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How to Diagnose What’s Wrong with Your Job Search

Does your resume seem to disappear into a black hole every time you send it? Do employers ghost you after interviews? Maybe it’s time for a checkup to find out what’s wrong with your job search.

Let’s collect a little diagnostic data.

We’re going to use numbers, because that’s a quick way to shed some light on where you may need to focus your efforts to build a best-practices job search that gets results.

Write down your answers to the following questions:

  1. During your current job search, approximately how many jobs have you applied to?
  2. Approximately how many of those applications (#1 above) have resulted in at least an initial screening?
  3. How many of your first screenings/interviews (no matter how you obtained them) have resulted in at least one additional interview?
  4. How many job offers have you received? A “zero” answer here is not necessarily so bad; maybe you haven’t had many interviews yet.
  5. Are you currently employed? If not, how long ago did you leave your last job?
  6. How many jobs have you applied to through a referral, an acquaintance, or some other personal connection?
  7. For every week of your job search, how many informational interviews or career research conversations have you had?

Is your resume the problem?

Typical response rates for cold applications range from around 5% to 10-20%, depending on the type of job you’re looking for and who you ask. That means that on average, for every 20 such applications, most job seekers would receive one to four screenings. Compare your answers to questions #1 and #2. Are you receiving fewer screenings than that?

Do you lack the qualifications for the roles you’re applying to? You don’t necessarily need to have every skill and experience mentioned in the job posting, but if you’re offering less than, say, 80-90% of what they’re looking for, you’re probably wasting your time (unless you have a strong personal connection).

More likely, you’re a good candidate but your resume just isn’t getting attention and presenting a convincing case. Learn how to produce a successful resume.

Is it your interview skills?

By the time you’re being interviewed, your competition has dwindled from hundreds of resumes to, on average, about five candidates. So you may have about a one-in-five chance. If your interview results aren’t in line with those odds, you probably need to work on your interview skills. Most people do, anyway. Too many job seekers will double down on rewriting their resume at this point, when the resume isn’t the issue. Read my post, “Your Interview Prep Checklist.”

Is long-term unemployment counting against you?

Employers are nervous about candidates with long-term unemployment, often defined as six months or more. If your answer to question #5 is that you’ve been unemployed for more than a few months, it’s time to buckle down and make sure you’re following best practices in every aspect of your search. Polish all your job search communications: networking, social media (at least LinkedIn), resume, cover letters, interviewing. Working with a career professional is likely to pay for itself in hard cash, as you’ll be earning a salary sooner. You may also end up with a larger salary than if you hadn’t had help.

Consider beginning some form of self-employment immediately, to start covering your widening resume gap. Plus there are several more reasons to freelance between jobs. 

Are you connecting with people?

If you answered “zero” to question #6, or your number for #7 is zero or in single digits, you’re missing out on opportunities. Chances are you dislike networking, and/or haven’t mastered the best practices that make it less stressful and more productive. Learning more skillful methods can make all the difference. Read my post, Your Job Search Networking Checklist.

Did you learn something from this check-up? Learning what’s wrong with your job search is a useful first step towards getting better results. Take what you’ve discovered, act on it, experiment with it, and continually improve your methods. Whether it feels like it or not, your efforts will be taking you closer to the job you want.

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Young female entrepreneur enjoying business and job success against city and sunset background. Successful businesswoman smiling outdoors

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