch TV or surf the Net all day when we are between salaried jobs. We are assisting friends and families with their businesses, volunteering in the community, doing short freelance assignments or caring for children.

One of my clients, a manufacturing engineer, worked on business plans and product designs for a family business while she was raising her young children. We added this freelance work to her resume and filled her gap.

Make contact in-person with people in your field

Typically, I ask prospective clients what they are doing with their resume during their job search. They often tell me that they are clicking and sending their resume to postings on popular job sites. Thousands of job candidates may apply to each job, whether they are qualified or not, so my client’s resume is being buried.

The next question I ask whether the job-seeker is making personal contact with people in their industry. Usually, the candidate is connecting with prospective colleagues and managers on LinkedIn. Research shows that in-person contact creates a much stronger bond, so LinkedIn connections are just the first step.

The most important thing to remember is that the reason we do not get responses to posted ads could have nothing to do with us. Another rule-of-thumb is that up to 80% of posted jobs do not exist–they are posted for compliance and other reasons–and 80% of open jobs are not posted–we will only learn about them through our industry contacts.

Jason Yau

Jason Yau

VP of E-Commerce and General Manager, CanvasPeople

Expand your search options

While it is far from discouraged to have an ideal industry, type of job, etc. to target when applying, it’s also important to recognize when a particular strategy in the job hunting process isn’t working.

An important reminder to keep in your back pocket is that you do not have to make a lifetime commitment to any job. If an opportunity presents itself and doesn’t initially strike you as something you want to do, it should still be considered.

If the company has a good reputation, and you feel it could be a good opportunity to at the very least bolster your experience and open up networking opportunities, then it could benefit your career in the long-run. You will be shocked at the number of callbacks you receive when diversifying the types of jobs you’re applying for.

Take advantage of free courses or certification programs

There is never a good reason to not take advantage of free courses and certification programs whether you’re working or not working. Being unemployed typically means you have more free time on your hands, so be sure to set aside some of your reserved time from putting in applications to boost your resume with relevant certifications/courses.

These types of things are an easy way to distinguish yourself from the rest of the field. Being able to do this also demonstrates a strong sense of self-motivation, which is a very desirable quality for a candidate to possess.

Aside from the advantages, it will give you for getting noticed by those hiring, but it also will expand your knowledge portfolio. You never know when one of the skills picked up from these courses can be utilized once you have a job.

Use social media as a way to network

Social Media may have some toxic labels attached to it, but it is also an incredibly powerful tool for networking. While LinkedIn can be categorized as a professional social media site and should be used extensively, there is no good reason not to reach out via other social media channels about potential opportunities.

Most people, especially those that fall into the younger demographic have a pretty hefty network on their more casual social media accounts.

Draft up a well-written post explaining what you’ve been doing during the job hunting process, and what seems to not be working. Be clear on what type of work you are searching for, and it will increase the chances that one of your friends/followers might be able to at the very least put you in touch with somebody in your targeted industry.

Just making people aware of your situation will make them more likely to think of you when a job opportunity is presented to them.

James McDonagh

James McDonagh

Director of EMEA, Nigel Frank International

Look for jobs that you qualify for

The biggest hurdle to overcome in an unsuccessful job search is managing your own expectations, by which I mean making sure you’re looking for jobs you’re qualified for or have the experience to do.

I often see people looking for more senior positions despite nothing on their resume suggesting that’s the level they’re at in their careers. In this instance, I’d always recommend looking at roles requiring less experience within organizations that have a good track record of progression.

You’ll be a much more attractive proposition working in a relevant job role to your career ambitions than sitting at home doing nothing. Simply having aspirations does not make you employable.

Looking outside of the industry you think you’ll be working on

Technology, in particular, has been adopted by virtually every working sector. IT professionals are no longer just sitting in offices at software firms, they’re being employed by construction companies, manufacturers, and are in the field at energy firms.

These are industries that they might not have dreamed of working in maybe 15 years ago, but the explosion of tech means that most businesses require highly skilled IT professionals now.

Widen your search and you’ll be surprised at how many more opportunities exist out there that enable you to do what you love.

Simon Royston

Simon Royston

Founder and Managing Director, The Recruitment Lab

Undertaking a job search can be a lonely and unforgiving experience, but undertaking a job search and experiencing a lack of success or progress is quite frankly brutal.

Do not panic and reflect on your timelines

Do not let your self-belief dip, try and stay strong and then sit back and calmly review the situation and work the problem.

A job search will take time, in some cases that can be as long as six months to a year depending upon what role you are seeking. It is frustrating as most job seekers want things to happen immediately.

But, reflect on your timelines, question how long you actually think it should take to find a new role and ask yourself if you are being realistic in your expectations or simply too hard on yourself.

Maybe you are being realistic on timings but things are just not happening as you want. In which case, start talking to local recruitment agencies, try the local job club if one exists and bounce ideas off friends. Literally, a problem shared can throw up new solutions.

If you have these conversations you will discover new avenues to explore, ways to improve your CV and job seeking tips you may not knew existed. Don’t try to keep struggling on alone, search out and utilize available support systems that can help you and improve your job search.

As said, your average job search is not an ego-boasting experience with many of us face more rejections than successes. Just keep believing in yourself, keep doing the right things and be patient.

Nate Masterson

Nate Masterson

Business Consultant | CMO, Maple Holistics

Check your job references

You should be putting a lot of thought into who you use as references on your resume. Sometimes your references can do more harm than good in your application so be careful not to just dish out anybody to speak on your behalf. A bad reference is all it takes to ruin your chances of landing a job.

One way to ensure that you’re going to get a good reference call is by pre-calling potential references and letting them know that you’re looking for jobs. Finding out whether they’d be willing to be a reference is not only the polite thing to do but also an indicator of how they’ll speak about you to a potential employer.

Skill and school

One of the main reasons that people struggle in their job search is due to a lack of experience. If you’re completely honest with yourself, you might be under-qualified for the job. Although some jobs are happy to train you in, they don’t want to be starting from scratch.

If you know that you’re not meeting requirements for the jobs that you’re applying for, you might want to consider taking a time out from the job hunt to up your resume game. Gaining skills or learning a new qualification can go a long way in helping you to get your resume up to par.

Krystal Yates SPHR, SHRM-SCP

Krystal Yates

HR Expert, EBR Consulting, LLC

Listening to common job-search advice – even from experts – can often make the job search more difficult. We tend to get so bogged down in details that we lose sight of the goal.

  • Are you cutting too much experience out of your resume? Are you leaving holes in your background or experience?
  • Are you telling a clear concise story on your resume? A modern resume – thanks to applicant tracking software (ATS) – should no longer be a comprehensive history of everything you have done. It should be a focused story, telling the reader how you are able to solve their problem (and fill their open position).
  • Make sure your online resume has all the right keywords to get you past the ATS – you can do that by reviewing which industry terms show up on multiple job postings
  • You should also be engaging your friends, family, and colleagues in your search. Ask them who they know and to notify you if they see positions that might be a good fit.

Every job search is different. Use your common sense and don’t blindly follow the advice of anybody. Pay attention to what is working and what isn’t and adjust accordingly. And finally, be patient. It takes longer in today’s market than it did even a few years ago.

Drew DuBoff

Drew DuBoff

Growth Strategist & Outsourcing Expert

People don’t find jobs because they’re not looking in the right places

All of my jobs, freelancing wise and corporate wise, have come from my personal network. All of my freelancing jobs have come from niche Facebook groups, specifically.

I think people waste their time endlessly browsing LinkedIn and other job boards hoping to find that magical dream job that only appears once a lifetime. I think if you’re unemployed, and I’ve been there, then you have to take jobs and level yourself up until you’ve found a better paying job.

I’ve taken jobs that I didn’t enjoy. I was paid a little and worked a lot. It wasn’t the best of relationships, but it was a job…and I got paid.

I then used that experience to find better jobs. And, that was my approach to go from gigs that paid me quite literally $50/month to $3,000/month.

My biggest piece of advice is to take action. You’ll come across a lot of people in your job search who will project their thoughts and feelings to you, but that won’t actually assist you in any way in getting a job. The only person that can do that is you. So, go out there and get a job!

Amanda Magnanelli

Amanda Magnanelli

Marketing Manager, Boost Agents

As a recruitment agency, hundreds of resumes come across our desks daily. The well-qualified, unemployed people I see often share similar traits in how they are searching for jobs. Here are my tips to boost your chances of getting an interview, and then getting hired.

Network, network, network

People are more likely to hire someone they know over a stranger because it feels safer. They know the person’s personality and how they interact in a team. So get out there and start knowing people! Attend industry events and reach out to people who work at companies that you’d love to work at. Invite them for coffee and find commonalities with them so you can develop the relationship. These commonalities don’t need to be work-related. It can be anything that creates a genuine relationship so they get to know you, instead of your resume.

Once you’ve grown your network, it’s important that you maintain it. Follow up on conversations you’ve had by offering them something. It could be an interesting article that relates to the conversation you had with them, or even telling them about a fun new activity for their kids. By helping them, they will be more likely to help you.

Be wary of sounding desperate

I get it. When you’re unemployed the most important thing you want need is to get a job. But it’s important that when you’re meeting new people, do not start the conversation by asking for a job. You would be surprised at how many people do this. It shows that you don’t genuinely care about the person that you’re talking to. Let them know that you’re looking for opportunities once you’ve already had an engaging conversation with them, perhaps in a follow-up email or LinkedIn message.

Keep it simple

Curate your resume so it shows how each piece of your experience directly relates to the job that you are applying for. It may sound harsh, but if it’s not obvious in the first 5 seconds that you’re a good fit for the role, then the hiring manager will move on to the next resume.

If your application requires a portfolio, make sure it focuses on the type of work that the job requires. For example, if you are applying to user experience roles, then your portfolio should showcase your user experience projects. Including other design work outside of user experience will confuse the hiring manager – they won’t understand what you want to do. Place other design projects under a tab labeled “Other Work” or “Just For Fun”. This tells the hiring manager that you have skills in other areas, but that your focus is, for example, UX design.

Relax

When people are nervous they act awkward, often ruining their chances of having a successful interview. Think of interviews as conversations – you’re getting to meet them and they’re getting to meet you. Stay relaxed and let the great person that you shine through!

Ollie Smith

Ollie Smith

CEO, Energy Seek

Check and improve your curriculum vitae (CV)

In my experience, your curriculum vitae (CV) is the best place to start if you are finding it difficult to land a job. You should ask a close friend or a family member to review this personal marketing tool to ensure it is accurate and makes sense.

The function of this well written and concise document is to make a positive first impression and more importantly, to get you the interview. Therefore it is worth spending the time in order to get it right.

Related: How to Make Your Resume Stand Out

Taking a short break from your job search can be beneficial

This is especially if you have been looking for a sustained period of time. By taking a week off, you give yourself time to decompress, reflect on your progress so far and more importantly, reconsider your strategy.

Send spontaneous applications to organizations that interest you

Just because they do not have a role advertised at present, does not mean they would not entertain the right person with a great attitude, should they come along!