If you are looking at changing jobs or even finding a job to start with, the process can be soul destroying.
It may very well come down to how many jobs you apply for – after all, a great job is hardly likely to fall into your lap – but what happens if you’re seriously struggling to get cut-through? You slave over your CV and cover letter but don’t even get a ‘thanks for your application’ note in return, let alone a call for an interview. What’s going wrong?
There’s no set rule for when alarm bells should start ringing, but if you’ve sent out dozens of CVs and hear nothing back, it might be time to reconsider what you’re doing – because doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result makes no sense at all. With a bit of focus and strategy, you can shift a bit of the power back into your court. “It’s a numbers game.” How many times have you heard that in your job hunting? Well here’s four more…
1. Actually know what you want
What do you want from your career? Where do you see yourself in five years’ time? These are tough questions that we’d all rather avoid answering – but without answers you may be setting off on a path that’s simply not right for you. Take a helicopter view of not just yourself (your aspirations, your skills, your experience) but also your industry. What are the major disruptors? Will technology impact on your choices? Would you be better off returning to study or gaining experience in a parallel but related area? If you don’t believe in where you’re going, why should anyone else?
2. Look at yourself in the mirror
Not literally, (you can worry about that when you secure the interview!) of course. But look at how you’re presenting yourself to potential employers. Is your CV up to date, full of only relevant information and error-free? Although the fundamentals of CVs haven’t changed much in the past 20 years, it’s worthwhile checking on what colleagues or friends have found works for them. Perhaps consider a short ‘capability statement’ to open your CV with; or perhaps add a personal interests section at the bottom – at the very least it might provide a talking point during an interview. Don’t forget to list both ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ skills. The former includes computer skills while the latter includes communication skills, strategic decision-making ability and adaptability. And, of course, don’t forget your online profile. Is your LinkedIn profile up to date? Is your profile photo professional (and not you partying with friends on a long weekend)? Typically, most employers will check social media as part of their checklist, so check your privacy settings.
3. Work out your USP
What’s a USP? It’s your unique selling point. It’s what sets you apart from everyone else. This is important when a hiring manager or recruiter might be receiving hundreds of applications. Not sure what your USP might be? Try asking friends and colleagues. Is there something about you – preferably related to work – that stands out? Perhaps you’re a renowned project manager, you get things done. Or perhaps you’re the ultimate relationship builder – to the extent that your clients invite you to their kids’ birthday party annually. Figure out what it is and create your ‘brand’ around it. This can be a theme that runs through your various profiles, your CV, your cover letter and also your interview responses. Bring everything back to ground zero – in other words, why you should hire me.
4. Hone your search
Undertake a focused job search. Despite the temptation, don’t apply for any job going; this will only result in more disappointment. Make a list of companies you’d love to work for. Do your research. What are their strengths? What is disrupting them and their industry, what are their pain points? Are there any significant changes coming up (government legislation, for example). Connect with hiring managers and HR representatives on social media such as LinkedIn. Better still, engage a recruiter to give you a helping hand – they can also provide interviewing tips and polish your resume.