Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Why Do Job Searches Fail?

New Year’s Resolutions . . . 
     It's that time of year when folks observe the tradition of making New Year's Resolutions.   
They join gyms, start exercise programs, begin diets, take courses to learn a new language, and right up there among the most popular Resolutions is the vow to find a new job!  
     And, they vow this is the year they "will really do it." 
Well, we know what happens to most of those good intentions, don't we!

This is also the time of year that I observe a tradition of my own:  I write my annual article about how to launch and conduct a successful job search.  I write about the 5 or 7 or 10 things a job seeker should do conduct a successful search and manage their own career."  And, then, inevitably as the year winds down, we know that while many job seekers found success, many more didn’t. 

Why do job searches fail?
So, this year I thought I’d take a different tack on my annual article and tackle the question:  "Why do job searches fail?   If, as the saying goes, “Forewarned is
forearmed,” it is my hope for you, as you make your 2016 resolution to find a new position, the information contained in this article will help you avoid the land mines that typically derail job searches and prepare you to launch and conduct an effective job search and find a job in which you excel!

In an effort to help you plan and execute a productive job search, I conducted a small survey of some successful job seekers, HR managers/ recruiters, and employers/hiring managers.  I asked them two questions:
(1) Why do job searches fail?
(2) What suggestions do you have for the antidote?

Forewarned IS forearmed.  If we can help you to identify and expect up front the obstacles that may de-rail your search, and prepare you to deal with them pro-actively, it is our hope that you just might find yourself sitting in your new position this time next year!
So, here goes.  Why do job searches fail?

Hiring Managers
First, let’s hear the comments of two hiring managers who offered their thoughts on why job seekers are unsuccessful, and more to the point, why they did not hire candidates.

Hiring Manager:   Doug 
Profession:___Retail Management__________________
Level:  Sr Mgt / Exec______

Question 1:  "Why do job searches fail?"
“Having not been much of a seeker through the years I cannot speak to this from that point of view. However, having interviewed hundreds of people over my 40-year career, I have a little insight as to why I did not hire people:
“Completely unqualified except in their own mind
This was particularly true when looking for an “experienced”  associate, . . .  say as an industrial engineer. While college provided a wide range of information across a variety of industries, each industry has its own peculiarities. Manufacturing automobiles is different from physical distribution and different from light manufacturing. Note I said when looking for an experienced associate:  Not a problem with hiring a person in an entry-level position, even if they lack specific experience, but a senior person must be able to hit the ground running.”

● “Poor preparation
By this I mean there was no effort by the candidate to understand even the basic business from both an industry point of view as well as having some knowledge about the (my) specific company. I always appreciate a candidate being able to carry on a business conversation beyond ‘what do you want to do when you grow up’.”

“Poor resume preparation
Of course, this results in an interview not even being scheduled. My opinion is I would rather receive a slightly longer resume that gives me some depth than a one pager that lists a few job titles.”

Question 2:  Any suggestions for the antidote?
“Stay within your field of expertise unless there is some overriding talent you can bring to a position outside of your skill set.”

● “Do your home work.”

● “Have a professional help you with resume preparation.”

Hiring Manager:   Jimmy 
Field /Profession:____ Electrical Engineering, Retired _________________
Level:  Sr Mgt______ 

Question 1:  "Why do job searches fail?" 
“Job seekers typically look for a job rather than a career move.  They should look for a position to advance their career using their experience and knowledge. This approach should force them to do research, target their search and better prepare for the interview.  Employers want employees to help them achieve their goals and be more competitive.”

Question 2:  Any suggestions for the antidote?
“I made a couple of career moves myself by explaining to the hiring managers that:
(1) I had the knowledge they needed to successfully bid on some particular government contracts and
(2) I had the experience needed to execute those contracts.” 

Hiring Manager:   Steve 
Field /Profession:____Quality Business Coach _________________
Level:  Sr Mgt / Exec______ 

Question 1:  "Why do job searches fail?"
"I believe it's the same thing as some company searches which fail because the firm is not clear about what they're looking for.  In the case of the job seeker, searches fail because the job seeker has no clearly laid out plan as to what or how they can match up with the company goals per any specific job function or department where they can best use their skill sets." 

Question 2:  Any suggestions for the antidote?
 "Companies:  Take the time to get clear about what kind of job needs to be done, and make the sure posting reflects it. Have someone review to ensure the posting says what you intended it to say."
"Job seekers:  Do the same thing.  Practice going for your ideal job."
● "Know your skill sets cold."
"Develop everything from elevator pitches to handling interview questions calmly yet forcefully."
● "Do your research on the company."
● "Go through your pitch and questions with a friend who will hold you accountable for being clear, friendly and, at times, self-deprecating."

Human Resource (HR) Managers & Recruiters/Staffing Specialist
Now, here are comments from two HR / staffing professionals who have also functioned as hiring managers.

HR Manager / Recruiting:   Dave 
Field:  /Profession___Business/Employment Consultant
Level:  Consultant________ 
Authors note: A veteran himself, Dave also devotes a portion of his practice to working with veterans.

Question 1:  "Why do job searches fail?" 

“Too much reliance on resumes.  While important…the last statistic I reviewed would indicate placements from resume submission average 5%.  While resumes are important, one must learn networking skills (i.e., sales skills).  Using this approach results in, hopefully, the prospective organization liking you and becoming interested in you based on your skills (before the resume comes into play).”

Question 2:  Any suggestions for the antidote?
“Elevator speech - Have one and use it.
“Look to your social network and have them look beyond your boundaries for opportunities to meet the right people. 
“Research the prospective employer and search for possible networking sources in the right place at the right time. 
“Research your labor market to avoid searching for jobs that may not be of significance in a particular area. 
“Select a resume style that best reflects your experience, skills and abilities. 
“Be sure to include a well written cover letter that exactly addresses the opportunity information.  The cover letter may well help if after research, you do not see someone to network with regarding the opportunity.”

HR Manager / Recruiting:   Jim 
Field:  /Profession____Leadership/Consulting & Coaching
Level:  Sr Mgt / Exec;  Consultant______ 
Authors note: Jim also serves as Maryland Network Coordinator / Liaison, Military Officers Association of America 

Question 1:  "Why do job searches fail?"
“Many, not only separating military, who find themselves in search mode truly do not know what they want to do next, nor what they are best suited to do  now.  They do not identify specific targets to research, network and connect with. Thus, they are less than professional in their search and in their presentations.  Few show professionalism in their follow up, when they do follow up on contacts and interviews.”

“Few can list their top skills to another in an understandable manner.”

“Networking is foreign to many, if not most, under 40 years of age; they see contacts as the same as connections and do not understand how to work with contacts to develop them into relationship connections nor maintain the relationships.  They fail to network into the employer’s Employee Referral Program, or with the Veteran Representative.”

The vast majority continue to perform their search the same way they did the previous time they had to search for a position.  This same majority are not prepared to talk with recruiters, nor do they communicate effectively in the written form.  Too much social media as their way of dealing with their world.”

Once the job seeker lands a position, he or she begins all over again, not maintaining relationship connections nor updating their LinkedIn Profile to show the Job Sourcer or other what they can do for an employer.”

Question 2:  Any suggestions for the antidote?
“Learn how to network, understanding that Networking is a life skill, not a job search tool.  Begin by seeing how to help others, building a network of contacts into relationship connections (that become Allies or better yet, Advocates), and staying in touch with their network.”

“Begin building a database of Accomplishments/Achievements that is updated with each new assignment, project, etc.  Include this listing, along with resumes and biographies, on their computer.”

“Build a Resume Database so that they can respond quickly to a request.”

“Begin connecting with local organizations and/or professional organizations appropriate to career interests, and volunteer.  Program and Membership areas will require meeting new folks involved in the organization’s mission or purpose.  This helps tremendously in finding satisfaction and happiness for oneself.”

Successful Job Seekers
Now let’s hear the advice of successful job seekers, who, I should add, also have experience as hiring managers as well.

Job Seeker:   Carla 
Field:  /Profession    Communications Consultant, employed F-T with government contracting firm
Level: Mid Mgt  ______ 

Job searches fail because:
Reason 1.  “Many don't know how to maximize social networking strategies.
Antidote:  Research best ways to use sites like LinkedIn to network and find jobs.”

Reason 2.  “Many have poorly-written resumes.
Antidote:  Compare your resume to other resumes for the job you are seeking, and ask others to proofread your resume to ensure it is error-free.”

Reason 3.  “Many are not aggressive or persistent enough with their search.
Antidote:  It is important to search online or talk to people at least once a day.”

Reason 4.  “Many don't use targeted resumes.
Antidote: It is important to customize resumes for specific jobs, but don't state things that aren't true.”

Reason 5.  “Many don't respond to recruiters in a timely manner.
Antidote:  It is important to respond to recruiters quickly,  but also ensure you have a quiet place to talk and the information you need to respond to questions handy.”

Reason 6.  “Many are just unorganized.
Antidote:  Keep a running list of jobs you have applied to with dates, position titles, contact names, and required skills.”

Reason 7.  “Many are unprepared.
Antidote:  Draft and memorize your professional "elevator speech" to explain your experience and how it relates to the job you are seeking. Makes it easier when you are speaking to multiple recruiters.”

Job Seeker:   Don 
Field:  /Profession____Pharmaceutical Sales, Retired
Level: Sr. Mgt ______ 

Question 1:  "Why do job searches fail?"
  “The first thing that came to mind, for me, is the word “persistence”—and I always add “pleasantly” to the word persistent.”

“I did some research to see what others thought, and I was actually quite surprised that I did not see that or something similar more often. Persistence is used when talking about positive attributes, but surprisingly not so much as an adjective for its lack when people fail.”

“The word persistent is under-thought and under-understood, in my opinion.  Here are a few synonyms: ‘determined, resolute, purposeful, dogged, single-minded, tireless, indefatigable, patient, unflagging, untiring, insistent, importunate, relentless, unrelenting; continuing to exist or endure over a prolonged period.’

“It suggests to me that there is no time—if you really are serious about finding a job (or pursuing any important goal) — that you stop. 

“I recall quite vividly a conversation I had with a friend many years ago. He was about to go into business and I asked him what his backup plan was if things did not go as he planned.  He looked at me very strangely and said: ‘There is no back up plan. I MUST SUCCEED.’  Turns out that he did. I will add that he went through some very difficult times but he never allowed himself to quit.”

● “I also  believe that:
(1) Your goals MUST BE written down so you look at them every day—and
(2) Somehow you must make yourself accountable. [The point here is to set up an accountability system for your search.] 

Question 2:  Any suggestions for the antidote?

● “I think it is pretty obvious. I believe that in most cases the folks that are successful in life work harder than the others.  And they “persist, pleasantly.”

There are always those stories of the brilliant ones and those born to the right parents, but they are really the exceptions—that is why they make the headlines. Most of us that have had good jobs and success simply work a little harder than those who do not.

One story I can tell about myself is when I got my first sales job, I quickly realized that I was the least knowledgeable one on the team about everything that had to do with the job. So I did what I was told, and in addition I worked every Saturday for a year . . . talking with customers and asking them how I could help them. Turned out that I learned a lot and they were impressed that I was working to help them –  not myself.

From that simple effort, I gained not only success but recognition from my customers  and I can honestly say that was the beginning of a successful career for me.  I also had pretty good success in sports—I was absolutely not the most gifted— but I learned from my father that constant and relentless work to improve would pay off. It absolutely did.”

Job Seeker:   Brendan 
Field:  /Profession____Transportation Program Manager International
Level:  Mid Mgt ______

Question 1:  "Why do job searches fail?"
            “ As to your question, I'll probably take a different angle to most by suggesting that if your job search fails,
1.     It may not just be that you aren't selling yourself well enough,
2.     But that you should take a good, hard look at your professional qualifications - not just in terms of their absolute value, but how they relate to the current needs of your local job market.
“I recall going through job listings in DC/VA musing that if I had the right background in traffic modeling, or the right sort of security clearance, then my job search would probably have lasted days, or weeks at most.

Question 2:  Any suggestions for the antidote?
● “Fill the gaps in your professional portfolio by taking courses to gain knowledge/skills in an area that might prevent you from being hired.  Affordability may be difficult for a job seeker, although with the wider availability of MOOCs, some of the price barriers at least have evaporated.”   Author’s note: Also consider taking on short-term consulting projects that may enable you to work in an area that closes a skill or knowledge gap.

● “For someone who's currently in a large workplace, (and pro-actively managing their career) there are ways to progressively shape your position by taking on new tasks (and dropping undesirable ones) until your profile is a much closer match with what the job market is offering.”

Job Seeker:   Bob
Field:  /Profession__Market Research___________________ 
Level:  Mid-Mgt / Self-employed______

Question 1:  "Why do job searches fail?"
“Factors that affect your job search include:
● “The number of years that a worker has spent in his/her current field.
● “Career switchers - Is a job seeker a similar position to the one they hold, or trying to find a new job in their current field? Different field? At the same level?
● “The length of time they have been looking.
“For older workers, the search may fail because they’re looking for a full time position while a company would be more willing to hire on a contract basis.
“Highly specialized workers may not understand that their specialization may now be folded in as part of a broader set of skills. (A common situation is one in which formerly hands-off managers are now expected to be expert/thought leaders for the technical skills that they used to just oversee.) Has their skill set been automated?”

Question 2:  Any suggestions for the antidote?
● “Appearances may be important. Does the worker appear able to work a full day in a high energy environment?”

●A vital and vibrant network is critical.  Does the job seekers have a good network with a wide age range?”

Summary . . . and a few words from me 
Thank you to the hiring managers, business coach, HR professionals, and job seekers who took their time to share thoughts about how you – a job seeker  - can be successful in 2016.

You’ve read some common themes about why job searches fail and what actions to take so that at the end of 2016 your search is not among the failed searches.  As you prepare your 2016 search, whether for a new job or a career move, remember . . . forewarned is forearmed:

(1) Effective preparation, practice, and persistence are essential if you want to make a career move. 

(2) Organization is paramount to maintaining an active search; if things fall through the cracks due to a lack of it, those are opportunities lost.

(3) Understanding what a “network” is, and how to develop, nurture, and maintain it is critical . . . and that’s increasingly true as you move up the career ladder.

(4) Understanding what the job you want is, as well as being clear about if / how you meet the qualifications of an available job or position.

(5) Follow-up, follow-up, and more follow-up should become your mantra.  Job seekers I’ve talked with say if they had it to do over again, they would have followed up more persistently and consistently to move their searches along faster and to generate more and better results.

(6) Thank people for their help, the information they share, and for taking their time.  They don’t owe you their help, expertise, or time, and you’re not entitled to them.  So learn to express sincere appreciation, and how to do it verbally and then in a follow-up written Thank You.

Finally, don’t ever wing it!  Prepare, practice, and persist.  More on that next time.

Have a successful 2016,
nancy@ajcglobal.com              www.ajcglobal.com            AJC - for Your Career Path
  Linked In:  www.linkedin.com/pub/nancy-c-gober/6/14b/965        
Twitter:  @AfterJobClub

Nancy Gober

nancy@ajcglobal.com              www.ajcglobal.com            AJC - for Your Career Path
  Linked In:  www.linkedin.com/pub/nancy-c-gober/6/14b/965        
Twitter:  @AfterJobClub