If you’re job searching and not getting the results you want, this article is going to help you answer “Why can’t I find a job?” and turn your job search around.
And if you’ve had interviews but weren’t selected, I’ll help you answer the question “Why won’t anyone hire me?” (and I’ll help you build the interview skills that will get you job offers fast).
Go through the checklist below, decide which one best describes your job search situation, and read what you need to do to fix it and get hired!
If you’re sending out your resume, filling out applications, and not hearing back, here are the potential issues you’re encountering in the application process…
1. You’re not tailoring your resume for each job application. Companies receive a lot of applications for each open position. 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.
Never send a generic cover letter that could be sent out to any company/job. That’s not what a cover letter is for. You really need to put the extra effort here into explaining why you’re the right person for their company/role.
Or, don’t include a cover letter at all if employers aren’t requiring it in the application process. That’s absolutely fine, too.
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.
6. If you are only applying to job boards or online job postings, that could be holding you back. We’re in a competitive and crowded job market, and your best shot at getting an interview with a hiring manager is to try to find a mutual connection who can introduce you. Even if you don’t have a mutual connection in your network, consider reaching out directly on LinkedIn about a job.
You can also email recruiters directly about a job opportunity.
You can even email companies that don’t have job openings but are fast-growing and seem interesting.
Sometimes, growth-stage companies will hire great people even if they don’t have the exact right job posted online.
Every year, INC publishes the INC 5000 list, which contains 5,000 of the fastest-growing privately-held companies in the US. That list is a fantastic place to find growing companies to contact and ask about available jobs.
The more creative you get with your job applications, the better.
But first and foremost, if you’re not getting job interviews, the area to focus on is your resume. Your resume has one goal: to get you invited to interview. So if that’s not happening, focus on improving the document in any way possible… starting with always sending a tailored resume for each job.
You can also consider hiring a professional resume writing service if needed.
If you’re getting invited for 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.
Here are a couple of the most common issues and how to fix them…
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, which is something that hiring managers definitely notice in your job search.
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?”
The answer is “no”. Employers want to hear how YOU explain those career changes. And they want to hear the details that can’t be found on the resume, like why you moved from company to company, what made you decide to start working in a new industry, etc. So, tighten the story up and make sure it’s clear.
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.
Okay if you’ve made it this far, you are very close to landing a job offer, but there are still a few potential reasons that no one is hiring you. Here are a few factors to look at…
1. You’re not tailoring your interview 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 in the interview. 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 sending “Thank You” notes after each interview, and interview follow up emails if they don’t update you with feedback in the time period they said.
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 job seekers give references without ever finding out what they’re going to say. I’ve gotten on the phone while working as a recruiter, to check references, and had the reference 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!
If you’ve read the info above, you know how the top reasons that employers aren’t hiring you.
Don’t keep job searching without making a change, but don’t panic, either.
Through the info above, you can identify where you’re going wrong in the job search process, and how to correct it.
You now know that your resume/CV is what’s responsible for getting you job interviews. You also know that you shouldn’t just apply on job boards, but should also be talking to your network and contacting hiring managers directly.
And you know that if you’re getting to the job interview, then you’re doing or saying something within the interview that’s turning hiring managers off.
Consider practicing your interview answers, conducting a mock interview with a friend or colleague who is a hiring manager, and studying each job description more carefully before the interview so you can speak to the company’s specific needs.
Moving forward, if you follow these steps and use the list above to figure out where your job search is stalling or going wrong, and then take the recommended steps to fix the problems, you will be much more likely to find a job.
I’m not saying this is easy, and if you found this page, you’re probably pretty frustrated and feel like you’ve tried a lot already.
But you CAN improve and get hired in this job market.
Every job seeker can find something on this page to improve. So if you can’t find a job, bookmark this page and use it as a reference to adjust and improve until you do find a job.
And if you have interviews coming up and don’t want to leave anything to chance, I have a whole page of free interview prep resources here.
More online resources to help you find a new job:
If you’re truly on the edge of giving up in your job search, or if you’re in a tough spot financially, you can also consider some of the following ideas while job searching:
You don’t have to settle for temporary work forever, but in the current job market, many employers don’t view a contract position negatively, as long as you were doing relevant and interesting work.
If you’re open to a contract/temporary position, talk to a couple of recruiting firms in your region. The vast majority of recruitment agencies do some (or most) of their work in the temporary job space, and temp jobs can help you pay the bills and get employed immediately.
Flexible work still helps you build skills that employers will appreciate, which will help you find jobs in the future.
One more option if nobody is hiring you is: Consider applying to jobs that are easier to obtain or lower-competition.
Taking a slightly lower-level position isn’t ideal, but if you’re struggling to find your dream role, it can be beneficial.
Taking a mediocre position in the short-term can help fill the gap on your resume, boost your confidence, give you some income and reduce stress, and of course… give you time to keep quietly searching for the job you really want.
Another possible reason that you can’t find a job is that you’re simply in a tough industry right now. So while you’re wondering, “Why won’t anyone hire me?” it may simply be the wrong time to job hunt in your industry.
Some industries don’t have enough openings, while other industries have so many jobs that they can’t find people. They’re desperate for a skilled person to submit a job application.
If you feel like you’re at a dead end, try to pivot and send out some job applications in new industries (by industry, I mean software technology, healthcare, manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, etc.)
Don’t pick random industries, though. Look for verticals where your past skills (and college degree, if you have one) will be most relevant. Look for similar industries to where you’ve previously worked.
It’s possible that you’re also struggling to get hired due to limited time.
Most job board websites will let you set filters and email alerts to get notified of new job listings.
Some email newsletters will send out weekly or twice-monthly notifications of remote jobs.
There are many ways to get notified online about new positions as they pop up, which can help you save time and stay up to date on your job search even if you’ve got a busy personal life.
To conclude, as a career coach and former recruiter, I recognize that finding new jobs is hard. I hope the information above has given you a starting point and new motivation to go out and keep applying and interviewing.
Even the most expert job seekers have to interview for multiple positions to land a job, and they apply to many positions just to get to the first interview stage with a few companies.
That’s entirely normal, so don’t give up!
Biron Clark is a former executive recruiter who has worked individually with hundreds of job seekers, reviewed thousands of resumes and LinkedIn profiles, and recruited for top venture-backed startups and Fortune 500 companies. He has been advising job seekers since 2012 to think differently in their job search and land high-paying, competitive positions.
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