Ten Questions to Ask Yourself if You Still Haven't Found a Job
by Katharine Hansen, Ph.D.
Are you in an active job-search, but have no job? Are you having troubles finding a job?
Not long ago, one of my former students contacted me in despair. It was six months after graduation, and she still hadn't found a job. I started thinking about some of the common roadblocks to a successful job-search, and I came up with this list of 10 important questions. Still haven't found a job? Ask yourself:
- Are you networking?
Job-seekers today can't rely on passive methods of job-hunting. You have to meet people and tell as many of them as possible that you're looking for a job (be specific). Take your resume everywhere and give it out to everyone you can.
- Are you limiting your search?
Are you relying strictly on want ads in the newspaper? Or have you decided that Internet ads will be the source of your next job? Don't search in only one sphere. Only a small percentage of job-seekers find jobs through either print or Internet want ads. So where do they find them? See Question No. 1 -- through networking. But don't even limit your search just to networking; incorporate every form of job-hunting into the mix.
- Are you targeting employers most likely to need your skills?
A really effective job search begins with comprehensive employer research and development of a list of employers to target. Based on various research criteria, you can target companies you most want to work for, companies that are likely to have plentiful openings in your field, and/or companies in particular need of the skills you have to offer. Once you've researched them, you can approach them using various job-hunting techniques:
Are you spending enough time job-hunting?
- Sending cold-contact inquiry letters the impress the employer with your knowledge of the company.
- Using your network to uncover people with an "in" into your target companies.
- Informationally interviewing people in your target companies.
- Watching for print and Internet want ads from the companies (but not relying solely on these ads).
Many experts believe job-hunting should in itself be a full-time job. If you're in school or employed while seeking a better job, your time may be somewhat limited. But you should put as much time as you can into it. Try to contact people in your network every day with the goal of setting up interviews with your contacts or people they've referred you to.
Do you follow up after sending out your resume?
Do you just send your resume and cover letters out into limbo and hope for the best? Or do you make a follow-up call or send follow-up e-mail to see if you can schedule an interview appointment? Those who proactively follow up are much more likely to get interviews.
Are you even getting interviews?
If you're following up but still not getting interviews, the problem could lie with your resume or cover letter. You may want to get a professional to review them. A good source is your college career-services office. Even if you're long out of school, these offices often serve alumni, sometimes for a fee.
How are your interview skills?
If you're getting lots of interviews but never make it past the interview stage, your interview skills might need some polishing. Have a friend conduct a mock interview with you and critique your performance. Better yet, find a professional in your field to mock-interview you. And the best choice is to see a professional career counselor who can not only critique your performance but also videotape it so you can see for yourself how you appear to others.
Do you send thank-you notes after interviews?
It's just common courtesy. Though a thank-you note won't make or break your job search, it might. Let's say the hiring decision is between equally qualified candidates. One sent a thank-you note, and the other didn't. Odds favor the candidate who thanked the employer for his or her time.
Do you follow up after the interview and thank-you note?
If you've sent a thank-you note and haven't heard anything by the time the employer said the hiring decision would be made, by all means call. Be polite but persistent. This kind of follow-up shows your interest in the job.
Have you asked what you're doing wrong?
After you receive a rejection from an employer, do you ask what you did wrong or what you could have done better? Granted, most employers won't give you a straight answer; they're afraid of getting sued. But occasionally you'll find a sympathetic person with whom you may have had good rapport in the interview. If only one person reveals something that can give you a more effective approach to your job search, it will have been well worth asking. If you are rejected, also be sure to let the employer know you're still interested in working for the company. That technique has paid off for many a job-seeker when the person the company hired didn't work out.
Katharine Hansen, Ph.D., creative director and associate publisher of Quintessential Careers, is an educator, author, and blogger who provides content for Quintessential Careers, edits QuintZine, an electronic newsletter for jobseekers, and blogs about storytelling in the job search at A Storied Career. Katharine, who earned her PhD in organizational behavior from Union Institute & University, Cincinnati, OH, is author of Dynamic Cover Letters for New Graduates and A Foot in the Door: Networking Your Way into the Hidden Job Market (both published by Ten Speed Press), as well as Top Notch Executive Resumes (Career Press); and with Randall S. Hansen, Ph.D., Dynamic Cover Letters, Write Your Way to a Higher GPA (Ten Speed), and The Complete Idiot's Guide to Study Skills (Alpha). Visit her personal Website or reach her by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.