How to Handle 3 Common Roadblocks of Job Searching

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By Arnie Fertig

"No matter what I do, my job search goes nowhere." That's a common refrain from frustrated job hunters.

Of course, there are many reasons why searching for a new job is a difficult endeavor. Sometimes, like at the height of the recession, the situation is simply out of job seekers' control. However, the economy is now much improved, and the situation has reversed in some markets, in which qualified candidates are in short supply.If you have been attributing your lack of job search success to the poor economy, perhaps it is time to look at the stumbling blocks you might be facing and figure out new strategies to work your way around them.

There are numerous roadblocks that might block your career advancement. Here are three of them and what you can do to confront them:

1. You spend hours applying to positions online and never hear back. While people do get hired this way, the odds are always in favor of the employer who places the ad rather than any given candidate, no matter how well qualified.

What to do: View job ads as leads rather than as an application pipeline. Knowing that a position may exist, research the company and department. See how you might be connected to someone in that area of the company on LinkedIn, and reach out directly to that person for more information. Learn about the situation and company's actual needs, and apply either directly to the hiring manager or through an employee referral.

2. You have had interviews at multiple companies, but you never got the job offer. Bear in mind that employers likely wouldn't be inviting you in for an interview unless they seriously thought you might be what they are looking for. The fact that you are getting multiple interviews should only confirm in your mind that you are pursuing appropriate positions.

What to do: Carefully review your interview performance in your mind to look for small tweaks that can improve how you are viewed. Did you arrive a few minutes early? Were you friendly to the receptionist? Did you ramble, or were your answers entirely "on point" to the questions posed? Did you understand the employer's pain and speak directly to it to demonstrate how you can be the solution to their problem?

It's often valuable to both prepare for interviews and debrief afterward with a coach who is well versed in the hiring process. That person will sometimes be able to hear your words in a way that you didn't intend and guide you to a better way to make your case.

3. You are applying to career-changing jobs you think would be interesting but get no nibbles. In the course of a lifetime, people often switch what they are doing or change the kind of business or organization in which they work.

Remember, however, that just having a particular career objective doesn't mean that you'll be seen as a good fit for it, even if you are convinced in your own mind that you would like the job or can do the job well.

What to do: It may be time for some serious self-examination. Have you acquired and demonstrated the necessary background in terms of education, certifications, licenses and experience that will demonstrate your value in the role you seek?

It's always advisable to do quite a few informational interviews to learn more about the work you want to do from people who are already doing it. And it is totally fair to ask for a reality check toward the end of the conversation. Ask: "Knowing me to the extent that you do, can I reasonably expect to be hired as a [fill in the blank]?

Make sure to include your relevant transferable skills are at the top of your résumé and downplay or eliminate mentions of things that would make a résumé evaluator immediately conclude you are a mismatch. Instead, highlight relevant experience in your résumé and cover letters.

Happy hunting!

Arnie Fertig, MPA, is passionate about helping his Jobhuntercoach clients advance their careers by transforming frantic "I'll apply to anything" searches into focused hunts for "great fit" opportunities. He brings to each client the extensive knowledge he gained when working in HR staffing and managing his boutique recruiting firm.
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