Recently I had a professional say this exact statement to me. If you can relate to this statement, I’m here to tell you that you should stop sending resumes out and diagnose the problem. No one should ever have to send out even hundreds of resumes when they’re looking for a job. Over my career, I don’t think I’ve ever had to send out more than 10 resumes before I had a job.
If you find yourself at a point where you’ve sent out 20 resumes and you haven’t been contacted or you haven’t received an offer, it’s time to take a step back from the job search and figure out what might be going wrong.
There are numerous roadblocks when you’re searching for a job. Following are some of the more common ones that can trip you up and what to do about them.
It All Starts With the Resume
I could jump on Indeed right now and for every one resume I found that was written well, I would have to look through at least a hundred resumes. I can’t stress enough that your resume is the ONLY document you have to sell yourself. If it is written poorly or reads like a novel you aren’t going to get a call.
If you want the next employer to know how great you are by putting every achievement you’ve ever accomplished during your employment history – think again! The recruiter sees your resume first. Most recruiters on average are responsible for anywhere from 30 – 40 positions. If each position has 100 resumes to review well, you do the math. Recruiters don’t have time to read each resume. Instead, they scan resumes looking for key words and phrases. If your resume is filled with lots of words and endless pages, the recruiter isn’t going to spend much time on your resume if they even look at it at all.
Following are some tips to keep in mind when building your resume:
- Responsibilities: Under each job, list ONLY one or two sentences related to your primary responsibility at that job. (Note: you can go to Indeed and search resumes yourself. You’ll notice that most individuals only list their responsibilities. Here’s something you may not know, most recruiters and hiring managers know what your responsibilities are based on your job title. You’re not selling what you can do by only listing responsibilities on the resume.)
- Achievements: Under each job, list FIVE achievements. Achievements are what sell you and set you apart from your competition. There should always be more achievements listed than responsibilities.
- Don’t write a novel – Keep your resume to 3 pages at most. If you’ve been in your career for 2-5 years, you should only have a resume that is 2 pages long. If you write a novel, I can promise you, your resume isn’t going to get read. Here’s another tip, after you complete your resume look at it. If the only white space is the border around the perimeter, you’ve used too many words. Re-read every line and cut out filler words such as, ‘and’, ‘just’, ‘then’, ‘or’, ‘but’, etc.
- Customize each resume – No longer is it acceptable that you have only a single resume, unless you’ve recently graduated and you’re looking for your first job. Instead, you’ll need to customize each resume to the responsibilities of the job you’re applying to. I can’t tell you how many times I read resumes with skills listed that don’t have anything to do with the job I’m recruiting for.
- Customize the cover letter – If you know you’re going to have to relocate, if you know you have gaps in your employment, if you’ve have multiple jobs, all of these issues need to be explained when you apply. Don’t think that the recruiter will overlook them. Recruiters are trained to pick up on these issues. Address relocation and gaps in the employment in your cover letter. If you have multiple jobs, include a ‘reason for leaving’ after each job.
Are You Really Qualified For the Jobs You’re Applying To?
If after reading the job description you think to yourself ‘I may not be qualified but I know I can do the job,’ don’t apply. Reason being the recruiter is only looking at resumes that have the skills required for the job. What you’re doing it setting yourself up for feeling bad when no one contacts you. I’m not saying that you can’t get a job like this, but the way to do it is through networking, not by applying blindly to a job.
Are You Only Sending Resumes Out?
There’s a strategy when looking for a job that includes sending resumes out but that shouldn’t be the only thing you do. In addition to sending resumes out, you need to make sure that you’re searching for jobs in the same places recruiters are searching for you.
Following are other ways you need to employ when searching for a job in addition to sending your resume out:
- There is a professional association for just about any job there is. Join one and start networking because that’s where recruiters are looking for you.
- Make sure that your LinkedIn account reflects your skills and that you are looking for a job.
- Send an email out to your network of friends and family and ask them to share with their networks.
In his book, Winning Job Interviews, Dr. Paul Powers, a management psychologist, provides a list of 12 psychological stumbling blocks related to getting a job. They are:
1. Lack of having a clear, realistic goal
Dr. Powers suggests that if you can’t describe the job you want in one/two sentences you shouldn’t be looking for a job. Before sending out endless resumes to jobs you think you might want, you need to first have a clear direction or you’re going to be spinning your wheels.
2. No control over the timing of the job search
If you’re job search was a forced search and wasn’t planned, you’ll need to first deal with any negative emotions surrounding your unemployment. If you don’t, you’re going to have a difficult time finding the next job.
3. You want to excel at a process that few are good at
Dr. Powers found that most people when searching for a job want to excel at it believing if they don’t find a job relatively quickly, they could damage their career. Recently, I was helping an individual who had flow charted the entire job search process as he saw it. It was a detailed plan with many steps. What I found is that this individual was caught up in the ‘process’ of finding a job which was stifling him from actually searching for the job. I’ve found this to be true with other professionals as well. If this speaks to you, Dr. Powers suggests finding a local support group to help you overcome needing to ‘excel’ at a process that really no one should be considered a ‘professional’ at, except for maybe a career coach or counselor.
4. No one likes rejection
As Dr. Powers describes, looking for a job is nothing but a series of rejections with good news thrown in occasionally. He states that just because you’re getting rejected, you aren’t doing something wrong. In fact, you’re actually on the right track. What I’ll add here is that if you are receiving rejection after refection take a step back and follow my guidance early in the article to make sure that there may not be a problem.
5. It’s unpredictable
Searching for a job is truly an unpredictable process with one exception. If you work hard at it, you’ll be rewarded in the end with a job.
6. It lacks structure
Ask 10 people how they found their job and you’ll find 10 different answers. There is little structure in finding a job and everyone has a different story to tell. Where you search for a job, how you search for the job and the time spent searching is uniquely up to you. For some individuals the lack of structure can be a big roadblock. That’s why I recommend the 3/50 Plan when looking for a job to help provide some structure to the process.
7. It requires asking for help
Most of us have a hard time asking for help. But when you’re looking for a job, research indicates that networking is one of the fastest ways to find your next job. Sometimes that’s hard for people do because they feel for whatever reason they are ‘less than’ because they are unemployed. Dr. Power’s recommends that by putting your pride in your pocket and reaching out of your comfort zone to network you’ll find a paycheck faster.
8. It requires blowing your own horn
Many people also have a hard time boasting about their accomplishments because we were taught that it’s impolite to talk about ourselves. When searching for a job, Dr. Powell suggests that if you don’t sell yourself, you’ll have a hard time getting hired. Without you sharing your accomplishments, no one will know what skills you bring to the table.
9. It’s lonely and isolating
Searching for a job is solely up to you. This is isn’t a team sport. And the loneliness can be made worse if your spouse is employed. When they leave for work, the house becomes empty and quiet. That’s why it’s important to join a support group of other individuals who are seeking employment, too. Dr. Power emphasizes that you need to know you’re not alone.
10. Self-doubt and your weak spot
Whether it’s your skills, your appearance, or your education, Dr. Powell suggests we all have a weak spot. It’s important to know yours and how to handle it during your job search.
Dr. Powell defines baggage as the ‘unresolved negative emotions you have collected during your life.’ This baggage can also influence your ability to look for a job. Patterns that replay themselves could be a sign of baggage. As you search for a job, recognize your baggage so it doesn’t become a roadblock to getting your next job.
Dr. Power suggests that no matter what type of superior background you feel you have, or your credentials you’ve earned, no one is going to come knocking on your door with a career opportunity just because you feel that you are entitled to it.
So the next time you find yourself in a situation where you’ve been searching for a job for months and sending out an endless number of resumes without any success, take a step back and see if any of these roadblocks might pertain to your situation. Sometimes it’s as simple as tweaking your resume. Other times you might need to diagnose deeper psychological issues that could be preventing you from getting the job.