The Wise Job Search aims to provide the "Best of the Best" information, resources, and ideas to help you go from "I didn't get the job" to "I start on Monday!"
Have a job search question? Send an email through the Contact page and check back for an article with an answer!

8 Self-Imposed Reasons People Can’t Find Jobs

It’s a tough job market… no question about it! People that previously seemed to be able to jump into a new job fairly quickly after a lay off, are having much longer stretches of unemployment these days.

image I had a person in one of my job search classes recently who was downright angry that his previous job search method wasn’t working. The last two times he had to look for a new job (both during booming economies) all he had to do was post his resume on a job board and wait for the calls, interviews, and offers. It took him less than a month each time. Now he posts his resume everywhere and hears NOTHING! He’s been unemployed for several months and is ticked!

Finding a new job today requires different methods and much more initiative than it has in many years. Unfortunately, many… perhaps most… people are trying to apply what worked in the past in a new set of circumstances. Much (certainly not all) of their delay in landing that next position is due to self-imposed causes.

In no particular order, here are eight:

~ A focus on themselves. When looking for a position, people are often too focused on what they want vs. what the company wants or requires. A resume that states something like: “Seeking a role as a Financial Analyst in a dynamic company with growth opportunities” says nothing about how the company will benefit by hiring you and everything about what you wish for yourself. Frankly, they’re not particularly interested in what you want, they have problems to solve and work that needs to be accomplished. How are you their solution for that? This is a critical perspective to keep in mind in resumes, networking meetings, and interviews.

~ An unwillingness to get out and actually talk to people. Cruising job boards and sending in a resume is not going to produce results in this market. Most people spend the vast majority of their job search time looking at ads, however, only 12% of jobs are filled through online ads. Over 80% of jobs are filled through various forms of networking. Networking is most effectively accomplished through conversations with actual people, by phone or face-to-face. It may be easier to stare at a computer screen, but results come through human interaction.

~ Lack of persistence. In sales (and a job hunt is sales), a sale is rarely made on the first, or even a second call. Persistence pays! If one person in an organization says they don’t have an opening or aren’t interested in your background… DON’T QUIT THERE! Someone in my class recently got a job at a company through the 5th person he called there. The previous 4 ALL told him there were no related openings. Most people would have quit after the first conversation. It’s critical to be persistent.

~ Fear of imposing on people. The vast majority, especially in this market, want to be helpful in some way. Often they don’t know how they can, but if you’re prepared with suggestions (outside of asking if they know of a job), they will usually be glad to help out. Most job seekers think they are imposing or ‘stalking’ someone LONG before the person they are pursuing feels that way. If people don’t know you’re looking, they can’t help you. Make a list of everyone you know, contact them and ask for referrals. You can get more help with that here.

~ Only doing what most other job seekers do. When sending a resume and waiting for a call, they are doing the same thing as 90% of all applicants do. They are no more to that company than a piece of data that arrived into their email box or database. Companies don’t hire data, they hire people. Without a human voice or face they will not get noticed out of the sea of other resumes. Use tools available to you like LinkedIn to find the right person to talk to or like Twitter to gain information and get noticed. Then make those calls! You can find more information here and here.

~ Lack of follow-up. Very often, it’s the little things that make the difference. A Thank You note or follow-up phone call are often the only thing that tips the scale toward one person over another. Don’t take lightly the value of calling to follow up on a resume, or sending Thank You notes after EVERY interview or conversation. Look for more detail here.

~ Lack of professionalism. Skills and competence are important for a position, however, in today’s market it’s highly likely they are seeing a number of people that can do the job. It’s the finer points that usually make the difference as to who gets hired. Communication skills, speaking concisely, appearance, respectfulness, personality… all components of professionalism will determine who wins. More on the topic here.

~ Poor attitude. No one wants to hang out with a grouch, or complainer, whiner, or someone who’s a general downer! Attitude is often the number one reason why someone moves forward in a hiring process or gets rejected. Speaking ill of a previous employer or position is widely understood to be a no-no… however, is one of the most common occurrences. Check your attitude before every call, meeting, or note. More on the subject here.

Different times require different measures. When the economy is booming and companies have difficulties finding enough people to accomplish various jobs, most people can find new positions relatively quickly. However, when each opening has a multitude of qualified candidates applying, other factors besides skills carry more influence in a hiring decision.

Check your job search process and make sure you aren’t limiting your own success!


Thank you for visiting The Wise Job Search. I truly appreciate your interest. If you like the material here and would like to help keep it viable, please peruse and visit book recommendations, and other resources posted throughout the site. Best wishes on your continued search, and feedback is always welcome!


Lisa K McDonald said...

Great post and oh so true!

Unknown said...

Great post. Job searching can be an extremely demoralizing process, especially in an economy/job market like this one. These problems you mention are very common in job seekers--but learning some things they can do to stand out greatly increases confidence and chances of success. I have a few suggestions to offer them: http://www.phcconsulting.com/WordPress/2009/09/08/job-seekers-heres-your-video-guide-to-getting-hired/

Anonymous said...

I've tried looking for any authoritative source for the "80% of jobs are filled through...networking." This goes one further and says OVER 80%. Does anyone have a source for this? Despite innumerable coffees and networking events NO job opening has come my way. Those that have came through recruiters, job postings and companies pursuing me based on posted resumes.

Honestly, I think this "blame the worker" mentality of "you need to network into jobs" is a bunch of hooey, to distract from the fact that jobs can be found only when companies decide to invest in growth and thus need to search externally. Until that happens, enjoy your coffee.

Anonymous said...

A fair point by anon. The main reason people can't find jobs right now is that there simply aren't any - not because there's something wrong with their approach. And life is difficult enough as a jobseeker without having to heap even more blame and angst on yourself for what's happening to you - although I'm sure the writer of this article is just trying to help, not play the blame game. My partner is a very capable individual with good experience, highly motivated, positive and doing all the best he can to network etc. but even he hasn't struck lucky yet after being made redundant four months ago. It's very tough out there and even tougher to stay positive. Fortunately we don't have any kids to feed and we have supportive friends and family. I'd be interested to hear how other people out there coping. What do you do to stay positive? My other half has turned into a fitness freak to ease the frustration.

Cris Janzen, SPHR said...

You've done it again, Harry - great post of how people get in their own way! Thanks, @CrisJobCoach

A said...

good one !

katherine moody said...

How wonderful to remind people of these things undoubtedly going on in their heads but now they get to see them on paper. So many candidates I talk to are really not supporting themselves in this tough time the kind way they would if it were a friend going through jobsearch.
thank you for the reminders.

Anonymous said...

This is so very true, all of it!


Erika Lyremark said...

I love it! Hustling and NO excuses.

Anonymous said...

For anyone who has been unemployed you probably know that there is no one size fits all for finding a new position and networking though important does not necessarily get you where you want to be. The message should be to use all the tools including contacts at your disposal.

To claim that much of the delay in finding a new position is self imposed suggests a perspective that is not entirely grounded in reality.

HRMexplorer said...

Spot on!

Career Sherpa said...

Love all 8 reasons. To the anon job seekers who've commented, networking is more than just meeting people and telling them what you can do (Harry's 1st point). It is being known for having something valuable to offer. What problem can you solve for an employer? Why wouldn't they want to create a position for someone who is going to save them money? I know, sounds like pie in the sky, but you know what, I've seen it work more than twice!
Think out of the box! Create your next position! Best of luck!

why can't I get a job said...

All these points sound spot on. But it's harder to implement in real life, mainly due to lack of motivation. I mean, getting a job these days is like a job in itself!

Additional "Wise Job Search" Help by Topic: