Have you been job searching for a while but you still haven’t found a job? It can be painfully frustrating and demotivating, especially when you don’t always get feedback on why you’re not moving forward in the hiring process. But even if employers don’t give you feedback, there’s a way to use data on your end to figure out where you are falling short and how you can improve your success rate. This article breaks down the whole job search process and what you can do to push forward.
First, check your data.
Before diving into how to use data to solve your job search problem, ask yourself: Do you have enough data?
Reason 1 for why you still haven’t found a job: You haven’t applied to enough jobs.
Just as AI systems take thousands of data points to learn patterns and scientists repeat experiments to converge on the most reliable results, you need to have applied for a significant number of jobs to be able to draw conclusions about why you still haven’t found a job yet.
If you try to diagnose your problem when you have only applied for 2 jobs, then it’s actually a wild guess. You really don’t have a large enough sample size to identify your issue. But if you have submitted 100 applications and you still haven’t had any luck, then that’s a much more reliable dataset to analyze and draw conclusions from.
What you can do if you are not applying to enough jobs:
- Apply to more jobs! Challenge yourself to double or triple the volume of applications you’re submitting each week.
- Figure out why you haven’t applied to more jobs and address the root causes.
- Do you not have enough time to apply more frequently? Find ways to carve out more time for your job search. This could mean deprioritizing other things in your life.
- Are there too few jobs meeting your search criteria? Expand your search by including additional keywords, broadening the location range, or being more flexible about the type of company you’re applying to.
- Recruit an accountability buddy to set goals with and report back to. You’re more likely to complete a task if you have to stay accountable.
Second, track your data.
Create a simple tracker for yourself to monitor your outputs and results. It could look something like what’s below. FREEBIE ALERT: You can save a copy of this Job Search Tracker and tailor it to your needs.
Third, analyze your data.
When you’re applying to a healthy number of jobs, and you lay out your applications on a spreadsheet, you can start to see how far you’re getting in the job search process. In the example above, the job seeker hasn’t made it to the skills test or interview stage. They’re getting stuck in the application and phone screen stage, which can point to problems with how they’re applying or how they’re presenting themselves to recruiters. Let’s unpack the problems!
Reason 2 for why you still haven’t found a job: Your application is not passing the Applicant Tracking System (ATS) or resume screening process.
There could be hundreds of other people applying to the same job as you, and employers are not going to spend very much time looking at your resume. In many cases, they don’t look at all! They rely on a computer software or ATS to pick out resumes that appear to match the job description best. If a human recruiter looks at resumes, they’ll only spend a few seconds scanning each.
What you can do if you are not making it past the resume screening process:
- Apply for jobs that suit your skill level and career progression.
- Tailor your resume and cover letter to every job you apply for.
- Describe your accomplishments using keywords and phrases that match the job posting.
- Show you align with the company’s culture by using value words and a tone of voice that fit with the company’s brand.
- Network and build strong professional relationships so that people will refer you to their organizations. This can sometimes (though not always) put your resume at the top of a pile for human eyes to review.
- Ask folks in your network to provide feedback on your cover letter and resume.
Reason 3 for why you still haven’t found a job: You are not able to communicate your fit, value and professionalism in the phone screen.
After a handful of resumes are selected from hundreds of applicants, someone (usually a recruiter) is tasked with calling the handful of candidates to gauge if they’re still interested in the position, and if it’s worth the hiring manager’s time to interview them.
So what does a recruiter look for? They usually check to make sure the applicant is a real human being who matches what they say they are (didn’t lie on their resume), is truly interested in the position, can communicate well, and doesn’t have major red flags (such as mismatched salary expectations).
What you can do if you are not making it past the phone screening process:
- Practice giving a short, not-too-technical personal introduction.
- You usually get an email first to be invited to a phone call, so use the time in between to review the job posting and company website. Note keywords and top reasons that make you a qualified candidate. Drop those points into your introduction and when you answer the screening questions.
- Relax. Let the recruiter guide you through the questions. Listen carefully for what is being asked, and answer accordingly.
- Don’t talk too much. The phone screen is short and there is usually a checklist of questions to get through. Your response length should be appropriate to the call time. If they want to know more, they’ll invite you for an interview.
- Practice describing your accomplishments and career goals with people you know. Or record yourself and listen to how you come across. Aim to be clear, concise, friendly, and professional in how you talk.
- Prepare a few questions that you may have about the role, company, or hiring process. (Nothing too technical! Ask questions the recruiter can answer.)
Reason 4 for why you still haven’t found a job: You don’t meet the requirements to pass a skills-based interview or technical assessment.
At the end of the day, you need to be able to do the job. Your resume describing what you can do will get you so far. Then comes a point when you have to SHOW what you can do. This is usually the most clear cut step in the hiring process. If you fail, you know you’ll need to work on your skills.
What you can do if you are not making it past the skills-based screening process:
- Study and upskill. The best way to develop aptitude is to train your brain and muscles.
- Practice explaining your thought process. Employers don’t expect you to know everything, but they do expect you to demonstrate an analytical, learning mindset, along with the ability to communicate your rationale and process (so you can collaborate with team members in the future!).
- Do informational interviews or coffee chats with those who are in your desired role to understand what skills you need to hone.
- Watch industry-specific YouTube videos, follow hiring-related social media accounts, and engage in online professional communities to learn what current tools and methods are needed to ace your next assessment.
Reason 5 for why you still haven’t found a job: You are not coming across as the best hire among the shortlisted candidates.
At the interview stage, an employer only needs to choose one person out of a few they have shortlisted. Who is considered “the best hire” can be subjective, but there are several key traits that can put you ahead of the competition. If there wasn’t a separate skills-based assessment, then you’ll have to convince the employer that you can do the job and solve their business need. You’ll also want to show that you’re great to work with, because you’re a trustworthy professional and a kind human. Hopefully by hiring you, you’ll make the company better in more ways than one!
What you can do if you are not making it past the interview stage.
- First, you’ll have to figure out the purpose of your failed interviews. Sometimes, they’re testing your skills. Sometimes they’re assessing how you get along with the team. Sometimes, they’re observing how coachable you are when given feedback. You will need to reflect on what happened to narrow down your reasons for failing.
- If you’ve already made it through several rounds, you can usually ask the recruiter or hiring manager for feedback so you can do better in the future.
- Communication will always be an important part of interviewing so make sure you go in prepared. Have a list of accomplishments and past work scenarios stored in your mind for quick retrieval. Practice saying them aloud beforehand so you’re not fumbling for words during the interview.
- Make it easy for your interviewer to follow your responses by using the STAR answer format.
- Give background on the Situation.
- Explain your Task.
- Describe your Action.
- Summarize the Results.
- Look up common interview questions and record yourself answering those questions. Identify ways you can improve your speech, flow, clarity, choice of words, eye contact, physical demeanor, etc.
- Do more research. Get to know the company’s mission, vision, and values. Understand how the open role fits into the picture. Look at where the company is headed and what challenges they’re facing. Come up with ways that you can support the company and ask thoughtful questions that not only help you learn about the company, but also helps you showcase your value to them.
- There are times when it’s not about you! Someone else could just have been a better fit at the time. Be graceful with rejection. Keep your relationship positive with the hiring manager and recruiter. Connect with them on LinkedIn. Hopefully another opportunity will open up and you’ll be first in line next time.
So, what does your data say about your job search?
Do you know what you need to do next? If you’d like to talk things out privately, I’d be happy to help. I offer career coaching tailored to your needs, so no matter where you’re stuck, we can work together to crack the job search game step-by-step!
Crystal Lee, MPH, CPCC is a holistic career coach who helps relocating job seekers and career changers find clarity, confidence, and community in their new environments. Let her know if you have a career question! If you find her content helpful, you can donate to her tip jar.
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