They say, "If you always do what you've always done, you'll always get what you've always gotten." So why do we repeat things that we know aren't working?
Take jobseekers who send out hundreds, sometimes thousands of resumes, and never get any results. In any other context this would merit a change in approach, but they just keep sending out more resumes. This tough job market makes it even more important to stop the mindless application-mailing and analyze what isn't working — because the problem might be devastatingly simple.
Last year, I was visited by one of these chronic resume-senders. Sheryl had sent out 1,000 resumes in ten months and didn't have one interview to show for it. She brought a copy of her resume with her, and we examined it. There, in the middle of the page, in bold, 14-point type, we read:
She had never noticed the spelling error, but undoubtedly the hiring managers on the receiving end of the resume had.
Mortifying as this discovery was, Sheryl did the right thing. She addressed the fact that something was wrong, and with careful analysis (and outside help) discovered exactly what that was. If you're worried that your job-search approach may have overlooked problems, ask yourself these three questions.*
Are you getting 5 or 6 first interviews for every 100 reasonably-targeted resumes you send out? It may seem like a harsh ratio, but the ease of sending resumes in the digital age (in addition to the economy, of course) means that there are more of them out there. If your rate is lower than six for every hundred, there is likely something wrong with your resume or the kinds of jobs you're sending it to. Sheryl made both of these mistakes: In addition to the typo, she sent her resume to all kinds of jobs, in all kinds of industries, at all kinds of levels. Even without the typo, she wouldn't have landed many interviews.
If you aren't getting initial results from your resume, stop sending it out en masse. First, have a trusted friend or colleague check it for problems. Then, change how you look for a job: Even in good times, it's probably still twice as hard to get a job by limiting your search to job boards like Monster and Indeed. Instead, try job hunting through friends, making connections through social media, (especially LinkedIn), applying directly through company websites, or even the old-fashioned walk-in application. Target organizations you want to work for and approach them even if they don't have openings. Keep track of what works and repeat it — stop doing what doesn't work.
Are you getting one second interview for about every 8 first interviews? Based on my experience, candidates who have trouble interviewing usually haven't thought through why they want the job. That causes them to appear unsure — or worse — desperate. If you never get past the first interview, stop and think carefully about what you are good at and what you want in a job. If you can clearly picture and articulate what you really enjoy at work, your motivation will pick up too.
Have you been a finalist for more than 8 or 9 positions, and still not landed a job? If you have been, try to review what happened as much as you can. Although it's unlikely you'll find out exactly what happened, you may get hints. Did an internal candidate get the job? Was the requisition withdrawn? Those are the kinds of reasons you have no control over, so you can discount them. Just persist as you have done if any these extraneous reasons were the case.
However, if not, it's possible that you may have a problem with your references. If you thought you were a shoo-in until the late-stage call to your references (and you can guess who on your list may be the culprit), you may want to shuffle or replace your references accordingly.
When you are looking for a job, it's important to remember that doing what you have always done is just not enough. Think it through, and then take action. After all, that's what your employer will want you to do when you accept the job anyway.
*The ratios provided here are indicative of the Boston area, which is one of the better places to be looking for a job. They may be more or less favorable in other regions of the world — and I'm not asserting that they're scientific — but this kind of analysis will still help guide you through the job search process, regardless of your location.
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