Are These Issues Keeping You From Landing a Job?

Nancy Anderson
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Landing a great job is tough, no matter how much you're qualified to do the work. It's impossible to know exactly what employers want or anticipate all the politics going on behind the scenes. However, you're in complete control of how you manage your job search, and unproductive habits can undermine your efforts. Improve your chances of success by taking care of common issues that could sabotage your job search.

Vague Job Search Goals

If you aren't sure about your career goals, don't expect anyone else to fill in the blanks. You're competing with people who are just as smart and capable, so you need a clearly defined job search plan to stay focused. Otherwise, you're likely to exhaust yourself applying for jobs that aren't a good fit. Your lack of passion or interest is also likely to show during interviews, which may be the reason you're struggling.

Research companies and roles that match your aspirations, and tailor your applications for each position. If you don't have a clue what your next career move is, you're better off looking for exploratory opportunities, such as job shadowing.

Lack of Qualifications

Aim high, but within reason. In some sectors, standards for education and work experience are rigid. Your best option is to pursue lower-level jobs and try to connect with professionals in your industry. Turn to mentors for advice on which qualifications are essential. Having a bigger network can strengthen your next job search once you earn the right credentials.

Stock Cover Letters

Not every hiring manager reads your cover letter, but the ones who do aren't impressed by cookie-cutter templates. Is your letter packed with meaningless buzzwords? Does your letter convey your unique personality or background? A good cover letter reels in readers while providing details that are difficult to include in terse, formal resumes. Hiring managers might assume you have a bad resume and simply move on if your cover letter is exceptionally bland. Use this valuable space to explain why you're interested in the job and how you benefit employers.

Weak, Boring Resumes

A bad resume can perpetually drag down a good candidate. Does your resume show readers how you stand out and deliver great results? Does it consistently relate to your target position? Make sure your resume is scannable for applicant-tracking systems and easily readable for human eyes. Tiny fonts, packed layouts and blinding colors are rarely a good idea.

Job postings provide the keywords employers are likely to search for, so mine them for information you can sprinkle into your resume. At the same time, tell a compelling story from the career summary to your skills section. Don't just explain what you did. Describe the positive impact you had on previous employers.

Gaps in Work History

Large periods of unemployment are a turn-off. Explain gaps upfront by including other activities you completed during this time, such as travel, education or volunteering. Don't be afraid to include casual consulting work. Self-employment shows hiring managers you have initiative and self-discipline.

Sometimes, it's easy to overlook job search habits that are pulling you down. Changing up your strategy from time to time can help you overcome self-sabotage and differentiate yourself from other candidates. How do you determine what is and isn't working with your job search?

Photo courtesy of Sira Anamwon at


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  • Denise A.
    Denise A.

    So what would you suggest to someone if they have a big gap in their work history, because they left the working world to stay home and raise their kids?

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