Why Can’t I Find a Job? 16 Common Reasons

why cant i find a job

If you’ve been job searching for more than a month and haven’t gotten the results you want, this article is going to help you answer “Why can’t I find a job?”

Go through the scenarios below, decide which one describes your situation best, and read what you need to do to fix it and get hired!

“Why Can’t I Find a Job?”

Problem 1: I’m not getting any phone calls or interviews

If you’re sending out your resume, filling out applications and not hearing back, here are the potential issues…

1. You’re not tailoring your resume. Companies receive a ton of applications for most jobs. Your resume is not going to stand out unless you customize it a bit. Do this and you’ll get at least double the amount of responses. If you’re not doing this, it’s a big reason why you can’t get a job (or even an interview)

2. You’re not customizing your cover letter or submission email. Pick one or two things that caught your eye about the company and made you excited to apply. Relate your own skills to that and talk about how you can help them.

3. You’re not applying for enough jobs. You can’t find a job by just applying for a few minutes each day. I have friends who are desperate to find a job and then tell me they’re sending out less than five applications per week. Not enough. Not even close. You can check out this case study if you want a great method to apply for jobs quickly and easily online.

4. If you’re applying for jobs in a new state or city, make sure you’re putting the right thing on your resume. Otherwise you might be scaring companies off.

5. If you have a big gap in employment, you need to address it. Write them a cover letter or note explaining the situation. It’s a lot better than not saying anything at all. You might even be able to explain it right on your resume.

Problem 2: I’m getting turned down (or not hearing back) after the first interview

If you’re getting invited for a few phone interviews, your resume is probably okay. But if you’re not getting past those interviews, what you’re doing and saying on the first interview is the reason you can’t find a job.

So lets talk about what the problem could be…

1. Pick something specific that you’re targeting in your job search, and figure out how it relates to this company. Companies want to make sure you’ve thought about your job search and know what you’re looking for. Now you have a great answer if they ask “why do you want to work here?” As a recruiter I see a lot of people fail to do this in the interview, and it’s a big reason they can’t find a job quickly or easily.

2. Do some research and know what the company does, how they make money, when they were founded, etc. This will help you with the initial questions they usually ask… like “what do you know about us?” You’ll seem way more prepared overall.

3. If you were fired or laid off, prepare to explain that.  A weak explanation might be a deal-breaker. (and don’t ever blame coworkers or past employers, just be accountable and show what you’ve learned from the experience, and that you’re ready for your next challenge).

4. Make sure you can clearly explain the job changes you’ve made in the past. I had a friend recently ask me: “Is it a sign of an inexperienced interviewer when they ask you to walk them through your resume?” Good question but the answer is No. They want to see how YOU explain it. And they want to hear the things that can’t be found on the resume, like why you moved from company to company. Or what made you decide to start working in this area. So, tighten the story up and make sure it’s succinct.

5. If it’s not anything above stopping you, it’s how you’re describing your qualifications- past work, experience, education, etc. Be clear and specific about what you’ve done in the past. Have numbers, stories and examples to share and sound excited about it! And any time you can show advancement (like receiving a promotion), do it.

Problem 3: I’m getting through multiple interviews, but no job offer

Okay if you’ve made it this far. You’re very close. Here are a few things to look at…

1. You’re not tailoring your answers enough. To get hired for competitive jobs, being impressive in general isn’t enough. You really need to look at the job description, and think about how your skills fit into THEIR NEEDS. This is what the company cares most about. So when they’re asking about your skills, try to present it as how you can help them, or how you can solve their problems.

2. You’re not asking good questions. Make sure you’re asking at least one or two questions to each person you interview with. Not asking questions in the interview is a dead giveaway that you either don’t care very much, or are willing to take any job you get because you’re desperate. Here are 105 good questions to ask in the interview.

3. You’re not showing interest and following up. Companies want someone who is excited to work for them and interested in the opportunity. This means you should be following up and sending “Thank You” emails after each interview. You spend hours applying for jobs, going on interviews, etc. Don’t skip a five minute step that could be the difference in whether you get hired or not.

4. References. Companies don’t check references until they’re pretty sure they want to hire you. If you’re getting to this point and not getting hired, the references you’re providing may be why you can’t find a job. A lot of people give references without ever finding out what they’re going to say. I’ve gotten on the phone to check references and had them say “I wouldn’t hire that person again”. So don’t just ask people if they’ll be a reference for you… ask if they’re comfortable being a POSITIVE reference.

5. Salary… Are you saying an extremely high number and scaring companies off? Check Glassdoor’s salary estimator tool or ask some close colleagues or friends if you’re not sure. Or use my favorite line when they ask what you’re looking to make: “My priority is to find the best-fitting position for my career. After that, I’m willing to consider any offer you feel is fair.”

6. Keep going, it may just be bad luck. Good companies get a lot of applicants. It’s possible you did everything right, got to the end of the process with a few other candidates, and the company had to make a tough choice and went with someone else. The good news is that if you made it through multiple interviews, you did almost everything correctly and you’re very close to getting hired!

UPDATE: 

If you have interviews coming up and don’t want to leave anything to chance, I’ve created a new guide where you can copy my exact step-by-step method for getting job offers. You can get more details here.

 

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16 reasons why you can't find a job

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Leave a Comment:

24 comments
Laura says August 18, 2016

I’ve done #1, #2, #3, and #5 in the first section and I’m still not getting interviews. How do I explain my job gaps when they’re from being unemployed? Why can’t I just say “I was looking for work” to explain them?

Reply
    Biron Clark says August 23, 2016

    Hi Laura,

    You can just say “I was looking for work”. That’s fine. Being unemployed happens, and job hunting while unemployed is a good reason for a gap.

    How big are the gaps? Is it more than one gap?

    Are you applying for jobs that are a reasonable fit for your skills as well?

    Reply
Kathy says April 7, 2017

I have been looking for a job since January 2017, is that to long to still be unemployed? Also, I get atleast 2 interviews per week, every week, but still no job.
I think I do good interviews, but that’s just much opinion. Don’t know what else to do.

Reply
    Biron Clark says April 7, 2017

    Kathy,

    It’s not too long to be unemployed. Up to 6 months (and sometimes more) can happen. Job searches take time, and involve a bit of luck as well as skill (companies post jobs and then change their mind, etc.)

    But it’s obvious to me that if you are going on interviews every week and not getting hired, you are doing something very wrong in the interview.

    I recommend focusing entirely on that.

    Here’s an article I wrote about basic interview preparation:

    https://careersidekick.com/interviewing-tips-how-to-pass-a-job-interview/

    And if you want the best help out there, here’s a premium job interview answer guide I put together. It’s the best thing I can recommend. But it’s not free. Just a warning 🙂

    https://careersidekick.com/job-interview-answers-guide/

    Hope this info helps. Focus on interviews, and try to get feedback from the companies you’ve interviewed with so you can improve (even though it’s tough to get them to give honest feedback usually)

    Reply
    Lorna McClurkin says May 15, 2017

    I am in the same boat. I get to the point of my references being checked and I hear nothing. I’ve been told on 3 different interviews that I interview very well and represent myself very well. They said I had great SAR responses. One job did the Microsoft Office assessment that I bombed because they expect you to use the ribbon. I use mostly shortcuts. The shortcuts are not acceptable for the assessments. I’ve reached out to my references to ask them how are they answering the questions. Not sure what’s the issue.

    Reply
      Biron Clark says May 15, 2017

      Hi Lorna,

      Usually it’s a done deal when it gets to reference checks. Something’s going seriously wrong here. I’d get new references ASAP or confront these people head-on and ask them if they’re comfortable and able to give 100% positive reviews about your work.

      The good news is you’re close! Keep going, you’ll get it!

      Reply
Douglas Delkescamp says April 21, 2017

I’m 60 years old. Every time I meet with a hiring manager and/or supervisor’s they smile, cut the interview process short, and ask questions that do not pertain to the position which I’m applying for. What can I do?

Reply
    Biron Clark says April 22, 2017

    Hi Douglas,

    What types of jobs are you looking for? What types of questions are they asking you in the interview before cutting it short.

    I’m not sure what I’d do to be honest. A lot of employers are scared to hire someone who is 60. I don’t agree with it and think that people in their 50’s and 60’s can bring some great things that younger people don’t have at all. Things that can really benefit the company.

    But I don’t have an easy solution for you unfortunately.

    You could try making your age clear in your cover letter. There are a few good employers out there who will want you, and that’s what you need to find. Forget the employers who don’t see the value you bring.

    It only takes one. You need one job. The statistics don’t matter.

    Telling them upfront will stop you from wasting time going on interviews where they don’t want to hire someone your age.

    And if you continue to not get job offers from interviews, you’ll know there’s another issue or another reason you can’t find a job. Does that make sense? Hope this helps a bit! Don’t give up, you WILL find a great employer who needs your skill set.

    Reply
Brian Grimmer says April 30, 2017

Interesting read that fills a lot of heads with “oh, if I just tried a little harder.” The sad reality for many of those “white males approaching 50,” is that the old horse isn’t even wanted in the pasture let alone pulling the plow.

I’ve been a graphic designer for nearly 30 years. I started out creating menus and business cards using PageMaker on a 512K Fat Mac and outputting to a Laserwriter I. Now, while I know current design software, my “style” is dated and out of touch. Combined with age and old injuries slowing me down, I can’t find a job to save my life unless I want to deal with some young punk running circles around me for minimum wage. At 48, I believe minimum wage means minimum effort and ZERO responsibility or loyalty. Why the hell would I want to give experience worth $30-50 away for chump change?

Reply
    Biron Clark says April 30, 2017

    Hey Brian,

    Why don’t you try finding freelance work as a graphic designer? Age won’t matter, you’ll be able to charge a fair rate for the results you deliver, etc.

    All it takes is picking up the phone or sending out some cold emails. Along with running this blog I’ve spent the past year building a freelance career myself as a copywriter & marketing consultant. Nobody once has asked my age and I’ve never provided a resume to anyone. Just a photo that they see on my website, etc.

    Reply
    K says June 1, 2017

    You’ve got enough experience to start your own business.

    Reply
Steve Preston says May 26, 2017

Good article Biron Clark. At first quick read there is one very obvious aspect missing …applying for the RIGHT jobs! Also, if you are looking to change career, you really need to explain this and why in your covering email. For many people, actively networking, tapping into your networks and finding people who can open doors for you by introducing you or championing your cause can make the difference.

Reply
Robert De Marco says June 18, 2017

All i want is a job and i cant find one

Reply
    Biron Clark says June 18, 2017

    Hey Robert, what are you struggling with specifically? Are you sending out your resume and not getting responses? Are you going on interviews and not hearing back? There are usually one or two reasons you can’t find a job but nobody can help you without a bit more info.

    Reply
Clinton Kotze says June 21, 2017

The Economy is bad- do you think some of us might do everything right, just do not have the luck in this bad economy? It simply cannot grow with the population. And then there are jobs that taken over by machines

Reply
Laura says June 28, 2017

Great article! I have a master’s degree in the area I am wanting to work in, I have updated my resume multiple times, I have explained “gaps” in employment, I have detailed my cover letter, I even tell what my future aspirations are and why, I have great references (two being mentors I worked closely with while obtaining my Master’s). However, it just seems like no one is interested. I’m almost at a loss. I even know of one person who was given a position at one place I have applied at hundreds of times and she doesn’t have a master’s and she hasn’t done anything with her undergraduate degree in almost 10 years and to top it off she’s been nothing more than a cashier and job hoped a lot… I don’t know what I’m doing wrong!

Reply
No Name says July 17, 2017

Do they all look under the age of40? If so, its illegal ageism.
I have even been asked how old I am in a job interview!
I refuse to answer!

Reply
Mike says August 9, 2017

Hi Biron, do you have any advice for cover letter writing?

Reply
    Biron Clark says August 9, 2017

    Hey Mike! It’s something I neglected for a while on the blog, but I did recently have an article written by a guest contributor (I like to let professional resume writers contribute to the blog as often as I can).

    Does this help at all? https://careersidekick.com/cover-letters-that-get-noticed/

    Reply
Laird Willis says September 11, 2017

Hi Biron, good article, which I saved to my favorites for future reference. It’s a tough market right now. I’m a licensed mechanical engineer, and because I was laid off I’ve been job hunting for 4 months. I’ve had two phone interviews, but nothing more than a phone interview. I do believe being 55 years of age is an issue, and I like your idea of making age clear in a cover letter. So, just bluntly state “I’m 55 years of age.”? Or is there a milder way of bringing up age in the cover letter? Just looking for ideas.

Reply
    Biron Clark says September 11, 2017

    Hi Laird,

    Thanks for reading/commenting! If you’ve only had 2 interviews, it’s definitely an issue with your resume, cover letter, job applications, etc. 2 phone interviews isn’t enough. We need to get you way more 🙂 So you’re right to be focusing on that.

    I’d test both ways. Send out a bunch of applications where you mention age, but then send some where you make absolutely no mention of it.

    Here’s an article on how to avoid age discrimination on your resume when applying:

    https://careersidekick.com/how-to-avoid-age-discrimination-when-applying-for-jobs/

    If you aren’t getting many phone interviews, clearly something isn’t working. And they can’t tell your age on a phonecall anyway.

    So even though it’s the opposite of your question… I’d want to see the results of a test where you DON’T reveal your age.

    If you do reveal it, I’d just say “I’m in my 50’s”. Sounds a little milder to me at least. Thoughts?

    Overall I think talking about age upfront can increase the odds you move from phone interviews to in-person interviews (and job offers). But right now we need to get you more phone interviews, and that might be accomplished by hiding age.

    Reply
      Laird Willis says September 11, 2017

      Thank you, Biron. I’ll continue to not reveal my age, and take another look at my resume. I have to put a cover letter together, which is something I probably should have done earlier. I appreciate the tips.

      Reply
Gehrhart says September 12, 2017

I am having a problem with #1. I am not getting any call backs or interviews. I have a B.S. in Business Management and a great deal of management experience under my belt. I even had my resume and cover letter professionally written to give me better chances. I am young and motivated but I need a better management job than what I have. I am also looking to get out of the industry I am currently in. The whole process has me thinking I need to go back to school to get my M.B.A. Any suggestions or insight?

Reply
    Biron Clark says September 13, 2017

    Don’t go pay for an M.B.A. because you can’t get the interviews you want. Keep changing things on your resume, testing, etc. Apply for a few different types of Management jobs (in fields you’d be interested in). This isn’t an exact science – you need to test. But getting an M.B.A. will probably not help. Companies want real-world experience when they hire a manager. If they want an MBA, they’ll send you to get one. Did the professional who wrote your resume have a guarantee? If you’re getting no interviews, you should go back to them and ask them to rewrite it. They didn’t succeed.

    Reply
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