Searching for a job is both difficult and painful.
You’re not crazy to feel like your chances of actually snagging an offer may be pretty slim. Just take a look at a sample job application process:
· You apply online to a specific job, spending an hour filling out the dozens of fields on the job application that the employer's applicant tracking system (ATS) should be capable of parsing from your resume.
· The recruiter filters through thousands of applications received for the position. It's impossible to say whether your resume will get reviewed by a human being, since the recruiter is also working to fill 30 other open positions. Their focus is on gathering a stack of resumes to review with the hiring manager as quickly as possible.
· Your resume is selected for further review! The recruiter sends you a brief questionnaire asking about your salary requirements, technical skills, and various other mishigas.
· The recruiter schedules a phone screen. They ask you (again) about your salary requirements, technical skills, and various other mishigas.
· You're invited for an in-person interview. Your agenda includes meetings with the recruiter, the hiring manager, and six other interviewers. You take the day off from work to accommodate the interview, and good thing – the entire day has been swallowed by it.
· You did well on the first in-person interview, and now the company wants you to come back for another round to meet with the executive team.
· Great news, they liked you! The built consensus around you as potential employee and they've extended you an offer! Now you need to negotiate the salary on the offer, which for some reason is lower than your current salary.
· Okay, you've come to terms on the salary. Now they're running the background check and drug test. You hope that time you were arrested (but not convicted) for streaking across the quad in college doesn't show up on the check.
By my count, that's eight major hurdles you have to pass to get from go to actually walking through the door as employee #628177. A misstep, misunderstanding, or miscalculation on any of these can derail your chances.
Feeling disheartened? That's normal. Applying for jobs at most companies follows this general template, which is both atrocious and painful, and is not getting any better. It's no wonder that it's far easier to make a misstep in your job search than to move forward.
But there’s a lot you can do to stack the odds in your favor. There's no shortage of professional job hunting and career development advice out there, including on our blog, so I'm not going to get into the mechanics of the job search here. But there are five pieces of advice to keep in mind.
- Bad systems can defeat good people – don't let them defeat you. My work with diverse clients on their job searches and career development strategies has proven to me that just about each and every person has value and brings something to the table professionally. Don't let a rejection letter from a potential employer undermine your own perception of your value in the market. This doesn't mean there aren't areas for personal or professional development – we all have behaviors or skills we can (and should) work on that may be undermining our ability to get a job.
- Job hunting is a learned skill. You will get better at it with practice. Nobody is born knowing how to tear down and rebuild an engine. But, through study, practice, and time, a good mechanic learns both the individual tasks and the broader perspective necessary to get a broken engine up and running. The job hunt is no different in this regard. It's not rocket science, but it is highly detailed, and you can improve your success rate through preparation and study. Invest yourself in resume design, online applications, your elevator pitch presentation, behavioral interviewing practice, salary negotiation, and the other individual components of the search. You'll see dividends.
- Be clear in telling employers what job you want to perform. Your skills, experience, and interests probably lend themselves to a variety of tasks and jobs. But employers don't typically approach the hiring process from the perspective of "What can you do, and where can we place you?" The majority of employers have a specific job they need to fill that requires a defined set of skills and experiences, so to the recruiter will screen candidates and only pass along resumes to the hiring manager that look like they most closely match the job description. Make sure the resume you submit and any subsequent conversations with the company very clearly articulate that you want this job because this is what you love to do, and you do it well.
- Be prepared for possible objections with practiced answers. An employer might have concerns about your age (questions about your ability to keep up with the pace or technology), military reserve status (possible absences for military leaves), returning back to work after spending five years as a full-time parent (lack of recent work experience), job hopping (concern about whether you'll leave in six months for a better offer), a criminal offense in your background (issues of trust), or other matters. Whether voicing these concerns is legal or not, you need to prepare to address them. You can move the conversation past objections and into the meat of what you can contribute to the company with well-reasoned answers to such questions. In some cases, you may even benefit from proactively raising the topic with with an explanation of what happened and how you've learned not to let such factors negatively impact your work.
- Stay positive. This is easier said than done, but essential, nonetheless. Positive energy is the fuel that will motivate you to persist through the job search. And it's infectious - employers like a positive attitude and may be more willing to give an opportunity to a candidate with a sparkle in his or her eye.
Scott Singer is the President and Founder of Insider Career Strategies Resume Writing & Career Coaching, a firm dedicated to guiding job seekers and companies through the job search and hiring process. Insider Career Strategies provides resume writing, LinkedIn profile development, and career coaching services, including a free resume review. You can email Scott Singer at firstname.lastname@example.org, or via the website, www.insidercs.com.