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Advice / Job Search / Resumes

Ask a Recruiter: Why Does Everyone Keep Saying I'm Not the Right Fit for the Job?

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Dear Recruiter,

I’d like to get out of the cushy, boring government communications job I’ve had for the past eight years. While this position started out promising with interesting work, things have changed. I now report to someone in another city, the design work I loved has dried up, and my micromanaging boss does most of the work herself, leaving little on the table for others. I literally have to bid for projects and basic work within my own team.

I have a degree in communications and training in both graphic design and project management with three long-term positions under my belt—which is to say, I look good on paper.

In the past six months, I received two responses from the 20 or so applications I've submitted, only to be informed my background and training are impressive, but not quite the right fit. Despite this situation, I’m a very positive person and continue to research opportunities, network, and update my skills. I would love any and all suggestions from you.

Can’t Keep This Up Forever

Hi Can’t Keep This Up Forever,

Job searching can be a vulnerable, nail-biting inducer of a thing, and it’s easy to quickly become discouraged when your efforts aren’t rewarded to the extent you’d like. But a 10% response rate to blind submissions isn’t horrific. As easy as it is to internalize things, remember that the lack of response could also be due to things completely unrelated to you. Maybe they just filled the position and the posting is stale, or the employer put the role on hold.

That said, it’s a good idea to question if you’re promoting yourself as “the right fit” in the best way possible.

The best practices below include four pieces of job search advice you need to snag that bright, new role.

1. Ditch the Idea of a “One-Size-Fits-All” Resume

You may not want to hear this, but you need to have multiple versions of your resume, tailored toward different roles.

And, you’ll want to get that resume full of keywords geared toward the positions you’re applying to so that you can get through the ATS. For more on how to do that, read these tips.

2. Determine if Your Resume Should Be Skills-Based

Although the most widely accepted format is still the chronological resume, yours’ might be a situation that’s better suited for a skills-based one. If what you want to highlight isn’t in your current position, it might help you to get noticed if you draw attention to your relevant experience.

This article can help you decide which to go with—and, remember, this might vary depending on which jobs you’re applying to.

3. Send the Right Signals

My guess is, after 10 years with your government job, it’s often difficult for hiring managers to see how your current experience translates to their environment.

Your job then is to find a way to align yourself with the groups you want to be a part of and to make yourself relevant. This means following the companies, groups, or influencers on LinkedIn that are pertinent to your next career move, and connecting with recruiters at the companies you’re interested in.

Speaking of signals, LinkedIn has a feature now that allows you to privately signal to people outside of your organization that you’re “open to new opportunities.” It’s a great way to announce (confidentially) that you’re looking.

4. Get Up Close and Personal

Your job search will be considerably easier if you’re able to take it offline. I firmly believe in the power of touch over tech, and that the benefits of person-to-person interaction are far greater than what the internet affords. How do you do this?

Register for an industry specific meet-up, conference, or lecture, and start networking. You also shouldn’t be afraid to reach out to companies and contacts for informational interviews—you’ll learn more, meet people, and potentially find some inside job leads. Before you worry that you’ll get a lot of no’s, here’s how to ask for this type of meeting.

Think of your job search as a marketing and communications challenge. You need to problem-solve. Be encouraged by the fact that you’ve received some responses, and take it as an opportunity to continue the conversation. Prove to the hiring managers why you are the right fit through your tailored materials, self-promotion, and persistence.

This article is part of our Ask an Expert series—a column dedicated to helping you tackle your biggest career concerns. Our experts are excited to answer all of your burning questions, and you can submit one by emailing us at editor(at)themuse(dot)com and using Ask a Real Recruiter in the subject line.

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