It may seem impossible, but you can overcome the obstacles.
You've built up a respectable career with years of experience and a vast toolkit of skills. You've spent hours in front of job boards submitting resume after resume and rewritten your cover letter six times. Yet, you still find yourself without a job offer.
If this is your situation, you're not in the boat alone. The average job search takes five months — a long time to deal with insecurity and uncertainty — which means millions of job seekers feel the same way you do.
The difficulties of a job search are universal. And that begs the question: Just why is it so hard to find a job?
The answer is a combination of hiring practices, resume standards, and sheer numbers.
Knowledge is power, so here is a breakdown to help you better understand the job-search landscape. Once you know what you're up against, you can start making strides toward landing your next role.
Why is it so hard to find a job?
Hiring practices can be misleading
One reason landing a job is so difficult is that there may be fewer openings available than you think.
Sure, you see listings online, but surprisingly, that doesn't always mean a company is interested in bringing in someone new. Many companies promote from within, so while there technically is a job opening, it's not exactly open to you.
In other cases, companies only post listings as a means of collecting resumes from potential applicants for future positions. It's nice to know you could be in the running later down the road, but it doesn't help your need for a job right now.
When you put all of this together, it indicates that the job market is significantly smaller than it seems.
Companies have gotten picky
Another reason why the job search is so challenging is that currently, companies can afford to be pickier. Even if there are jobs available, a majority of those are considered low-quality by the U.S. Private Sector Job Quality Index. That means that there is still great competition for jobs that could be considered high-quality.
With competition comes a company's ability to be picky about who they consider for a role. You're up against more job seekers than you realize in the fight to land a job, and being a perfect fit is more important now than ever.
Resume standards — and barriers — are high
If your resume is not up to date, it's holding you back and making your job search more challenging. And that doesn't just mean updating your resume with your most recent work history and skills — it means being written and formatted to fit current expectations.
Are you still using an objective statement in your resume, or have you upgraded to the more modern personal summary? Are you simply listing tasks, or are you highlighting quantifiable achievements? Does your resume include action words and is an appropriate length to grab an employer's attention?
If that sounds like a lot to battle, it is. And there's also the applicant tracking system to contend with.
Hiring managers receive an average of 250 applicants for each job opening. To speed up the process, many companies employ vetting software called applicant tracking systems (ATS) to scan, sort, rank, and eliminate candidates. The ATS searches for details within resumes — namely keywords — to determine whether or not that person is qualified for the job at hand. If you don't construct your resume in a way that will satisfy this electronic gatekeeper, you'll be out of the running before the hiring manager even sees your name.
So, it's not enough to write a good resume. To land the job, you have to start with an up-to-date resume that will grab attention and pass through the ATS.
The interview odds are against you
Let's say you've overcome all of the above and are in consideration for a role — you've finally been promoted from applicant to candidate. While that's certainly something to celebrate, the challenges of landing a job aren't over. In fact, they've only just begun.
Our sister site, TopInterview, has created a numerical outline of a standard interview process.
It takes a lot of work to narrow down the candidates to one. To make sure that one is you, you'll have to impress every step of the way, with little room for error. Working with a professional interview coach can help you prepare to do just that.
How to improve your chances of landing a job
It's easy to feel discouraged after being confronted with the roadblocks that are in the way of your job-search success. However, there's no need to stress. Now you have the upper hand, which means you know exactly what to do to improve your prospects.
If a company isn't looking to hire from the outside at all, there may not be much you can do. However, if they simply don't want a complete stranger, you can get your foot in the door through networking.
Use tools like LinkedIn to meet and engage with others in your field. Participate in groups, post regularly, and don't be afraid to reach out to new connections. Then, as you go about your job search, leverage those relationships. Ask for referrals or, at least, for them to let you know if they see any openings that could be a fit.
Some sources report that up to 85 percent of all jobs are filled through networking, which means it could be your ticket out of the job search and into a new role.
Craft a standout resume
You could be the most qualified candidate in the pool, but without a well-constructed resume, an employer will never know. Therefore, if you don't want your resume to fall into the resume black hole, it has to be top-notch. This means writing an achievements-focused document that is as substantive as it is visually appealing. It also means strategically crafting your resume with the ATS in mind.
We've put together a comprehensive guide with everything you need to know to create an impressive resume that ticks all the right boxes and will grab attention. Once you do that, check your resume's quality with TopResume's free resume critique, where you'll get expert feedback on this essential job-search document.
Apply for the right jobs
Contrary to popular belief, submitting your resume to every listing you find is not actually productive for your job search. When it comes to sending in applications, fit is the most important factor.
Remember that tailoring your resume and cover letter for each application is essential to job-search success, as well. Because of this, every submission is time and labor intensive. If you cut corners and send dozens of generalized resumes each week, you are likely working in vain; you're more likely to be eliminated by the ATS, and even if you do make it through, a hiring manager will immediately see that you are not a good fit for the role and eliminate you.
Instead, take a moment to consider your work experience and career goals. Then, thoughtfully target only the job openings that fit for you. When you eventually pass through the ATS, a hiring manager will notice that you are exactly right for their role, making you more likely to land the job.
There's no denying that it's hard to find a job — there's a lot you're up against. However, it doesn't have to be a painful experience.
Armed with the right knowledge and tools, you can land your dream job faster and with less frustration. And to further improve your chances, you can always work with a professional resume writer who is trained to help you show a hiring manager why you're the one for the job.
We wish you the best of luck, and remember, we're here to help.
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