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  • Writer's pictureKay Gravesande

Job Hunting Part One - The Candidate Experience

Whether you're sick and tired of hating Mondays, or your unemployed looking for your next opportunity, job hunting is a pain in the heehaw. From sprucing up your resume, to searching through hundreds of job postings, there's no doubt it takes time, effort and patience to jump into your next position.

The hardest part about the hunt is rejection. Nobody likes it - from the kid trying to score his first kiss to the AR Rep hoping to move into their first managerial role, rejection sucks. After literally dozens of "We regret to inform you that we have decided to pursue other candidates" emails, your courage dwindles and you literally feel like you're unemployable. So what do you do?

1st - Revamp your Resume & Cover Letter: Before you ever get a chance to show why you are the ideal candidate to the hiring manager of your next role, you'll need to make an impression on paper. Having a stellar resume and cover letter will help you pass through Applicant Tracking Systems and set you apart from your competition.

2nd - Network: A key element many applicants miss when searching for their next position is networking. Sending your resume into bottomless engines (i.e. Glassdoor, Indeed) is one way to go, but you need to do more. Start networking with recruiters, talent specialists and those in your potential department currently employed in the organizations you want to work with, before applying.

3rd - Advance your Skills: Being in between jobs is the perfect time to sharpen your skill set. If you find yourself suddenly laid off, after the shock factor dims, look around and see what programs are available for you that could help in your field. Don't use this time to wallow in your misery - boss up and learn something new for your future.

4th - Hire a Career Coach: Career Coaches are professionals trained and tenured to help job seekers navigate through their professional journey. We establish lifetime relationships, to help our clients through career pivots, assessments, interview preparation, and much more.

5th - Try Gig Work: Gig work is becoming increasingly popular, especially among Millennials and Gen Zs. Jobs like Uber drivers or freelance Graphic Designers are a dime a dozen, and Bankrate notes "Though these gigs don’t come with massive salaries, they can help you stay afloat during difficult times. They’re also pretty flexible schedule-wise, which is helpful in case you line up an interview."

Although our current national unemployment rate is rising due to the COVID-19 pandemic (sitting at 10.2% as of July 2020), on average it takes six months for a candidate to land an offer, which usually comes after 50+ submissions. It's not a candidate's market, so you need to be on your A game to make it past the initial review.

One of the most common questions I get right now is why is it so hard to get a new job? According to, out of every 250 applications submitted for a role, only 4-6 people will receive a call for round one interviewing. Translation: next time you see the "Hot" job notification on Glassdoor, take it as a warning to keep looking, not an invitation to apply. The more saturated the candidate pool, the harder it will be for your resume to stand out and pass the screen through the Applicant Tracking System (ATS).

Just about every modern company uses an ATS - something like UltiPro, Newton or Workday - to help recruiters sift through candidates much quicker than reading resumes one by one. When you toss your name in the ring for a job, the ATS scans the application for keywords, grammar and other factors designated by the company. If your information doesn't pass the software's test, your name never makes it to the recruiters eye.

Your resume and cover letter could make or break the progress of your search. Here's a quick tidbit of advice on resumes and cover letters - keep it simple, clean, and easy to read. Your resume should be symmetrical and modern, eye catching but functional. Cover letters are your opportunity to explain in detail things that would peak a recruiters interest, like why you live in Chicago but are applying for a role in Houston.

As agonizing as it may be, practice patience when waiting for application updates. In a perfect world, we'd know the status of our applications within a week - maybe something like a pass/fail update. Unfortunately, it doesn't work that way. Candidates can wait weeks to hear they were denied for further review, if they even hear back at all. This is why establishing relationships and follow through are critical. Studies show creating relationships with talent specialists/ HR team members and following up on your submissions increases your chance of moving to interviewing.

Let's switch gears....

You're resume is amazing, so you get a call about two weeks after you submitted your application and schedule a phone screen - first off, Congrats! You've already made it past 95% of applicants. Anxiety builds and you're like "hmmm, okay this is exciting but not that exciting... it's just a phone screen". I get it, why get your hopes up so early in the game. I like to think of phone interviews like opportunities to be see if the job is what I imagined it to be from the posting. The recruiter wants to see if you're a reasonable fit for the role, and you need to determine if you understood the post and if the expectations are something you could truly do.

Don't let your eyes get bigger than your belly, meaning your excitement for the interview and merely being selected takes over logic. If you're looking for a managerial role and they're calling you for a generalist role decline opportunity. Interviewing usually takes time and effort, so before potentially wasting hours preparing for and selling yourself to the hiring manager, you need to make sure it is the right path for you at that moment.

Pro Tip: Every interview is different. Not all recruiters think alike - some are straight and narrow just looking to close the position and move along, while others take more interest in finding the best qualified, personable professional. Always be yourself and stick to the facts. Create an elevator pitch (a quick 2-3 minute synopsis of your experience and qualifications) and say it in every interview.

You have a couple phone interviews and still nothing is leading to the next phase. I know what your thinking "What's wrong with me? Am I saying the wrong things?" First off, stop and pat yourself on the back for getting calls. The fact that your resume/applications are catching looks is something to be proud of. Every interview - phone or otherwise - is a practice opp. If you aren't making a lot of progress with jobs you are well qualified for take a minute to assess your previous interviews. Think about what was said and what areas could've been improved.

It's been said literally a million times and I believe it's true - what's meant for you will be yours. This is true for your next role. The timing, the company, the pay, etc. Although you may have submitted 80 applications, your perfect fit for right now may be submission 106. I know that's not the most encouraging thing to hear, but its true. Lastly, remember you control your hunt; it will move at your pace. Submitting 2 apps per week vs 10 per week will make a huge difference in your responses just as much as connecting on LinkedIn and attending local networking events.

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