Dear Sam: What am I doing wrong? I have applied for more jobs that I ever thought I would. Each time I read the job postings, review the requirements, and ensure I meet those expectations. Why then am I not getting so much as an initial screening call? Help! — Jason
Dear Jason: There are many reasons an employer may not be calling, have you considered the following?
- Are you the most qualified candidate? Remember being “qualified” does not necessarily mean you are the most qualified. Reading the requirements for a role, as presented in a job posting, can be misleading as oftentimes employers really list the minimum requirements for the role, almost like the prerequisite for the job. What you really have to pay attention to when reading a job posting is the actual job description. The job description part of the posting—the overview of what you would be doing in the role—is really more of an indicator of the experience you need to possess in order to be seen as qualified. With higher-than-average unemployment levels we have a saturated candidate pool which, at times, means employers will likely have someone applying for the role that has come from a similar position. When this is the case, especially when you are transitioning or moving into something slightly different than what you have done in the past, you must show the transferability of your skills by speaking the language of the roles you will be performing, not the minimum qualifications being sought. So, to judge whether you are truly a “qualified” candidate, check if you can truly speak the language of the functions you would be expected to perform in the role. Simply possessing the minimum prerequisite requirements is likely not going to cut it.
- Have you targeted your candidacy? While I know candidates want to keep their options open, we all only need one career position. So, targeting your candidacy is critical in ensuring maximum resume effectiveness. Be sure your resume is telling one story, creating an aligned picture of your skills, experiences, and abilities. The content of your resume, wherever possible, should be speaking the language of the functions you would be performing in your target positions. This is where understanding the true qualifications needed is very important as this is the story you need to tell on your resume. Read through job postings of interest to get a sense of the skills, experiences, and abilities employers are seeking in candidates such as you. Use this insight to feed your resume with very important keywords conveying that you possess the right mix of experience, skills, and education. Possessing the right keywords is absolutely imperative if you want to be seen as a competitive candidate.
- Be sure you hang your hat on what makes you unique! Too many candidates think certain skills or educational credentials make them unique. Actually experience is more often than not what truly makes one unique. Think about it, the degree you hold, while important, is going to check the box for an employer and may be a qualification the majority of other applicants also possess. Likewise, certain skills and abilities will likely be claimed widely in the candidate pool, once again, creating an even playing field. However no other candidate can claim the same exact experience as you, at least when it comes to presenting your key contributions or accomplishments. Be sure to focus your attention in really highlighting what differentiates your candidacy. Remember, the requirements are typically what I call “check the box” qualifications meaning they do not make you unique, they just mean you are possess the minimum credentials being sought. That means that any other candidate also able to “check those boxes” is once again on an even playing field with you. Where you both stand out however would be the uniqueness of your experiences, the value you brought to work, and the skills acquired as a result.
- Have you created a strong and compelling format? Paying attention to the content—and keywords—of your resume as well as the format, is the recipe for resume success. Be sure your resume is aesthetically pleasing, balanced on the page, and will not succumb to formatting incompatibilities—font substitutions, margin changes, etc.—on recipients’ computers. If you are not naturally creative, glean inspiration for a uniquely formatted resume through an online search or quick breeze through resume books at the library.
- Are you diversifying your distribution strategy? Gone are the days we would just apply for open positions online. Distributions strategies are much more multifaceted these days and can/should include offline and online networking, sourcing “closed” market opportunities, leveraging referrals, securing informational interviews with those in your desired field, proactively researching and finding emerging opportunities—like when a company is moving or expanding in the area—and of course, the responses to “open” market positions. Be sure you are actually engaging in the distribution strategies to maximize your outreach and not getting stuck in the rut of only applying for posted opportunities.