The job search can be frustrating. Especially when you’ve done all this work on your resume, and have written what you believe to be custom cover letters. Every application seems like it goes into a black hole or you get a rejection notice for jobs you’re clearly qualified for. It’ll leave you wondering how to get a job interview. Don’t fret. While there is no magic tip to guarantee an interview (nothing in life is guaranteed except death and taxes), you should understand common mistakes and know if you’re making them. If you are, you can turn things around and get ahead of the competition.
Let’s look at a four reasons you may be facing more rejection than you need to:
Your favorite: You’re missing experience.
One of the most common and hated excuses. If you’re tired of getting this line and nothing more, there is something you can do to get to the truth. And sometimes the truth is you really weren’t qualified for the job. Why set yourself up for more rejection than you need to?
With the way it is today, employers only care about the skills and responsibilities you’ve had to date vs. what you could do with training – – especially for experienced hires. Whatever is in the job description, they’re gonna get it. Even if they have to wait a little while. So my advice to you:
If your justification for applying to long shot jobs is that you’re living on a prayer, you’re wasting valuable time. Focus on the jobs where you’ve done the job, if even in bits and pieces. As long as you’ve done it all, you’re in better shape, which beats being in no shape at all with a high cholesterol résumé.
You should also start mapping out a transition plan that allows you to get the experience (Or make the connection. More on that below) so you can jump to the job that’s a stretch today.
When I came out of school, I worked in sales. When I decided I wanted an HR job, I applied to a bunch and got no traction. So I took a recruiting gig at a staffing agency to get HR experience. I then leveraged that experience to get the job I have today…in a new city…in a recession. It can be done.
You haven’t been a peer or competitor.
So let’s say you do have experience, but you’re still not getting anywhere. Probably more frustrating than the above. There’s a good chance the smoking gun is the specific industry or environment because:
What you’ve done is often just as important as where you’ve done it.
When a recruiter is sitting with a hiring manager, one of the things the hiring manager will almost always say is “It’d be great to get someone that’s worked for X company or similar.” This becomes that italicized line in the job description, “X industry experience preferred.” And since recruiters wanna make managers happy, they go hunting for candidates that have worked or are working for a peer or competitor organization. The only way to overcome this hurdle is have all the job-specific experience and show that you’re capable of working in their environment.
Find similarities between the company you’re applying to and the companies you’ve worked for. Start ups? Fast-paced? Demanding internal clients (I hear working with doctors is just as “fun” as working with lawyers)? Highlight that in your cover letter and professional summary. Again, it may not guarantee an interview, but this is about increasing the odds. This is also helpful for the next point.
You’re too cold.
Some of the highest performing companies aim to make referrals 50% of their hires. Folks that are warmed up by some type of connection to the company. Maybe a headhunter, friend that’s working there, or an associate that they know from their intermingling circles.
It’s the best way in the door even when you don’t have the perfect experience (Yep, they’ll let some of that stuff go). It also takes the most time. You have to get out and meet people. You have to make meaningful connections on LinkedIn and touch base with key connections periodically. You have to send emails more than when you need something. You’ll have to do people favors when you know you’ll get nothing in return. You have to be memorable (even in the face of rejection).
I looked at a couple resumes today that I wouldn’t have viewed if it weren’t for the colleagues that sent them to me.
Your résumé isn’t optimized.
The keyword game is real. The adverb game isn’t.
Stuff like “effectively communicated” and “quickly resolved” won’t be the words or phrases that get you past the filters. You have to pay attention to the job description (qualifications in particular) and get whatever key terms or technologies they reference into your résumé. Translate your experience into a language they understand. Don’t keep submitting the same thing to each job and expect them to see you for the great person they don’t know you are. And most importantly…
Don’t lie! The worst thing you can do is get an interview off a fib, go to their office, and get exposed as a fraud. Nobody’s trying to hire Bernie Madoff.
There are other reasons you may be missing out on interviews, but we’ll have to save those for another day. In the interim, reevaluate how you’re conducting your search. And if you aren’t searching now, it doesn’t hurt to start thinking next steps so you’re prepared. That way you’ll know what needs to be done to get an interview.
Let me know your questions or post suggestions in the comments, or hit me up via my contact form.