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Advice / Job Search / Networking

5 Signs It's Time to Crack Down and Start Taking Your Job Search More Seriously

Few will argue this point: The job search is arduous. Frustrating. Overwhelming. Befuddling.

Technology (designed to ease the process) sometimes complicates the process. Recruiters don’t always call back when they say they will. Job descriptions rarely tell the whole story about what the company is actually looking for. Shall I continue?

But, sometimes, when a job search isn’t going as planned, it has as much to do with you as it does external factors. Specifically, you not taking this big, important process seriously enough.

The good news here is that, once you identify where and how you’re sitting down on the job, you can fix these issues. Let’s take a look at a handful of the more common violations and how you can sidestep them.

1. You Lack Required Credentials But Apply Anyway

If a skill or qualification was listed as “required” on a job description—and it’s one that you don’t have—don’t be surprised if you’re never contacted for an interview. Now, don’t assume you’re going to be flat-out dismissed without a required credential (unless, of course, it’s something essential to the role). However, you can’t expect the software that scans your resume to flag you as a “yes” if it has been programmed to reject everyone who doesn’t list that specific skill.


If you’re missing a mandatory requirement and still truly want to take a run at this? You should find ways to buddy up with someone on the inside of the organization. (Here are a few tips.) You will need the opportunity to explain where you’re coming from in applying for this job and how you can deliver in spite of that lacking credential.

2. You Assume Instructions Don’t Apply to You

If you selectively paid attention to the instructions on what this company wants you to submit, or how it wants you to apply, you may well strike out by failing to provide something specific that the organization has asked for. Worse, you could be tossed into the “no” pile simply because the reviewer figures you can’t follow simple instructions. (And yes, I recognize that job applications are rarely “simple.”)


In any instance that you’re applying for a job via online application, pay attention to the instructions, and follow them to a T. Better yet, cultivate an “in” with someone influential at that firm, and forward your materials (resume, cover letter) directly to that person.

3. Your Entire Strategy Involves “Apply and Wait”

If your job search can be summed up in its entirety by “fill out online application, wait for however long it takes,” then you shouldn’t (at all) be surprised if your phone isn’t lighting up with job interview requests. You must realize that you and a gajillion other people are all trying to shove your way through the front door of the company when you apply for a job online—at the same exact time. And for every single job you pursue, someone is sidestepping the online application, then finding and endearing themselves to the right people on the inside. And it’s these very people who will typically be invited in first.


After you apply for a job, at a minimum, zip over to LinkedIn, do a quick people search, and see if you have or can cultivate, an “in” at that organization. (Sensing a theme here?) Get on the radar of the people already working there. Every time.

4. You’re Machine-Gunning Out Unfocused Applications

In spite of what anyone has ever told you, quantity does not typically trump quality in the job search. Machine-gun spray methods rarely work. You’re almost always better off with a single, well-executed rifle shot. For every job you apply for, at least a few of the candidates in the mix are going to make absolute, perfect sense to the reviewer. If you’re blasting out 15 resumes a day? It’s nearly impossible for you to compete with people who are delivering clear, customized, “I’m just what you’ve asked for” resumes and cover letters.


Realize that this is not a numbers game. It’s a game of strategy and intent. It’s almost always better to build and execute a killer approach strategy with a short, targeted list of jobs than to aimlessly approach dozens and dozens of potential employers.

5. You’re Applying for Out-of-Town Jobs, Without Explaining Why

If you’re targeting jobs in another city or state and wondering why no one is calling you, part of the reason may be that the company either isn’t considering offering a relocation package or you gave them no clue on why a guy in Philadelphia is applying for a job in Fargo. Decision makers within organizations sometimes get nervous about relocating people. They’re reluctant because of the added expense that’s typically involved. Also, they fear you might arrive in that entirely new geography and decide quickly that you don’t like the place.


If you’re looking to move for your next job, always try to make it instantly clear (via the cover letter or personal contact) that you have a specific tie to that city or region or another plausible reason that you want to be there.

For even the most serious job seeker, some aspects of the process are simply out of your control. Spend no time fretting about these. Control the things that you can, and take the hunt—and yourself—seriously. Because, guess what? No one cares more about you getting this right than you do.

It’s your career, and your life. So do yourself a solid and approach this search like the all-star you know you are.

Photo of man drinking while job hunting courtesy of Shutterstock.