First, you may not be doing anything wrong at all. Second, I know it's frustrating, but perseverance is the key. Third, there are some fundamental things you should be doing that can help give you that edge during your career search that I see a lot of individuals miss out on.
First let me begin with my story. Back in 2008 I knew, without a shadow of a doubt, I wanted to be in management. I've always had a desire within me to lead since I was young. At work I would get stretch assignments where I was indirectly leading individuals, but could not land that formal management role. After a while this got old because I felt as though I was good enough to do stretch assignments, but not good enough to actually be in a formal management role. You do start to get frustrated and in some regards, bitter. Every time I would apply for a position there would always be this requirement of "so many years of management experience (directly leading people who report to you)". Unfortunately I didn't have that direct report requirement and that would knock me out of the running, though I have tons of leadership experience through my career. I've been in leadership roles since the age of 5, but because at the time I did not directly lead people I would get overlooked. What added insult to injury to me at that the time is that leading individuals indirectly is harder than leading individuals directly. Mainly because you have no direct control over their work or performance because frankly they don't report to you. If you can get individuals to follow you that don't report to you, in my mind, shows how great of a leader you are. Frankly, I would rather have a strong leader than manager. So for 4 years, yes 4 YEARS, I continued to apply for positions within the company I worked and I wasn't making much headway. Then I decided that maybe I needed to start applying outside of the company. So in year 4 that is exactly what I did. I would always make it to the finals, but I would always be a runner up to the internal candidate. That again, was frustrating because I felt why couldn't the same thing happen within the company at worked (picking the internal candidate over external)? Then you start second guessing yourself to determine if you are ready or not. Luckily in 2012, a management position became available where the hiring manager didn't ask for management experience, but rather leadership experience. That made all the difference in the world for me. I prepared hard to interview for this position and I went in with everything I had because I felt this may be my only chance to get into management. I did get the position and now I work really hard to help people through their career development journey. There are a lot of factors that may cause you to not get a job and it may not be because you are not qualified for it. It really could be a better fit situation or there is something better coming for you that you aren't even aware of.
Here are some things I have learned over the last 8 years of my career journey.
Advice to job searching candidates:
- Resume - When applying for a job make sure your resume speaks to the required, and any desired qualifications of a job. This may require you to tweak your resumes for each job to really showcase you have the skills the hiring manager is looking for. Typically recruiters and/or hiring managers are scanning a ton of resumes very quickly. If they cannot easily identify you have the skills being requested you may get overlooked. Remember this is your first chance to market yourself. I wouldn't suggest you lie on your resume though because recruiters and hiring managers can pick up on that as well. Just thought I needed to throw that in there. :-)
- Job Applications - Apply for jobs for which you are qualified. I'm all about going for positions that are a stretch from your current role, but make sure that stretch is realistic. Also, be realistic on salary requirements if it is asked on the application. Asking for $100,000 base salary on an entry level position is a bit unrealistic for a lot of professions. Sometimes it's those items on the application that can take you out of the candidate pool from the beginning.
- Social Media/Branding - Make sure your social media profiles are clean. Though some companies advise it's against policy to decide on a candidate based on their social media, I'm not convinced some companies still don't look. It's better to be safe than sorry. If you have information out there that is questionable you may want to clean that up as you are searching for jobs.
- Interviewing - Make sure you prep for the interview. Read the job description thoroughly and have examples of work you have done in your career that align to the responsibilities being asked of in the job description. Ensure your attire is appropriate for the interview. Blues, grays and blacks are common and safe colors for the interview. Also, ladies tone down your perfume and jewelry if appropriate. You don't want those items to be a distraction from what you are saying in the interview. In addition, gentleman watch your cologne. Come prepared to the interview to hand the interviewers with a copy of your resume, and if sample work has been requested have copies for everyone. Also, remember you are interviewing those interviewing you as well. You need to determine if this is the right job for you, so don't just think you are the one being interviewed. Come prepared with some great questions to ask those who interview you. Also, ensure you send a thank you note after your interview. You will be amazed how many people don't do this and how many times that has been the decider on whether they get hired or not.
- Perseverance - This is the KEY. Finding a new job can be quite frustrating. Especially if you are consistently getting the rejection letter. Try not to let the frustration get the best of you. I know it's hard because I have let it get the best of me in the past. Sometimes it's not that you are doing anything wrong. It could come down to you and another strong candidate and who fits better in the organization. I have been turned down for multiple jobs over my career and it's not that I interviewed poorly, actually it's been the exact opposite. It's because the other candidate had something that would have been a better fit on the team, or they may have done work in that space already and it would take less time for them to get up to speed on getting the job done (learning curve). What I can tell you is that hiring managers/recruiters do look at how you react to job rejection as well. Keep that in mind as you solicit feedback and talk to the hiring manage/recruiter. You just made a connection, you have done networking to an extent, and you never know when that next position will come around and you my be reached out to.
I do extensive resume and interview preparation as one of the tiers of my consulting business. If you would like to find out more please visit my website at Paula A. Bell Consulting
Advice to hiring managers/recruiters:
- Knowledge - Recruiters ensure that you truly understand what the hiring manager is looking for. Take time to understand the different terminology candidates could potentially use when applying for the job. It's important you understand the domain in which you are hiring. Hiring managers do rely on recruiters and we hope that the recruiters understand what we are looking for. Also, hiring managers it would be prudent for your to look at your candidate pool as well and create a list of those individuals you think would be great candidates, and compare those to what the recruiter has. This has nothing to do with lack of trust, but everything to do with ensuring you are both on the same page on what you are seeking. You may find, based on the candidate pool, you may have forgotten to emphasize a very specific skill you want to the recruiter. Not only does this help the recruiter understand what you are looking for, but frankly, it also helps the candidates not go through a painful interviewing process if they shouldn't have been in the process to begin with.
- Feedback - This the number 1 frustrating thing I hear from all clients, and frankly a frustration I have had. There is nothing more frustrating than going through a LONG interview process and then the hiring manager or recruiter won't even reach out to you to give you feedback, whether you solicit it or not. We have got to do better in this space with candidates, especially those who make it as a finalist. I personally feel as a hiring manager if a candidate has made it to interview with me, it is my RESPONSIBILITY and DUTY to reach out to that candidate and give feedback (preferably on the phone, not through email) on why they didn't get the position. There is really NO EXCUSE for not doing this. I don't care how busy you are as a hiring, it's frankly DISRESPECTFUL to the candidate, and the process, to at least not reach out to the candidate and give constructive feedback. You had time to interview them you have time to make a 5-10 minute call to provide feedback. Also, hiring managers, YOU need to contact the candidate, not the recruiter. As you can tell I'm a little passionate about this topic because this is the area that has caused me the most frustration in my job search journey.
- Searching for Candidates - Open your mind to transferable skills. Sometimes it's worth taking a risk on a candidate. I'm not saying take a risk on someone who hasn't shown they have the skill set to do the job, I'm talking taking a risk on someone who is a strong candidate and a finalist For example, let's say you have 2 really strong candidates. 1 of the candidates is within the group you work now and the other candidate is not. Maybe it may be prudent to hire someone who can bring in a new fresh perspective. Sometimes it's good to get out of the norm. Diversity brings stronger and better solutions so keep that in mind. I was one of the candidates a hiring manager took a risk on and it paid off beautifully, not only for him but for me as well.
Searching for a new opportunity can be nerve wracking. Some professions are harder than others to get in to as well. Remember, perseverance is key. You have to keep trying until you land that job. The above are just tidbits on what I have learned and I would love to hear other's thoughts.
Paula A Bell Consulting, LLC