Not Getting Interviews from Your Resume or Job Applications?

Does this sound like you? You’ve been putting in job applications for many jobs. You have lots of skills, the right education and a great track record of employment.

It’s been awhile since you had to look for a job and you can’t quite figure out why companies are not calling you in for interviews. Can’t they see how good you are?

Well, perhaps they can’t see how great you are and where’s why.

istock_000006916716xsmallYour Resume or Job Application is Buried

They are receiving hundreds of resumes from potential candidates for the position. Unless you were lucky to hit the top 25% of the deck, your resume or application is in the dead zone.

Once a company or recruiter has gotten their top 3-4 candidates they stop looking – even though you may be better qualified. Only those people will go on to the interview stage. The company doesn’t always select the best qualified of all resumes and job applications they receive, they select the best qualified on their short list of candidates. That is a big difference.

You Are Not Playing the Technology Game Well

Because of the mounds of resumes being received on a daily basis, recruiters and companies use technology to manage the process. That means you fill out your application online and sometime can attach a cover letter or resume (if you can – always do this!).

When someone goes into the database to search candidates for a position, they use key words to sort through all the applications. If your application does not contain the key words that are important for the job you are applying to, then your resume will not be found.

Your Networking Stinks

It doesn’t matter if you are an extrovert or introvert – find a way to get over your fear or dislike of meeting people. The more people you meet and share your story of what you are looking for in a job, the more people you have working on your behalf to send possible open positions your way.

Networking is something you have to work at every day. Focus on developing relationships where you can help one another. People respond much better to a two-way street relationship. If you want tips on how to develop your networking, go here.

Another reason to network – you may meet a hiring manager or someone who knows the hiring manager on the spot. Having a direct connection to the hiring manager will dramatically increase your chances for an interview.

You Don’t Follow Up

No one likes to be a pest. However, let’s define what a pest is and what it is not.

A pest is someone who calls incessantly – three or four times a day or every day for three weeks straight.

If you are following up in this way – you are not pest:

  • Checking in by email or phone the following day to make sure your resume or application is on file.
  • Following up once a week after submitting your resume or job application to check status and to express your continued interest.

People get called into interviews because they were in the right place at the right time. Sometimes a phone call reminds someone who you are and what job you want to be considered for and they have that job right in front of them to be filled. It’s all about timing.

Create a schedule for each position that you apply to and keep to it even though it may not seem to be working. When you are top of mind. it shows them you  are serious about working for them.

Perhaps it’s time to reassess how well you are doing on these four stumbles to getting that coveted interview. You will increase your odds significantly by making changes on how you go about connecting and communicating with potential employers.

How to Actively Generate Networking Leads      

One of the hardest parts of a job search or working in your own business is how to actively generate networking leads that turn into real work opportunities. It is a task that people do not like to do and yet, your success is tied to doing it successfully.

I wish I could tell you there was a magic formula, but there is not. There are some techniques that will help you increase your leads and depending on what you are trying to accomplish, some will work better than others. Here’s the list:

Talking to People

There is something magical about connecting with one person and having them suggest that you should talk to someone they know. But here’s the thing, sometimes you have to ask them for a referral. How you ask the question will affect the other person’s receptivity to help you. Here are a couple of examples – which one do you think will work better?

  • Is there any one you know that I should talk to about my job search?
  • I have shared with you a little about what I do and how I have helped others be successful. Is there anyone you can think of that is facing a similar situation?
  • Who else in your network should I talk to? I have to meet my 12-person quota.

If you don’t ask the question, people will not offer up someone else for you to connect with.

Website Networking Leads

This one may be more geared towards people looking for clients vs. a job. However, there is a rise in job seekers creating their own one page portfolio to showcase their accomplishments. In either case, make sure that people know how to get in touch with you and follow-up to everyone that responds sans spammers.


Participating in LinkedIn groups and their discussions will increase the amount of people who want to connect with you. The more connected you are, the better information you will have when conducting research and searches.

When evaluating what groups to join, include professional, functional and task related (job seeker, small business etc.) groups in your mix. Don’t be a lurker, participate so that people know you opinions and can evaluate if they want to do business with or employ you.


One of my clients originated from Twitter. There are many recruiters and human resources professionals that use Twitter on a daily basis.

People freely share more of their interests on Twitter than LinkedIn. For example if you are into wilderness or sports and want to get into that field, you can find people who may have connections into those industries.

Figure out the hash tags that these people use and start to send messages using the tags. Follow them and there is a good chance they will return the favor and follow them. If you send a message, make it count.

Finally, be creative about where you find your leads. When you do get a lead, follow-up with them. They many not respond the first time – remember persistence is virtue.

Think Beyond Networking

You’ve heard it before; you need to be out networking. Perhaps you are scared or dislike doing it. Everyone is telling you to do it but for some reason you just can’t seem to get yourself out of the house to meet with people.

istock_000006168535xsmallConsider this – what does networking mean to you? Does it represent a crowded room with people you really don’t care about? Do you feel uncomfortable with initiating conversation or feel like you are constantly selling yourself and no one is buying? Think about what networking really represents to you. Write it down.

Now – let’s fast forward and assume that you are the best networker on this planet. You have reached the place you want to be – where is that? Are you in the job you want, have the life you dream of? What does that place look like? What does it represent to you? Safety? Security? Is it a place where you feel like you have arrived? Take a moment to visualize this place or ground yourself in the feeling – really connect with what it is like to be there.

Guess what? You have found what is beyond networking. That’s right; networking can be a means to an end – to be in the place you want.

Your challenge will be to push through that place where you feel stuck so you can reap the rewards of networking. To do that, you may have to acquire some skills or take some risks. It might be time to commit yourself to a new path – to do something different because what you have done is clearly not working.

You may have to get out of your comfort zone and head out into the unknown…and open yourself to being curious about how new experiences may open doors to getting to that place – the place where you have arrived.

Are You the First Interview? Close the Gap

Let’s say you are the first interview for a position with a company. When you arrive, the interviewer is not fully prepared. It is obvious that he doesn’t interview often. These two factors often point to an ill-fated interview experience.

istock_000006916716xsmallDespite the odds being stacked against you, the two of you have instant rapport. The conversation is easy and you can see yourself working there. During the discussion, he says all the right things such as “when you come back for the second interview, you will be talking to some other people” and he proceeds to tell you about them.

At the end of the interview, it’s time to ask about what to expect for next steps. He tells you that he will be interviewing three more people and hopes to invite the second round interview candidates the following week. You leave feeling that you have nailed the first interview, send your thank you note and await a call back.

Here’s the tip I want to share with you. I recommend contacting the interviewer at the beginning of next week before the second interview call back. Here is why.

You were the first interview for the position. Your inexperienced interviewer was getting his feet wet with you. While you had great rapport, he will get better at interviewing and will ask other questions that you may not have the opportunity to answer. Some of those answers may tilt the odds out of your favor.

Send your interviewer a note or call them and leave a message to let them know the following:

You realize that you were the first person to be interviewed by him and there may be some questions that arise with subsequent interviews that are important. You are available for a quick phone call to answer any of those questions so that they have all the information available before your decision on second round interviews.

It is a good practice to close any gaps in information prior to a company or interviewer moving to the next step. If you don’t you may just find you have been edged out.

Being Out of Work

This week, I received a letter from an Elephants at Work reader. I wanted to share their story because being out of work affects the family not just the person who is out of work. At the end of this post, I suggest some helpful tips.

eBook Cover - What To Do After Being FiredMy husband has been out of work for 2 years.  He was involuntarily terminated from his job. His salary was our family’s primary source of income. This entire situation has been a nightmare for all of us.

I have watched my husband become frustrated and mad at the world for different reasons.  Our home is filled with anxiety and tension. My children are teenagers and they have been directly impacted by our financial instability. My husband has filled out many job applications and each time the answer is the same…. no job offer.

My husband was a police officer for 15 years. Now, I don’t think my husband even knows who he is anymore. Clearly, we need help to find out how to help him get back on track. We can’t afford a consultation, but I will order your book.

I hope it provides us with answers, suggestions and tips about how to effectively fill out job applications. I prayed this morning and asked God for more guidance regarding my husband’s job loss. Then, a few moments later I came across Elephants at Work.  Hope your book helps us! THANK YOU.

Name withheld

The situation this ex-police officer and his family are facing may be what you are facing too. I would like to address two things about this letter – first the loss of ego and self from the husband and second, the effects of being out of work on the family.

I am not surprised your husband is questioning who he is after being out of work for two years. I have seen loss of ego and self in the unemployed in as little as a day. It is like a switch flipped.

Many people define who they are by the work that they do. When you lose your job, it takes a big blow to the ego. You deal with employer rejection and you try to figure out how to move forward. It is a chaotic time internally. You feel like you have lost your purpose in life.

For family providers and breadwinners – their role suddenly changes within the family dynamics. It requires families to rethink their lifestyle until they are able to secure employment. Sometimes the levels of pay they enjoyed are unobtainable and those lifestyle changes become permanent.

Let’s not ignore what is going on in the family. The changes of lifestyle affect them too. There may be arguments about money and sacrifices that family members endure that they don’t understand. For teenagers it is difficult because their peers may be able to do things they knew they could do if only… their father or mother were working. It is those unspoken thoughts that create more stress and conflict.

The culmination of these two things – the loss of work that defines someone and the changes in the role within the family create the perfect storm.

Here are some recommendations for you, your husband and family:

  • Your husband has a right to be mad and angry after being fired or laid off. It is important to figure out how to let go of that anger too. The anger will show up in an interview. Employers will sense anger and it may be a reason why he is not getting hired.
  • The loss of self and ego is real. It is a scary proposition to have to figure out who you really are when you thought you had it all together. Being out of work is catalyst to rethink priorities and to figure out what is really important to you. When you figure this out, you gain confidence and the path on how to get there becomes easier.
  • Engage the family in open dialogue and discussion about the elephant in the room – the financial situation and effect on each person. Have the discussion when everyone is calm – not during an incident. Ask everyone to do some homework ahead of time. Write down what is working well and what is not working well for them and share it with one another during your discussion. Have the kids share their information first. If they are hesitant, ask them to put their thoughts into a jar and one by one pull out a comment and discuss it. It will challenge you and your husband to be receptive to their thoughts and not to pass judgment. It is what they are feeling and is just as real as what both of you are feeling. The ability to air our concerns in a safe environment builds trust and unity. Together, all of you can decide what can be done and what cannot be done given your specific limitations.
  • Find a way to celebrate every small step or win. If you focus only on getting the job, it becomes overwhelming. Take every “no” as an opportunity to learn and develop your skills sets.

Finally, thank you for placing your trust and faith in my eBook, What to Do After Being Fired – I know that you will find many solutions to help you along this journey.

Informational Interviews as a Job-hunting Strategy

A secret weapon for any job-hunter or job explorer is the informational interview. It is different from a job interview. Informational interviews can be very effective – with a caveat I learned last week.

istock_000006916716xsmallFirst, let’s explore what an informational interview is and what it is not.

Informational interviews are opportunities:

  1. To learn from someone in a field that you would like to explore or want to work in. There are many paths to getting the career you want – find out what worked for them.
  2. To be curious about how someone got to where they are in their career. Why did they choose the company they are working for today? What were some of the most valuable lessons they learned along the way? Interviews that are focused on the other person – not you.
  3. To learn about an organization that you are interested in – the structure, the management style, the mission etc.
  4. To grow your professional network. Perhaps in the future, this person may remember your selfless approach and throw a lead or suggestion your way. Remember to follow-up with a Thank You card.

Here’s what informational interviews are not:

  1. Job interviews. This is not the place to ask someone if they have a job opening or to sell your job qualifications. If the conversation heads in that direction because the other person initiated it, then by all means express your interest.
  2. Long in duration. The typical informational interview is about 15-30 minutes in length. It is short enough not to impose on someone and long enough for you to develop rapport and learn something about the person that is helpful to your job search efforts.
  3. Always welcomed. Know if the area you are looking at is receptive to informational interviews. There are wide differences to what is acceptable and not acceptable in different parts of the country.

As an example, I recently moved from Rochester NY to Charlotte NC. In Rochester, informational interviews are a well-accepted networking strategy. However, it appears in Charlotte, there is less acceptance for this type of networking. A friend recently asked a local job coach and they confirmed that the approach in Charlotte is more task vs. relationship driven when agreeing to a day meeting. The best place to meet people is through established networking groups found on or through other established job search groups.

If you are new to an area or are new to the job-hunting process, there are some places where you can ask about what is acceptable and what is not before trying to engage someone in an informational interview. Check out the local job groups, city unemployment services and career coaches for advice.

What is a Good Starting Salary?

It’s finally the moment you have been waiting for…the company is interested in you and they are going to make you a salary offer – what should you expect as your starting salary?

Assortment of American CoinsThis question comes up often and it is important to know the facts about how companies come up with that magical number. You might think that they have a secret dartboard in the back room (which may be true for very small companies) and hope you are lucky someone knows how to hit the bull’s eye. The truth is it is much more complicated than that.

The secret to knowing what is a good starting salary is finding the intersection between what the company is willing to pay and what you are worth.

If you are going after a position that is below what you have performed, be prepared to lower your expectations. That same advice may also hold true if you have been in a position for a long time because your salary has probably crept up over the years and companies may not be looking for someone with as much experience (also translated as someone with a higher salary).

From a company perspective, starting salaries are a combination of several factors.

The Position or Job

The position or job you are applying for will have a specific wage or salary range associated with it. That specific wage or salary range is based on a number of factors:

  • Scope of Job. How much responsibility is there in this job? Does it deal with a single task or complex tasks? Other factors impacting scope include – sales, number of direct reports, profit/loss responsibilities, matrix relationships, size of company, etc.
  • Level of job. Where does it fit in the organizational structure? While a job title may be descriptive, some companies have adopted generic titles and it is more difficult to decide where the level of the job is unless you see the organizational structure. Is this position over one or several departments, functions, divisions, or locations?
  • Market Competitiveness. Savvy companies will survey the local or national market to make sure their pay is competitive. It is important to note that when organizations do this type of analysis they account for all pay types — salary, bonus, stock options, benefits etc.

The Human Resources Department or Compensation Specialist in an organization is responsible for establishing and reviewing salary structures periodically to stay competitive and to aid in retention activities. There is some flexibility in the starting salary in large companies and how flexible they are depends on how badly they want you.

What Are You Worth (to the Company)?

This is a tough question because our ego gets in the way! The most common way to evaluate what you are worth is to look at your last salary.

While that may be a great first step, consider if you are making significant changes in the type of work you will be doing (scope) or if you are moving to a lower cost of living location. Many of these factors go into what you are worth (at least from the company’s perspective).

Try thinking about this question with a different angle if you are having trouble getting the pay you believe you deserve. Here are some questions to think about.

  • What specific skills are you bringing to the job?
  • Are those skills rare or different from other people applying for the job?
  • Are you able to articulate them if you have to counter your starting salary offer?
  • Is the company asking you to perform at the level you were performing in your last company?
  • Is the company a mature company or new venture?
  • What is the size the company – how does that company with your last company? Smaller companies have lower starting salaries.

Finally, consider if is salary the most important part of working for this company. These other quality of work  factors have a big influence on overall happiness:

  1. Benefits
  2. Working from home
  3. Flexible work schedule
  4. Great company culture
  5. Great boss
  6. Low stress
  7. Work/life balance

When you factor in these considerations, revisit the question – What is the intersection between what the company is willing to pay as a starting salary vs. what you are worth? Do you have a little more leeway?