Why isn’t your job search working?
You’re sending out resume after resume for positions you think you’re perfectly qualified for. You’re even taking the time to tailor each one and craft memorable cover letters—but still, you’re hearing nothing back. Meanwhile, you see positions you applied for months ago drop off the job boards—and soon after, a smiling new member on the “Meet the Team” page who seems to have exactly the same type of background you do.
So what gives? Why are others getting great new gigs, while you’re stuck at your lackluster job?
In some cases, you may need to think about long-term strategies to boost your candidacy, like learning new skills or getting a specific type of experience. But many times, there’s plenty you can do to boost your hireability ASAP, such as:
1. Make Your LinkedIn Profile Easy for Recruiters to Find (and Love)
You’ve probably spent lots of time revising your resume, but if you haven’t given your LinkedIn profile a good update, now’s the time. This has a couple of benefits: One, if a hiring manager checks you out online, you have another opportunity to impress. But more importantly, an optimized profile makes it easy for recruiters to find you when they’re searching for people like you (say, “customer service manager in Seattle”).
Here are the basics: Do you have a summary that includes keywords from the job descriptions you’re looking at? A headline that’s not just your current job title? A photo that makes you seem both likable and professional? Yes? Next step is asking a few people for recommendations so you can show anyone who comes to your profile that you’d be fantastic to work with.
In addition, Muse Master Coach Jenny Foss recommends adding a line to the end of your summary that implies you’re open to new opportunities without making it overly obvious to your boss or co-workers. She suggests something to the effect of, “I’m fascinated by all things digital marketing and enjoy meeting like-minded people. Feel free to contact me at YourEmail@gmail.com.”
2. Set Up a Personal Website
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: Having a personal hub on the web is a great way to show employers what you’ve done before you even walk in the door. With just one URL, you can give hiring managers more information about you than what fits on your resume. And, if you’re changing careers or pivoting to a different role, you can even show off your passion for this new direction.
The good news is, you don’t need a technical or design background to build one. To get started, sign up for The Muse’s three-day email class, which will walk you through the process step by step. (Or start with something simpler, like an online resume.)
Then, put the URL on everything—your resume, cover letter, LinkedIn profile, email signature, you name it. And don’t be afraid to refer to it in interviews! “During the initial phone screen interview, I was able to direct the recruiter to the site so they could see the experiences and work examples I had,” says Mark Scott, who credits his personal website with helping him land a corporate communications position. “That went a long way to making me stand out from other candidates who may not have had a handy website and may have been waiting for in-person opportunities to share their work.”
3. Do a Project for Your Dream Employer
This one’s going to take a bit more time, so you definitely don’t want to do it for every job you apply for. But when you see a dream company—one that makes you stop and say, “I have to work here!”—consider something totally out of the box, like creating a project that shows what you can do.
Business Insider contributor Raghav Haran describes this approach in detail in a recent piece and says it led him to “interviews at major tech companies like Quora, and it even led to Shutterstock creating a position specifically for me.” When applying for a business development role, he reached out to potential partners on the company’s behalf. For product positions, he ran his own user tests and pulled together design recommendations based on them.
What about for you? If you’re in sales, you could put together a sample client presentation. If you’re a marketer, you have all kinds of options, from recommending a strategy for a new social media platform to writing a content marketing piece. Writer Alexandra Franzen, after interviewing for a job she wasn’t quite qualified for, sent in a list of sample taglines—and had an offer in hand soon after.
Yes, this is most certainly a way-above-and-beyond approach. Which is why most people won’t do it—and you’ll really stand out if you do.
4. Enlist Your Network
Most people I know hate this step. And I get it: The job search is deeply personal, and it feels so awkward to reach out for help.
But, for most of us, it’s still the single most effective way to get a job. The truth is, when faced with multiple similarly qualified candidates, a hiring manager is much more likely to interview or hire the one he or she has a personal connection with.
So, if you haven’t already, it’s time to reach out to everyone you know who could be helpful in your search. I recommend starting with the people who already know and trust you, using an email template like this. If there are people who could be very helpful (think: know just about everyone in your field or work for your dream employer), take them to coffee or lunch and ask for their advice for sending in your application. (And then send a very nice thank you note and keep in touch about your progress.)
I promise: It will be worth it.
5. Work With a Coach
So, maybe you’ve been on the hunt for months. Maybe you’ve tried all of the above, and still, no dice.
It’s incredibly discouraging, but it happens. And if it’s happening to you, don’t keep trying the same old, same old—it’s only going to make you more frustrated. Instead, if you’re feeling really stalled, consider talking to a professional. A career coach who specializes in job search strategy can look at your materials, dissect your current strategy, and identify where you might need a different approach. Not to mention, working with someone who’s helped countless others in your shoes can remind you that you’re not alone and help you stay optimistic about the process.
Which is, in fact, pretty important. The job search is grueling, especially if it’s not moving as quickly as you’d like. Hiring managers know this. So if you can walk into the interview and show that you can stay upbeat and optimistic throughout the difficult hiring process, that’ll go a long way.