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Common Job Search Pain Points and How to Overcome


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Problem

Much like the technology world as a whole, the job searching process is constantly changing and evolving.  Today’s questions, frustrations, and other pain points are different than those of job seekers years ago.  As a job seeker, what do you need to know about the most common challenges you’re encountering, or could expect, and how can you overcome them?

Solution

We’ve outlined 6 of the major “job seeker pain points” we’re seeing and provided top “food for thought” advice we have on each!

1. Working with Recruiters

At a Job Search workshop we hosted recently, we asked the 65 attendees to fill out sticky notes with their current job searching pain points.  Over 25% of them mentioned questions and frustrations with Recruiters such as: why don’t I hear back from Recruiters after a first conversation?  Do Recruiters even look at my resume?  Why do I never hear back on my emails?  Are positions even open in the first place, or did they have someone identified when posting the position?  Here are some key points and best practices to keep in mind about Recruiters:

  • Recent studies we looked at found the average job posting gets 245-250+ applications, so Recruiters simply don’t have time to review every submitted resume/application.  If you’re applying blindly (via website) to a recruiter you don’t have a pre-existing relationship with, adequate customization and optimization needs to occur to ensure they see your resume in the first place.
  • Per above, one of our top suggestions is to always reach out to your network to identify recruiter referrals, and ask for an e-Introduction. 
  • Many recruiting and staffing firms have high levels of turnover, so when you identify a Recruiter who is tenured, commonly supports your skill set and has strong recommendations, “hold on to them” by building a relationship and trust!  We would highly recommend meeting them in person if possible!
  • With over 10,000 staffing firms, engage in some prospecting and quality assurance to generate a list of 2-3 reputable staffing firms in your area, and then do outreach to open lines of communication with the right person!  You don’t have to be applying for a specific position to start dialogue with a Recruiter.  Rather, ask for an e-Introduction to a quality Recruiter from a trusted person in your network who recently did a job search and has a Recruiter recommendation.  Or, don’t shy away from making contact via LinkedIn if you come across a seemingly quality Recruiter when engaging in LinkedIn prospecting. 
  • We’ve written 5 tips on finding, evaluating, and working effectively with Recruiters.  View all tips via /sql-server-tip-category/217/professional-development-recruiters/.  

2. Self-elimination

Too often, job seekers aren’t taking chances when applying for positions.  A common phrase we hear is “Well, I didn’t apply to that position because it lists ___ technology, and I don’t have that.”  We can’t stress this statement enough: still apply for or pursue positions even if you do not have every skill, technology, or version of a technology the position lists!  As we shared in our last ‘Modern Job Search Strategies’ workshop, most Managers aren’t trained on how to write a strong job description, and as a result, many often include every skill and technology they can think of as part of the job description, without realizing that a potential negative consequence of that is good candidates will decide not to apply if they’re lacking something!  As a recent Technology Manager commented “it’s not the candidate’s job to rule themselves out.  As a Manager, I want to see the talent pool that exists, and decide who’s the most qualified.”  As a job seeker, apply the 80:20 rule during the application process, where you apply for positions where you meet about 80%+ of the definitive requirements (not including preferred qualifications/pluses)!

3. Getting “lost” in the Applicant Tracking System (ATS)

Your professional experience with data and databases can help you here if you apply that algorithm (data matching and prioritization) knowledge to your job search and specifically, what happens to your resume after you click the ‘apply’ button.  Here are some points to keep in mind about ATS:

  • JobScan, a great resume optimization tool, wrote the best article we’ve seen on ATS if you want a thorough understanding of them - https://www.jobscan.co/blog/8-things-you-need-to-know-about-applicant-tracking-systems/
  • Using an Online Resume Builder service, such as Live Career’s Resume Builder product, includes optimization techniques to rank your resume higher for your skill set/s.
  • When applying via website, always attempt a second approach for “making contact” with the right person supporting the opening!  For example, do an Advanced Search on LinkedIn for ‘Recruiter or Talent Acquisition’ individuals who currently work at that company, and send them a note expressing your interest. 
  • If you can’t identify anyone in your network, or any Recruiters via advice above, use a resume optimization tool such as JobScan to ensure your resume is well-aligned with that job description so your resume is prioritized and at the top of the list of applications!

4. Low confidence and being derailed by “imposter syndrome”

Some of the strongest technology professionals suffer from low confidence, and an apparent lack of confidence in their own abilities then ruins their chances of getting an offer.  If you need a confidence boost, try some of these tactics:

  • Engage in self-reflection on why you’re a fit for each position you apply for.  Get out a pen, and write a list of why you’re qualified for the position. 
  • Re-visualize a past, positive interview, essentially re-living it.  Close your eyes and go through the interview again, focusing on the details which contributed to a positive outcome.
  • Practice and repeat.  Thorough preparation is great for minimizing anxiety and ensuring you deliver a strong interview!  Instead of simply jotting down pieces of your elevator pitch, how you’d answer common interview questions, and how you’d ask your questions, practice them!  Sit in front of a mirror and do role plays.
  • Mock interview.  Identify someone in your network who you could do a 15-30 minute mock interview with.
  • Adjust expectations.  Remember, it’s okay if you don’t have every skill/technology and that the Manager doesn’t expect you to know the answer to every question!  When you’re asked a question you don’t know the answer to, don’t be gripped by fear that you’re not a strong candidate or you’re now doing poorly in the interview.  Rather recognize that this is normal, and most Managers ask a progressive line of questioning until they reach the point where they can gauge skill level!  Many Managers also keep going until they get to an “I honestly don’t know” response to then be able to gauge your problem-solving skills on how you’d then attempt to find an answer, and also, how you troubleshoot the unknown. 

5. Don’t leverage network

One of the top resources Managers and Recruiters use to identify candidates continues to be, and will always be, Referrals!  As Managers ourselves, that’s the first place we go (i.e. straight to our current team members to communicate that we have an opening and to ask “Who do you know that might be interested and a fit?”). Not only does requesting referrals generate a candidate pool more quickly than most other channels and require less time on your part, but it leads to a higher success rate, as referrals have proven to be better long-term performers.  Yet, on the flip side, many job seekers are timid about engaging their network. Make a ‘Network Outreach List’ of those who you should contact and then simply reach out and communicate “I’m looking for a new job.  Is your company hiring?  Or, do you have any suggestions for companies I should look at, Recruiters I should connect with, etc.?”

6. Always the “runner up”

Another frequent frustration we hear is “I keep being told that I was the second place candidate” or “I was beat out slightly by another applicant.”  There’s a lot we can say here, but it boils down to a few points.

  • Focus on building rapport in every interaction and increasing your memorability!  Whether it’s conscious or not, Managers are more likely to lean towards candidates who they felt a connection with over candidates they didn’t.  Engaging in small talk, identifying commonalities, using their name multiple times during an interview, and establishing connections can be incredibly helpful in increasing your chances of getting selected. 
  • ;Study up on the key technologies listed in the job description.  Take the initiative to do research, take a few training courses, and/or play around with the technologies you aren’t already proficient with in your home environment. 
  • Strategize, practice, and then enhance your professional elevator pitch and closing argument!  We talk more about both of those concepts in the ‘8 Concepts to Strengthen Candidacy’ tip in the next bullet point.
  • Put on your “marketing/branding hat” and take measures to directly influence your brand and engage in “candidate positioning” tactics!  For example, how strong is your LinkedIn and/or GitHub profile?  Does it communicate credibility and a successful track record?  Do you have examples of your work, or glowing recommendations?  We focused on 8 tips to really help your overall candidacy via this tip - /sqlservertip/4882/8-concepts-to-strengthen-your-candidacy-as-a-sql-server-professional/
  • Thank them for their time and what they brought to the table!  A thank you note after an interview can be very influential to your candidacy, so take the time to compose a genuine, heartfelt piece of communication.  Read more on thank you letters via this tip - /sqlservertip/4665/composing-a-strong-post-interview-thank-you-letter/
Next Steps

Here are some key points moving forward:

  1. Take chances and apply for positions even if you don’t have every requirement listed. 
  2. Have a support system and engage your network to assist you.  Identify at least two people you can consult with, which may include strong Recruiters who understand your skill set, community leader/s, past co-workers or Managers, individuals in your network who have gone through a job search, Career Coach, etc.
  3. Use tools to help you “beat the system,” such as Resume Builders and/or Optimizers to ensure your resume is highly ranked against the job description, and therefore is more likely to get seen. 
  4. Prepare, practice, and repeat. You should be preparing and then practicing before every interview, where part of preparation is boosting your confidence!
  5. Engage in “positioning” tactics during your job search!
    1. In addition to your resume, invest time and energy into having a strong LinkedIn, GitHub, website, or other channel/profile that exudes competence and credibility!  Here’s an article we wrote specifically on LinkedIn profile advice - /sqlservertip/4122/8-things-to-do-on-linkedin-when-starting-your-job-search/
    2. What do you have that you could provide to influence your chances?   Do you have strong references/recommendations you can provide?  If you need advice on how to approach asking for a reference, read this earlier tip - /sqlservertip/4746/building-a-strong-reference-list-to-get-you-hired/


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About the author
MSSQLTips author Erica Woods Erica Woods has nearly a decade in the IT staffing world, an MBA, and is a member of the Professional Association of Resume Writers and Career Coaches.

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