Looking for a new job is no easy task. The process is fraught with sterile rejection emails, awkward interview experiences, and tricky conversations. Sometimes you may even go months without getting a single interview. At some point during your search, you might hit a road block that is so devastating, you begin to question whether or not you should even keep looking. The good news is that if you can understand why something went wrong and adjust your approach, you can overcome any obstacle.
Let’s take a closer look at four common, soul-crushing setbacks, including why they happen and how you can move forward.
1. Not Hearing Anything Back
What it Looks Like
You’ve been scouring job boards and applying to every relevant opportunity in sight, but the only responses you’ve gotten are generic rejection emails. Sure, you understand that it can take time to find the right position, but after a month or two of total silence, you start to lose hope. You know you have great experience, so what gives?
Why it Happens
There are tons of reasons why you may not be hearing back, but your resume is the most likely culprit. First, consider that it’s probably going to have to make it past an applicant tracking system. These systems scan every application for keywords that are specific to the role you’ve applied for. If you didn’t take the time to customize your resume for a particular job, you may be getting rejected before an actual person ever has a chance to lay eyes on your materials.
Another potential resume issue? Content. Recruiters only spend a few seconds scanning a resume before deciding whether or not they’re interested in a particular candidate, so you don’t have much time to grab their attention. Resumes that feature engaging language, relevant content, key achievements, and quantifiable metrics are much more likely to catch a hiring manager’s eye.
The timeliness of your application, the methods you’re using, and types of roles you’re applying to are all important factors to consider. Are you applying for jobs that were posted over a month ago? Chances are, the organization is probably pretty close to hiring someone by now. Are you only using one or two strategies in your search? If you aren’t having any success, it may be time to try out a few different resources. Finally, are you applying to roles that are a strong match for your skills and work history? If you’re a sales representative with two years of experience in the retail industry and you’re applying for sales director opportunities in the tech space, you may not be setting yourself up for success.
What to Do About It
Customizing your resume for each and every role you apply to isn’t as hard as it sounds. Try asking yourself two simple questions as you read through the job description for each role you’d like to apply to:
Do I have experience doing this type of work?
Is this experience currently on my resume?
If you answer yes to the first question and no to the second, it’s time to update your resume.
Diversifying your resources is also crucial to success. Don’t rely solely on job boards: Leverage your network, identify the top 10 companies you’d like to work for and reach out to recruiters who work there, attend relevant industry events, or consider working with a recruiting agency. There tons of different ways to find new opportunities—don’t limit yourself to just one.
If what you’re doing isn’t working, take a step back and reevaluate your game plan. Making adjustments to your approach can mean the difference between an empty inbox and a calendar full of interviews.
2. Bombing an Interview
What it Looks Like
Interviews are stressful, and, sometimes, things just don’t go your way. Maybe you showed up late, forgot the hiring manager’s name, got stumped on a question, or accidentally let it slip that you can’t stand your current manager. Regardless of the severity of your interview faux pas, you walk away feeling pretty confident that you’re not going to get the job.
Why it Happens
Everyone slips up from time to time. When it comes to the interview, there are three fundamental things that can go wrong:
External Factors: These are things beyond your control, like your car breaking down, your bus never showing up, waking up with a terrible cold, or a loved one landing in the hospital. Obviously, the severity of these events range from inconvenient to traumatic, but they all have the potential to throw you off your game.
Lack of Preparation: These are things that are firmly in your control, like getting enough sleep the night before, researching the company, practicing your answers to somecommonly asked interview questions, and brainstorming engaging questions to ask during your meeting. Taking the time to adequately prepare yourself in advance is an essential factor in interview success.
Fate: Sometimes, things just weren’t meant to be. If you weren’t at your best because you were dealing with a rude interviewer, didn’t click with the hiring team, or simply didn’t feel comfortable, you probably don’t want that job, anyway. Don’t forget that the purpose of this entire process is for you and your potential employer to assess whether or not you are a fit for each other.
What to Do About It
Don’t lose sight of the fact that this happens to everyone. When you find yourself in this position, you have two options: Learn from your mistakes and move forward, or try to salvage your candidacy. If you feel strongly that you really are the right person for the job, you may be able to turn things around by showing that you recognize that you could have done better and then demonstrating your ability to do so. Try sending the hiring manager a message to thank him for his time and work in a few lines about your misstep. Here are a few examples:
If don’t feel great about how you answered a question, say: “I’ve been thinking about my answer to your question about how I would grow community engagement and I wanted to share some additional thoughts with you.”
If you didn’t have any questions prepared, say: “I rarely find myself at a loss for words, but in my excitement, I neglected to ask you a few key questions about this opportunity.”
If you think you overshared, say: “I wanted to clarify my comments about my current role.”
If you were late, say: “I take being on time very seriously, and want to apologize for the any inconvenience my late arrival caused this morning.”
There is no guarantee that this approach will work, but most managers value employees who are willing to admit and learn from their mistakes, so at a minimum, they’ll most likely respect you more for owning up to whatever went wrong.