Why Your Job Search is not Working

Ruth Sternberg is a career coach who earned her journalism degree at Ohio State in 1985. After a career in her field and a second career in fundraising, she now focuses on helping professionals reclaim their sense of purpose and find clarity, congruence, and confidence, for more fulfilling careers. Reach out to her  ruth@confidentcareersearch.com or LinkedIn. Ruth is certified in five career areas.

Every week, I meet people approaching a job search by sending out hundreds of resumes and hoping for a response.

When not much is happening, they come to me and ask, “Why isn’t this working? What’s wrong with my resume?”

Here’s the short answer:

  1. “It’s not your resume! That’s part of the problem, but it’s not the real problem.”
  2. “You are asking the wrong question.”

Now, here’s what I mean:

You need a resume to get most jobs. Employers need a summary of what you deliver so they can assess whether you might be a good candidate. They don’t know you. It makes sense.

But your resume is not the real reason that you get a callback.

The reason you will get attention is that you have effectively communicated how you can solve employers’ problems. Therefore, your job is to determine what those problems are and connect your successes directly with them.

Here are five tactics that can help you gain clarity and match yourself more effectively to the needs of the role:

  1. Self-reflection. Remind yourself of your values and priorities. Review your career goals and clarify what job you’re seeking and why.
  2. Research. Know what companies fit your goals. Know what those companies need. Read and watch everything—their websites, articles written about them, their social media posts, and their videos. Talk to people who work there and in those industries. Consider attending an industry conference to gain further insight.
  3. Approach. Adjust how you approach your resume by considering what your target employer is looking for and then matching those needs with things you’ve done in your past jobs. Make a two-column table and fill it out.

Then, go a step further to ask, how can I demonstrate that my skills in those areas are of real value?

Consider the challenges you’ve met during your career. How did you help shift situations at your various jobs? How did you make things better? Answer this for each job you’ve held.

Now, go back and write bullet points listing these documented, quantifiable achievements that are relevant to things that the employer needs you to solve.

While you’re at it, use the language and terminology that they are using. This will help you to get found by applicant tracking systems that are programmed to scan for keywords.

NOTE: Do not merely list the responsibilities you had while at your various jobs. Those are not good bullet points. These comprise a job description and don’t add real value.

  1. Networking. Talk to friends, former colleagues, bosses, and anyone else you know to find out (a) if they have connections to the companies where you want to apply and (b) what they are hearing about your industry these days. Talk to them to get feedback about your job search. Listen. Take notes. Ask if there is anyone else you should know and if they will make an introduction.

While you’re at it, follow your target companies on social media. Interact with their posts. Be seen.

  1. Reach out. When you see a job, don’t apply immediately. Reach out first. Contact the hiring team. Let them know you’re interested and why you are a good fit; then ask to set up a chat. While you’re chatting, determine if the opportunity looks good. Then, if it is, let them know you are applying (and add, “Could I also send you my resume directly?”).

These steps will help you to:

  1. Feel more confident
  2. Know how to “sell yourself”
  3. Stop worrying about your resume as much

Will you end up getting a job where you are a great fit? It may take time, but don’t let that stop you from moving on to the next company. Someone is going to see that you are prepared and understand what they are about, and you will be invited to join them.


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