Job hunting is practically a job in itself. Between scouting those decent roles, tailoring cover letters, filling out endless forms online and prepping for tough questions, landing that new job can be quite a daunting and strenuous task. But what adds to the frustration is when you find that job that you know you’re perfect for and still not getting an interview.
Very often, Lady Luck is simply against you. The sad fact of life is that for many jobs, especially the competitive ones, there are hundreds of applicants and employers cannot possibly take the time to carefully consider every single person. The cover letter you spent hours perfecting probably never even got opened, let alone read. And yes – nepotism is still rampant in many industries. You might be the most qualified choice for a job, but the employer will wind up hiring their nephew or some friend of a friend.
Thankfully, not all is lost, and there are some things you can do to improve your chances of actually getting some facetime with the gatekeepers to your professional future. See where you might be going wrong and hopefully you’ll have more luck going forward!
Do your research
It boggles the mind how many people apply for jobs because they sound great, without actually properly looking into the industry, what the job entails or if they’re even a suitable applicant! If you’re serious about landing a coveted role, then you need to know what you’re getting into. What does the ideal candidate look like? Do you have an appropriate degree? Does it require internships or have a grad scheme? More importantly, find out what your competition looks like.
Everything is googleable – check how many applicants your role usually gets and what sets the better ones apart. Do some searches on LinkedIn for people in the role you want and see what their past experience looks like. If your resume doesn’t measure up to theirs, then see what you can do to make yourself a better candidate. Building a career doesn’t happen overnight, so whether you’re fresh out of Uni or looking to enter a new professional industry, you need to build up the groundwork and earn your way to the role that will lead to a promising career path.
Yes, that might mean some less flashy roles or a bit of grunt work to begin with, but if you can see that without it you won’t get to where you need to be, then you’ve got to tough it out. But without understanding what your chosen business expects out of its perfect candidates, you’ll just waste your time applying for roles where your CV won’t even be looked at and you’ll get demoralised while making no progress.
Many people are guilty of this and it can be a tough habit to break. Every job spec will have a list of criteria the “ideal” candidate will have. As you go through the bullet points, you cross check what elements you know you can do and then start to panic when you see something you know you can’t. All too often, people will see that they only hit 8 out of the 10 desired criteria and decide that they’re not qualified for the job. It’s time to calibrate how you process these job specs.
Everybody learns on the job – everybody. And they should. If you enter a job in which you’re learning nothing new, then how do you expect to develop the necessary skills to progress further? Obviously, be realistic, but don’t be deterred by just a few points – apply for that job!
On the topic of confidence, your CV might need a bit of a rejig as well. It’s traditional to keep things in chronological order, but it’s also very important to highlight all the things that are most relevant to the job you want. Hiring managers are not going to read the entire saga of your educational and professional life.
They want to hone in on the elements that make you the best candidate for the position so make sure to put them front and centre. Don’t put the bit of your past work experience that’s relevant to this new role as the 3rd or 4th point or on the second page, because odds are, they won’t read that far. Job applications are literally when you need to put your best foot forward.
Get a good recruiter
And emphasis on the word good. If you’re going for the types of roles that will have huge competition, signing up with a recruitment agency may be your best chance of scoring an interview. Again, this is where research comes in. Make sure you select a recruiter that actually specialises in your chosen industry, and within that, make sure your specific agent recruits for the roles you’re looking to apply for.
But those are just the practical elements. A recruiter is a lot like an agent and in the words of Samuel L Jackson – personality goes a long way. Some recruiters will really delve into your past experience, get to know you and look for good roles, and most importantly, really fight for you to get them. Other recruiters, sadly, like to sit on their derrieres and reap the benefits of sure things, whilst putting in the minimal amount of effort. So what can you do?
First, hedge your bets and sign up with more than one recruitment agency. Signing up with a recruiter is not a marriage – you can, and should, shop around to maximise your chances. But also, if you’re really not getting a good vibe from your recruiter and feel like they’re not trying – change to another one. Check online to see who else works in their department or even ask them for a recommendation – if they can’t be bothered with trying for you then they’ll probably be fine with getting you off their hands. Just remember, these people don’t get their commissions if you don’t land a role, so go for someone who’s actually going to try and make it happen for you!
Look at the Big Picture
These days, we’ve become all too accustomed to instant gratification and seeing younger and younger people making their fortune online can make us all quite impatient. But dream jobs don’t grow on trees and if you’re looking to forge a successful and lasting career, you need to think longer term.
No doubt you’ve heard the phrase “pay your dues” – well, sadly, very often it’s a necessity. There’s no point wasting your time applying for jobs you’re not yet qualified for, just because you don’t want to give up on your dreams. Trying for a “dream job” is a luxury in itself and you should view it as an investment – whether it’s internships, work experience, dull admin, bringing people coffee or even something not quite in your desired area – look at the potential opportunities and career progression
If a bit of grunt work will lay the foundation for great prospects, then you’ve got to do it. If just getting your foot through the door can lead to company-wide job choices then go for it! And networking is key. Besides expanding your contacts, don’t be shy about talking to people that you’re job hunting, they may know of opportunities and if you make a good impression they’ll think of you above a random applicant. More than that, if you’re talking to someone with a job you would one day want – ask them how they got there and heed their advice!