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Will you ever find a job?

Every job seeker secretly hopes his or her job search will take the least amount of time and effort. But in reality, the process hardly ever runs smoothly. It can take a few weeks or even months, and you probably won’t get every single perk you want – especially in today’s market. Along the way, you don’t hear back from the companies you think are perfect matches for you, and it takes weeks to get an interview after sending in your application.

You probably spend a few days (at least) wringing your hands over whether or not you’ll ever find a job. No matter who you are and what industry you’re in, anxiety is just part of the process. But everyone has a different breaking point, and after sending in so many CVs, you’re bound to start asking, “I’ve sent out hundreds of applications – what else can I do?”

Here’s a checklist for you to review so you can either put your mind at ease (“It’s not me; it’s them”) or revamp your searching technique (“Well, it might be me”). Maybe the factors slowing down your job hunt are not under your control. But it doesn’t hurt to double-check.

1. Location
Before you start blaming yourself for not getting any leads, take a look at your surrounding area. Not all cities have the same job market. There are some places that offer more of what you like and offer better career prospects than others. Whether or not you want to or can relocate for your job is a personal matter, but you should consider the unemployment rate of your region when assessing how your hunt is going.

2. Which jobs
When you look at how many applications you’ve sent out and how many you’ve heard back from, you might want to divide the list into two columns: jobs you expected to get and jobs you applied for on a whim. CareerBuilder has implemented a new feature titled Job Feeds. It allows you to compare who you has also applied and how many applications the job has received. You do need to register with us to take advantage of this service.
Many job seekers decide to send out applications for jobs they know they’re not qualified for, whether they just want a paycheque or they think it would be fun to try a completely unrelated field — even though they know the odds of getting a call are slim. These passes are perfectly acceptable, but don’t consider their failures to be, well, failures. The jobs that align with your experience, education and skills are the ones that should be the gauge of your success.

3. The CV
Here’s where a lot of things go wrong. That one piece of paper, digital or hard copy, causes a lot of problems. Here’s a quick rundown of what you should check:
– Is your contact information (including your name) listed so the employer can call or e-mail you?
– Did you target the content to the job posting? Use the same phrasing, list experience that correlates to the requirements and give specific examples of achievements that will intrigue the employer.
– Did you attach your CV as a document in an e-mail? For security reasons, many employers won’t open attachments, so your CV might go unread. In addition to the attachment, paste it in the body of the e-mail to be safe.
– Was there a cover letter attached to it? If there is no cover letter, this can mean some hiring managers won’t take it into consideration.

4. The interview
If you’ve been called in for interviews already, then you’re doing something right. Not getting a job after interviewing doesn’t mean you blew it — it means you made the shortlist, but someone else might have been a better fit. But it never hurts to review your performance.

An interview is often a chance for the employer to see if you fit into the company culture. Are you too rigid for a casual environment? Are your verbal communication skills good enough for your position? Hiring managers also use this opportunity to learn about you in a way they can’t through a CV. They want you to elaborate on your experience and answer any questions they still have.

To make a good impression, preparation is key. You don’t want to sound rehearsed, but practicing your answers to questions, your handshake, how you’ll sit in the chair and anything else you’re likely to encounter will help you. If you can avoid being the deer in the headlights, you’ll be able to focus on the quality of your answers.

5. Appearance
Not to be superficial, but presentation means a lot. From the layout of your CV to the wrinkles in your interview attire, your professionalism is being judged. How are you presenting yourself to employers?

Don’t start your cover letter with something like “Hey!” and don’t end it with a smiley-face emoticon. Your CV shouldn’t be full of ClipArt butterflies and smiley faces. And you should leave some white space between sections so that the entire page isn’t a single paragraph of text. The hiring manager needs to see a job candidate who takes the job seriously, even before you’re called in for an interview.

During an interview, you should dress appropriately. That doesn’t mean trying too hard — say, a tuxedo for an administrative assistant’s job — but it does mean dress for the environment and look like you spent time preparing. If you’re told the environment is business casual, then you don’t need a suit, but you still need to iron your trousers.

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  1. Alan Tanner | Apr 20, 2012 | Reply

    As a redundant market researcher / product manager, I applaud the realism of this article. I would add that candidates need to realise that professional-level employers are now very risk-averse, generally seeking the perfect candidate. In addition, they sometimes have political motives (eg candidate better than the recruiter!) for stringing out the recruitment process: Beware the really good job that has been unfilled for months!

    What this all means is that the scatter-gun approach of applying for everything is likely to be a waste of time which simply clogs up the process for everybody. However, a personal connection can sometimes open a door to a job you may not have considered initially. Be realistic, be patient, and use your connections!

  2. Trillo | Apr 20, 2012 | Reply

    I read this article with immense interest. I was made redundant approx 6 months ago after 10 years with a well-known global brand name. I picked myself up, focused on how I wanted to market myself and and have been applying for vacancies which I know match my skills and experience.
    It is disheartening to hear nothing back apart from the acknowledgement of your application and the majority of web sites state that due to the overwhelming responses if you don’t hear within 7-10 days then please assume you have not been shortlisted for interview. It’s particularly interesting to note that applications for vacancies which are “long-shots” should not be considered as failures.
    I have in fact been very fortunate and been selected for several interviews but have yet to receive a job offer. Preparation is definitely key so check out the organisation web site and show that you have done some research and are interested in being employed by THAT company. It’s also good to practise answers but not too much otherwise it all sounds very rehearsed/scripted. It needs to be spontaneous but suggest you pause before you respond to any questions to just think and give the impression that you are considering what to say.
    I’ve learnt a great deal from these interviews and it’s helped me fine-tune my presentation skills and how to deal with challenging questions. It’s also boosted my self-confidence so they have not been in vain.
    I have a standard format cv but tailor it to individually match the job vacancy and as the article suggests I use phrases that are mentioned in the advert.
    I had an interview today which went really very well so fingers crossed that I get the chance to shine in this “golden opportunity”.
    Job seeking is very tough and daunting and the application situation is fierce. Keep on believing in yourself and the fact that you have a lot to offer any potential employer and one day you will strike gold.
    Good luck to any readers.

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