Job Search Strategies That Don’t Work

If you’ve ever been on the job market, you are well aware of the never-ending cycle of putting in an application, and the frustration that comes with every rejection letter.  Like everything else, job hunting requires a plan and a strategy. Candidates invest a lot of time in structuring and formatting their CV/resumes, as well as crafting a cover letter that explain their skill set and past experiences (in a generic sense). While these steps are important, here are a few things you may be doing wrong.

Applying to every job announcement

Some candidates work from the assumption that “more is better”.  Applying to every job announcement you come across is not only a waste of your time, but also ineffective.  It is akin to playing the lottery with the hope of one day playing the right number (which may pan out eventually). Rather than spend time and energy applying to several positions with a hit or miss attitude, take the time to narrow down your interests before going on a job board, and apply to positions that are aligned with your goals.

Applying to positions when you're not qualified

People’s opinions differs on this point, but applying to positions you are clearly not qualified for is 90% of the time “a bust”. Exceptions to the rule exists if the candidate has the necessary work experience and is lacking an educational requirement, or if the candidate has the educational requirement and falls short (slightly, e.g. 3 years vs. the required 5 years) on the required level of experience. However, if you are a recent graduate applying for the CEO of a multinational; well, you know how that will play out.

Use of generic application documents

We've all done this at some point; using the same CV/resume and cover letter for every position we apply to. While this may be a convenient move, it won’t take you very far in your job search. Employers look for specific qualities and skills in potential employees as it pertains to the position they are trying to fill.

Using a generic CV/resume and cover letter says two things about you

  • You don’t care enough to make an effort
  • You probably are not qualified for the position you are applying for

The CV/resumes and cover letters that receive attention are those that show the necessary experience (and results/track record) needed to function in the role being advertised, and documents that have been tailored to the needs of the job specification.

Failure to network

A successful job search is a combination of stellar self-promotion and networking. Your CV/resume and cover letter serve as an introduction to your brand/person, while networking allows you to meet professionals and people who may be instrumental in getting you through the door. There are countless ways to network, e.g. at events (both social and professional), conferences, one on one conversations extended family and friends, via email/professional introductions, etc.

If you are on the job market, talk to people about your search, interests, the kinds of positions you are interested in etc. Not every conversation will end in a job offer, but you just might get that professional introduction that will get a recruiter/current employee interested in what you have to offer. Networking is a must for the job search.

Remaining idle

Job hunting in itself is a full-time job. You can spend countless of hours editing your documents, searching through various job boards and filling out applications. In the midst of all this, it would be helpful to find some time to volunteer with a local non-profit organization or even virtually. Technology has made it possible for people to volunteer with notable platforms such as United Nations Volunteers: Online volunteers and Volunteer Match. Most sort after skills (on the virtual scene) include writing, editing, social media content management, IT and web design etc. The point is, no experience is wasted, and volunteering shows that you are honing your skills and keeping busy during the search process.

Alternatively, you can start your own business and join the entrepreneurial world. If you have a skill-set that can be offered as a service for a fee, offer that to people, especially those on a low-budget, and build a client base. With time, you will not only be able to charge more for your services, but you may not even need to be on the job market at all if you so choose.

While there are no absolutes in the job hunting experience, there are certain things that make the process more productive. For instance: 

  • Not having to apply to every job announcement gives you more time to engage in other activities. 
  • Targeting your search also means that you are more specific in your approach and will enable you tailor your documents to any position that is worth your time.
  • Networking allows you take the job search off the grid into a more interpersonal space. Talking to someone about your interests, skills and accomplishment in person allows them to see your passion, evaluate your communication skills and confidence level is speaking about yourself. This translates to how you will communicate with clients about the firm’s/company’s product and services, mission, vision etc.

Whatever approach you adopt for your job search, remind yourself that “this too shall pass” and patience is a necessary component of the entire process. Good luck.