Let’s face it: hunting for a new job can be tough. With so many qualified candidates applying to a limited pool of job openings, it’s common to be rejected in favor of a more qualified applicant. And that’s assuming a company even replies to your application in the first place — which they don’t always do.
After a few months of cover letter-writing, hand-shaking, and keeping a smile on your face during interviews you know aren’t going well, you might be ready to give up. But before you do, remember why you’re looking for a new job in the first place. Have you been unemployed for awhile? Do you currently have a job but deal with a workplace bully, inept manager, or unchallenging work?
Let your reasons to search for a job keep serving as your motivation. A job search can take a long time, but once you find something better the work is worth it.
While you can’t control who else applies for the same job opening or how qualified they are compared to you, there are lots of things that are in your control. With a little fine-tuning about how you approach the application and interview process, you can see a difference in how much attention you get from recruiters.
If your strategy so far has been to apply to any and every job you seem remotely qualified for, stop. You’re spending way too much time randomly tossing your resume out there, and not enough time honing in on the select job openings you’re truly interested in, and tailoring your applications to those roles.
Think quality, not quantity. Send applications out to fewer companies with openings that are more suited to your skills. Write to that specific role. Your application will be much stronger than the generic cover letter and resume you send out to hundreds of companies.
Do Your Research First
When you start getting selective in your job hunt and see an opening you want to apply to, take the time to learn about the company.
Run a Google search to find more information. Check out the company’s website, take a look at their clients if they have them, and read some of their Glassdoor ratings. By the time you sit down to write a cover letter, you should have a sense of what the company actually does, as well as a bit about their culture and what issues (good and bad) current employees face. Know the value that you can bring to the company.
Learning about the company’s culture will allow you to write an appropriate cover letter. While your writing can be more casual to a less traditional company, you’ll want to stick to a formal cover letter if that’s more appropriate. Part of what recruiters look for is a good cultural fit, so showing that you understand the way that company operates will strengthen your application. Don’t send a generic cover letter to every company, that’s a surefire way to get your resume passed over.
Be Easy to Reach
While you shouldn’t put your life on hold during a job hunt, it might not be the best time to backpack through an internet access-free jungle for three months right after applying to five promising jobs.
It’s important to reply to calls and emails from recruiters promptly. Usually, a company is in touch with several candidates at once to schedule interviews. If one of them isn’t responsive, they’ll simply move forward with other candidates. While your availability to chat or email might be limited during work hours at your current job, aim to reply within a day.
Pro Tip: Make sure your contact information is visible on your public LinkedIn profile and that people don’t need to “link in” with you in order to see your phone number or email. Many employers are searching LinkedIn for qualified candidates.
What Not to Do
At some point or another, you’ve been given well-meaning yet out-of-date suggestions by your parents to do things like “pound the pavement” and “just ask for the job.” Job hunting has changed a lot since the application process moved online, so feel free to take the following advice with a grain of salt:
- Find out the name of the hiring manager and cold call them.
- Show up to a company in person and ask for a meeting with the hiring manager when you don’t have a scheduled appointment.
- Call the recruiter to ask why they rejected your application, and not accept “we hired a more qualified candidate” as an answer. For one thing, that’s probably the truth, and for another, they’ll not going to give you much feedback for being better in the future. Their role is to find the best new hires for their company — not to coach you through your job search.
- Call constantly to check on the status of your application. The hiring process can be slow because recruiters are hiring for many roles at once, and hiring managers are busy doing their actual jobs while simultaneously looking for a new employee. Trust the process enough to know that if a company likes you, they’ll be in touch.
- Upon receiving a rejection, reply with a bitter email about how they’re missing out and you were really the best candidate. If they were willing to consider you for future job opportunities before, they certainly won’t be anymore.
Now, Get Out There
With some research, a well-crafted application, and a bit of patience (I know, the wait is hard!), you can improve your odds of finding the right new job for you. When you stand out as a well-qualified candidate, and not just one of many people looking for any job, a recruiter will take notice. Put in the extra time and effort and your luck is bound to change.