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Why is it so hard to find a job? A recruiters retrospective

hard to find a job

Why is it so hard to find a job?

Yes, it’s hard to find a job

If you are looking for a new career and asking yourself “why is it so hard to find a job?”,  I challenge you to do a quick self-assessment.

  1. If you have been turning in resumes on a regular basis and not getting called back, ask someone for feedback on your cover letter and resume.
  2. If you have been going to interviews and not getting an offer, ask for assistance with your interview skills.
  3. If you have had multiple interviews with multiple companies and are not receiving an offer, then ask someone for feedback on your interviewing and, or negotiation skills.

I see it time and time again.  Individual candidates keep running into the same wall at the various stages of the process.  Some are having a tough time getting a response on their resume and others keep getting multiple interviews but no offer.  In each case, each candidate makes it to a certain stage in the interview process and then finds they can progress no further.

I don’t write the following to show off, I say the following to give some perspective on why it is hard to find a job.

  • I used to help folks with their resume and they would walk away confident and excited, but they wouldn’t get called back for an interview after submitting the document.
  • I would then help them with the cover letter and they would get called back. They would head into the interview but not receive a second interview.
  • I would help with interviewing skills and they would receive multiple interviews but not receive an offer.
  • Until I started helping folks with the entire process, including resume, cover letter, interviewing, and negotiation did the offers start coming in.

The common denominator with all of these folks is that they absolutely believed that they could find a job.  And why not?  They have landed jobs in the past, heck, they landed 3, 5, or maybe even 10 positions in the past.  In some cases EVERY JOB THEY INTERVIEWED FOR, AN OFFER WAS RECEIVED.

I have worked with candidates at every level of the corporate world including executives, directors, VP’s, recent graduates and high school students.  What I have realized is that very few people understand how to interview or how the interview process works.  It makes perfect sense when you think about it.  We have all interviewed for a job in the past, and we have all had success in the past.  Some of us have interviewed 100’s of candidates.   The conclusion I have come to is two-fold:

  • Most of the jobs were landed in a very different economy.
  • The experience of interviewing a candidate at a SINGLE stage of the interview process doesn’t give enough perspective to understand the entire process.  If you are executive, you know how to interview executives, but there is very little experience with BEING interviewed by a younger person.

Think of it this way:  You may know how to hit a golf ball 300 yards but if your short game isn’t up to par, you are not going to be a scratch golfer.  You may be a great infielder, but if you don’t hit well, you won’t make it to the Bigs.  If you are drop dead gorgeous, but you have bad breath, the prince isn’t going to kiss you.  We need the entire package, we need all 5 of the tools, we need to brush our teeth and crush some mints.

Make no mistake.  Interviewing is a WINNER TAKES ALL game with players, judges, and a score.  

  • Players:  Candidates who are interviewing and looking for a job.
  • Judges / Referees:  Recruiters and hiring managers who are conducting the interviews and keeping the score.
  • Score:  How well you are doing at each stage of the interview.  This score adds up to a job offer or a rejection letter.

But when you think about it, the players, AKA “the candidates” never really learned how to play the game.  When was the last time anyone took a class on how to get through an interview loop and land an offer?   In most instances the judges, AKA “the interviewers” didn’t even learn the rules.  Not many companies can afford to have a formal interview-training program, which is why we get rude interviewers and the inappropriate interview questions.  Lastly, we don’t REALLY know the score.  We don’t really know the score until 8 weeks later when we get an offer or worst case, we have dropped off the map and never hear from Acme Publishing.  If we do receive any feedback from the recruiter, trust me, it is going to be sugar-coated so the company can keep good relations with you, your social network, the local community and avoid a lawsuit.  Yes, this does all add up to the fact that it is hard to find a job.

Most of us learned what we know about the interview process based on our prior experience.  We interviewed, we got the job.  Conclusion: “This ain’t so hard.  I know how to interview”.  If we interviewed and didn’t get the job (same performance and different outcome) we reflect and make a small change in our behavior.  If we do get an offer, we assume it was our adjustment, but we don’t really know.

The rules are changing:
  • Every time you interview in a different economy, the rules change.  In some economies, hiring managers can afford to be VERY picky.  In others, the bar may be a little lower.
  • Every time you interview with a different company the rules are a little different.  One company wants a suit, the next one wants a blazer and the next allows flip-flops.  That is just the dress code, we haven’t even talked about experience, education, or your public speaking skills.
  • Within each company, all hiring managers are all different.  One went to Stanford and wants Ivy League candidates.  Another didn’t go to school and feels that job experience is considered the “equivalent”.
  • On average a typical interview loop will have 3-5 interviews.  Within that loop, one interviewer will care about your technical skills, one may not care at all, and the next may be looking for a friend they can hang out with.

Yes, it is a miracle anyone is getting hired, and yes, it is hard to find a job.

This isn’t a post that is trying to impart any knowledge; it was more of an acknowledgment that it is OK to ask yourself “why is it so hard to find a job”.  It’s a frustrating and full-time job that will ask more of you than any prior position you held.  The kick in the balls is that you are NOT collecting a paycheck and the bills are piling up.

I encourage you to do as much research as you possibly can for every individual interview.  You cannot do enough research trying to figure out the rules.

  • Yes, this is a selfish plug, but I have a ton of inside information listed by category on interview tips, resume writing, and what HR really thinks about interviews, etc on the lower Left Hand Bar.  All FREE!
  • will give some insight into the management, salary, and interview questions.
  • Leverage your network so you can reach out to current and ex-employees of companies you are interested in.  Find out what it takes to get through the interview.
  • Most people know someone in HR / recruiting or know someone who does.  As much as we all bitch about HR professionals, most intimately know the in’s and out’s of the interview process and if you ask them for SPECIFIC help, they will be flattered.  Let them know you keep running into one of the above-numbered walls listed under the first paragraph and that is where you want the help.  If you are an HR person that declines the respectful and specific request for help to someone who is unemployed, you are dead to me.

See you at the after party,


nasty: an unreal maneuver of incredible technique, something that is ridiculously good, tricky and manipulative but with a result that can’t help but be admired, a phrase used to describe someone who is good at something. “He has a nasty forkball”.

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