There’s a new question emerging in the world of job seeking. It’s something I never expected. It doesn’t happen in every interview, but it happens enough that it’s worth mentioning. As you grow in your career, companies expect more. More senior roles require more experience. Job descriptions will ask for ten or fifteen years of experience in a particular field. If you have the ten or fifteen years of experience, this can seem like a great thing. You’ve finally arrived!
Throughout your career, you go through different phases. Perhaps there was a time when you were doing detailed, fundamental work (maybe right out of college). There was another time when you learned to manage people. Or, another phase where you learned to managed vendors and cross departmental relationships. You career has been an evolution.
You go into a job interview, ready to share the ten or fifteen years of accumulated experience that you bring to the table. You finally meet all of the requirements on the job description (or at least most of them). The question you aren’t expecting comes out of nowhere. The recruiter says, “Tell me about yourself.” That part is doable. You’re ready! Then, the recruiter says, “…but keep it to the last five years. We only want to know about the last five years. Recent experience is all that counts here.”
This question has been a bit baffling. The company wants ten or fifteen years of experience. And, it’s all those years that truly makes you qualified. But, if you’ve got to limit your answer to the last five years, you may miss out on half or two thirds of your experience. It’s one thing to be brief in an answer. It makes sense to be concise. But, it’s a completely different thing to omit large chunks of your professional background.
It feels like companies are asking for fifteen years of experience, packed into a five year time frame. This expectation seems to be an unusually high burden on the job seeker. I have to wonder how this strategy is impacting the companies that are using it. Are they able to find people with fifteen years of experience, who have done some of everything in the last five years?
This criteria doesn’t seem to favor young workers or older workers. Young workers don’t have enough experience to meet the minimum requirements. And, older workers very likely haven’t covered every inch of everything within the last five.
Whatever happened to being able to do the job? When I hire someone, I want someone who can do that job. The details of when or where they got the experience leading up to that point are much less important. A job interview should not be a computer game or a puzzle. It’s an opportunity for a company to find a motivated, experienced person who is dedicated and willing to do the work at hand.
Job searching is hard work. That saying “getting a job is a job” couldn’t be truer than it is right now. I hear from job seekers every day who are struggling, and rightfully so. But, it may not be for the reasons they think.
When I ask a job seeker what it is that’s causing problems with their job search, they typically know the answer right away. First, they’re over qualified. They are too old. They studied the wrong thing in school. They wonder if they need to get a new haircut, go back to school, and change careers completely. A new haircut never hurt anyone. But, let’s take a deeper look.
The next questions I typically ask the job seeker are these: How are you applying for jobs? How many jobs have you applied to lately?
Very often, I learn that the job seeker is applying online. It’s the only way they’re looking for a job, and it’s the only way they’re applying. So, although ageism is real, it’s possible the company doesn’t know their age because they’ve never even seen the person’s application.
I know that companies tell job seekers, “Apply online. If you’re a good fit we’ll call you.” It’s just not true. Sure, sometimes miracles happen. But, it’s not the norm.
Think of it this way. If you were hiring someone, how would you go about finding that person? Would you want to sort through 200 resumes that were submitted on the internet by strangers? I bet that you would ask around. You’d ask the people that you know if they are interested, or if they know anyone who is interested.
In order for applying online to work as designed, a number of things need to go smoothly. First, the online system would need to be smart enough to find the best applicants. Then, the HR recruiter would have to be knowledgeable enough about the role to select the best candidates to screen. Then, the hiring manager (the future boss) would have to trust the judgement of the HR recruiter. And, the hiring manager would have to rely on the online process to screen for candidates. This is a lot that has to go right!
Instead of relying on the online process, become someone the company knows. Network with people who work at the company. Ask for coffee meetings. Talk to friends who have connections at the company. Locate the hiring manager and send them a message on LinkedIn.
And, whatever you do – apply to many jobs. The likelihood that you’ll get hired after you apply for a job is less than five percent. Applying to only five or ten jobs is not likely to result in a job offer.
Before you decide why you aren’t being selected, be sure that you aren’t completely relying on the online process, and that you’re applying to many jobs at the same time.
Job searching involves quite a lot of internal reflection. If you’re looking for a job or thinking of looking, you know what I mean. You initially spend a lot of time thinking about yourself. What do you want to do with your life? Where do you want to live? Does your resume look good? Do you have the right suit to wear to interviews?
We very often start off a job search after a difficult set of circumstances. If things were going great, why would you job search? Very often, you might not like your boss at your current job (or they might not like you). You’ve tried to make it work until one day, you think you will collapse if you have to walk back through the front doors of your office again.
Getting ready for a job search, and the interviews that come from it, can be almost like a healing process. You are finally turning over a new leaf. You’re getting yourself together again.
Through this process, we begin to feel that as long as we present our best self, we’ll land a new job. And, we assume that when we don’t win an interview, we must have done something wrong. Because, it was our job to be our best self and we must have failed at that job. Right?
Maybe, but not necessarily. Listen, I don’t want to minimize the importance of getting your best self together. You’ve got to do that. But, there are a lot of reasons you might not get a job that have nothing to do with you.
For example, a company sometimes puts hiring on hold. In fact, they may decide not to hire someone at all. Or, they may already have someone in the role (as a contractor) and they may be doing interviews just to go through the process. Sometimes, companies do interviews to meet a quota. Or, sometimes the future boss will leave the company for another job while interviews are going on, and the company will wait to proceed until they’ve filled the manager’s job.
The company will not tell you any of these things. At no point will they say, “We’re just interviewing you because we have to interview at least five people.” They will also not say, “Our company is doing badly and upper management has put a freeze on hiring.”
I don’t share this to say that you don’t have a shot. You absolutely do. You have to give it your all in every interview, or you definitely won’t find the job of your dreams.
But, when you get rejected, don’t use it as an opportunity to beat yourself down. Don’t tear yourself apart thinking about everything you did wrong. We can all do better. Strive to do your best and then let the rest go. There’s a lot of the hiring process that is beyond your control.
Job seeking is a daunting task. This is especially true if you’re unemployed, and you need to find something quick. It’s painful, long, and challenging. It can be demoralizing. Every day can feel like a struggle.
If you have a loved one going through this job search process, you might want to help. It’s the natural thing to do. You want to help make the pain stop. You want to step in.
The first place most people begin is with advice. As an outside observer, this seems to make sense. You can offer advice on anything from resume to interview skills to search strategy. You can critique the job seeker to help them in their search. There must be something they can do better, and you know the answers.
But, this is where you might want to think twice. Do you work in the same field as your loved one? Are you located in the same city as your loved one? Has your last job search been recently? Have you looked for a job since online searching became the norm? If your answers to these questions is no, you might want to hold off on giving any advice. It’s possible that your situation may be a bit different than your loved one’s situation.
Very often, job searching can take months. This is normal. It’s not necessarily a sign that something has gone wrong. And, the higher the salary job, the longer the process takes. It’s estimated that for every $10,000 per year you make, it takes a month to find a job. So, for a $50,000 per year job, it could take five months.
When you reach out to help, the best place to start is by asking, “How are you?” If your loved one is comfortable, they will share more information. If they need advice, they will ask. Try not to start off with the question, “Did you find a job, yet?”
Very often, your loved one needs a sympathetic ear and someone who will encourage them rather than critique their approach. Job seeking can be a lonely process, especially if the person isn’t currently working. Listening is one of the most helpful things you can do.
Providing unsolicited advice can be like pouring gasoline on a fire. It’s not always helpful. In fact, it may communicate the message that you don’t believe they’re working hard, or that they know what they’re doing. It can discourage them and keep them from moving forward.
Job searching can be hard to watch. It’s like dating. It’s a messy, long process. You never know when it will end. You never know when the right match will pop up. But, just like dating, the best thing you can offer your loved one is support. Be accepting. Try to keep your judgments to a minimum. This, above all, will help your loved one to find a job faster.
Since the launch of the internet, job searching has becoming increasingly transactional. Job seekers are able to apply to jobs in bulk. In fact, they must apply in bulk if they want to increase their chances of getting hired.
Whenever I attend a conference, I always hear at least one of the speakers say, “Remember how hard it was to get into an Ivy League college when you were in high school? Well, it’s even harder to find a job online!” The problem is, it is unclear where this fact comes from.
Although sources do not agree, they all seem to say the same thing. Your chances are slim.
Website Workopolis.com says only 2% of job applicants make it to the interview phase of the process. Weeks Career Services shared that the odds of being hired are 1.2% overall. Inc.com shared that on average, every corporate job opening attracts 250 resumes.
You get the idea. There is some serious competition out there. This means that as a job seeker, you very well may have to apply to hundreds of jobs to land an offer that you really like.
One problem is, it’s the very process of mass applying to jobs that makes it so hard to get a real interview. When a company has to sort through 250 resumes, everyone’s chances go down.
So, what can you do? Well, first, try to apply to jobs you can truly do. I’m not a fan of taking the requirements section too seriously. But, be sure you could actually complete the work before you apply. If you know there’s a good chance you cannot do the work, skip the job. Focus on opportunities you know you can do.
Then, look for opportunities to engage employers in the old fashioned way. If you know the hiring manager, reach out directly. If you know someone who works at the company you’re applying to, ask them if they would be willing to refer you. They can often refer you through the company website or you can get a referral through LinkedIn. Your chances of getting hired go up exponentially when you know someone internally. And, the person you know will often get a financial reward if you’re hired.
Apply on the company website. Also, look for ways to apply outside of the traditional online process. In other words, if you have found the hiring manager on LinkedIn, send them a message. If you know someone at the company, send them an email. Don’t assume that just because you’re qualified, someone will see your online application.
Do your best not to get discouraged. So often, we assume that we weren’t hired because we aren’t qualified. But, it may really come down to a numbers game at times. Keep moving. Keep applying. And, monitor postings each day. The faster you apply to a new job, the higher your chances are of being hired.