Written on October 02, 2022
You’ve been writing personalized cover letters, submitting your tailored resume and practicing with mock interviews for weeks but to no avail. Applying to jobs is feeling like a full time job, and you’re frustrated because you’re not progressing into the interview phase.
That disappointment is valid; it’s incredibly hard to remain optimistic when prospective employers don’t seem to appreciate the effort you’re putting in.
At Jackfruit, we’re here to help you develop a new-and-improved application strategy that increases your chances of making it to the next screening stage.
Let’s start by discussing the importance of professional networking, from which you can leverage referrals to increase your chances of scheduling an interview.
We’re mentioning it first, simply because 85% of jobs are landed through networking. Plus, while only 7% of candidates who interview are referred by an existing employee, a noteworthy 72% of them are selected for an interview. That means “if 300 people applied and only 30 were interviewed, all 21 of the referral applicants would be interviewed,” concludes Zippia.
On a separate note from leveraging referrals, there’s another major factor at play: your qualifications don’t align or aren’t being communicated in a way that shows you’re a good fit.
Meaning, if you’re not getting any interviews across a wide range of applications, consider that your core approach needs a makeover. As Forbes contributor Adunola Adeshola puts it, “Instead of second-guessing your skills and qualifications, second-guess how you’re approaching your job search and readjust as necessary.”
According to research by Workopolis, as many as 75% of applicants aren’t qualified for the role they’re applying to. There’s no shame in admitting your own room for self-improvement; a willingness to learn is often your greatest asset. That said, it all depends on whether your dream company is looking for an applicant that will hit the ground running, or whom they can train for a longstanding relationship, with opportunities to climb the company ladder. Pay attention to whether the job description you’re reviewing is open to newcomers, so long as each applicant is up to the challenge.
A few other litmus tests for whether you’re underqualified:
You’re redirecting your field to a new field, and so you’re not ready for a senior-level spot.
You have less than 80% of the job requirements. For larger businesses in particular, and 95% of Fortune 500 companies, an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) will filter out your resume if it doesn’t closely align with the company’s list of qualifications.
Of course, even if you’re underqualified, you can be strategic about how to frame your transferable skills, which may help you adapt quickly. Plus, stating your aspirations and admiration for the field you want to move into is meaningful and convincing; an employer might hire you because you seem dedicated. Nevertheless, a lack of core experiences can set you back against other competitive applicants, and your hard work applying should be grounded in reality.
If you’re overqualified, you may need to reconsider whether you’re scouting out lesser positions because they seem safe or you’re “guaranteed to succeed.” Actually, employers will turn away overqualified applicants for a few reasons: 1) it suggests they’re not planning to stick around long-term, 2) if the role at hand is seemingly easier than an applicant’s previous experiences, it raises doubt that their resume is wholly truthful, and 3) it implies that the applicant is not applying for the job from a career development standpoint, but their indifference to personal growth may indicate indifference to company-wide growth.
Even if a company listed a job opportunity online, it doesn't mean they’ll have the bandwidth or budget to incorporate a new team member when push comes to shove. At this point, you can submit a pristine application, but you can’t control whether the opening itself is put on hold.
Although there’s no way to prevent a company from changing their hiring plans, you can try to interpret whether the job is currently available by noting how long ago it was posted. Alternatively, you may be able to gauge how serious they are about hiring based on whether they have numerous, redundant postings that have been uploaded over time. If many current postings overlap with older ones—and especially if the company clearly isn’t large enough to have followed through on every one of those roles—it might suggest they’re fishing for new talent to see if anyone worthwhile bites, but are not committed to actively monitoring the listing.
For public companies, you may be able to research their annual revenue and if they’ve been hiring new employees lately, but it won’t necessarily guarantee they put effort into reviewing your application. If you’re applying to jobs within a highly-competitive industry that happens to face budget cuts often, you may need to increase the number of applications you send out or broaden the fields you’re searching in.
Although it’s exciting to record a professional milestone on your resume, it’s more important that you list experiences that will be relevant to your prospective company. Unfortunately, the online recruitment software company, Bullhorn, found that 43 percent of recruiters and hiring managers who were turned off by irrelevant applications would blacklist the candidates from applying to future jobs at their company.
In a similar vein, keep in mind that quality is greater than quantity. Rather than list each and every professional experience you’ve had, select those which are pertinent to the industry you’re applying to work in.
If there is a connection between your fashion internship and the mobile app you designed, use descriptive terminology that conveys the overlap.
Worked with the founding team to launch their startup, a sustainable luxury fashion brand that offers recycling solutions on a seasonal basis.
Developed an app that helps individuals track the carbon footprint of each clothing item they purchase, wear and upcycle.
Without explanation, these two projects may seem incoherent: working with a fashion brand versus mobile app development. Through context, your interest in startups, sustainability and fashion will coincide. To top it off, you can elaborate on this in your cover letter.
In a similar vein, you need to anticipate your reader’s questions, not only showing the common thread between seemingly disparate work experiences, but by explaining obscure terms and projects. This means being an expert on your own resume.
Let’s say you’re working in the Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) sector, but specialize in writing a bi-weekly journal about up-and-coming brands in the space. Now, let’s say you want to refocus your career and hone in on your literary skills, but in the context of community service, so you decide to apply to PEN America, a nonprofit organization that defends and celebrates freedom of speech. In order to meld your previous writing experience with PEN’s mission and job description, you’ll want to avoid CPG-related jargon, which is probably foreign to nonprofit recruiters, and instead map out your decision to apply.
Similar to tracing your various interests and experiences, you should be prepared to graciously explain any gaps in your work history. Considering that being unemployed for 27+ weeks reduces your probability of receiving a job offer by 12.5%, it’s worth taking the time to summarize why you took that time off, while also voicing a forward-thinking and optimistic mentality.
If you’re applying to an entry-level position, or even a mid-level role, you need to find a middle ground between bragging and being self-deprecating. At the end of the day, that means you have to be believable, but can thrive by wisely framing the impact each work experience has had on your career.
As a rule of thumb, avoid exaggerating by writing with an aspirational, optimistic tone. Instead of embellishing the truth, frame the soft skills and learning lessons that mattered most. In the following example, we’ll compare three methods of describing previous work as a sales associate: one example is overly simple, one is solid and professional, and the last goes overboard about describing day-to-day tasks.
Plain Jane - Not very detailed; Tasks are quite obvious - doesn’t reflect passion; Misses an opportunity to hone in on soft skills associated with each task like communication, organization, etc.; Showing up for work and behaviors of the sort, should be a given
Steady Eddie - Visual merchandising is a good example of nuances that may set you apart from other sales associates; Terms like 'active listening', 'greeting and engagement' suggest strong interpersonal skills; Classifies tasks (like taking inventory) as ones that lead to positive soft skills (like being organized)
Chatty Cathy - “All day-to-day operations” is vague and seems like an exaggeration; sweeping statements that take all the credit might imply you’re not a team player; Using too many action words can detract from your point; Readers may be distracted by the unlikelihood of remembering all recurring shoppers. Better to say: “strived to remember regular customers and show gratitude for their patronage…”
If you’re not getting job interviews, it might be because your cover letter isn’t persuasive enough in showing why you care. In the same way that you should strive to express your passion for previous work experiences, your application should reflect an unambiguous enthusiasm for the position being offered.
If the job at hand has indicated they’re looking for remote employees, then you can get away without mentioning if you’re willing or would like to move. This is especially true if the company consists of numerous international workers and contributors.
However, as you may have read in Jackfruit’s guide to writing personalized cover letters, it’s smart to specify your intentions as an applicant by introducing the role you’re applying for. If the job posting suggests they’re open to in-person and remote workers, clarify which option you prefer:
I’m writing to express my enthusiasm and interest in a remote Digital Advertising Manager role at BuzzFeed, but I’d be willing to relocate as needed in the future.
Instead of following up with you in order to ask about your preferred location, you can just cut to the chase and state whether you’d be working long-distance.
When you’re applying to jobs, LinkedIn is your friend. It reassures your hiring manager that not only are you a real person, but you have made connections at previous workplaces and by putting your professional networking skills to use.
Of course, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are a bit more tricky. There is no harm in actively using these online platforms in a public-facing way, especially if you’re contributing socially-aware, interesting and appropriate content. As you may have read in Jackfruit’s 5 Skills Employers Are Looking for in 2022, professionalism is a game-changer. More than 90% of employers use social media as they scout out new hires, says Zippia, and 54% have rejected a candidate on account of their personal accounts.
If you’re working so hard to apply to jobs and have created a wonderful image of yourself on your resume, it would surely be a shame to let your online accounts raise doubt about your accomplishments. So, consider taking the following steps to ensure your social media presence works in your favor:
Consider making your account private, and share private stories only with people you trust.
Don’t be offensive or explicit. An employer can’t make you wash your mouth with soap, but they can pass on the chance to interview you.
Posting all day every day is overbearing. Don’t spam people with messages, comments and posts. If you do want to be an active user, recent findings by LinkedIn suggest posting on Instagram 3-7 times per week, on Facebook 1-2 times a day, on Twitter 1-5 times a day and on LinkedIn 1-5 times a day.
Avoid complaining about past/present work. This may breach a level of trust that your colleagues and employers have placed in you, and embarrassing them will make it harder to ask for referrals and recommendations.
Save emo posts for MySpace. You can certainly update others on what you’ve learned from workplace ups-and-downs on LinkedIn, if your point is to provide insight and motivation for others. Here’s a good example of a LinkedIn post that is personal but professional, by Joanne Schwartz, Global Head of Product Analytics at Conde Nast:
It’s really not about repressing your emotions, but being mindful of the effect they’ll have on viewers.
We all must come to peace with the fact that applications are seldom met with the response you’re looking for—the average job seeker has a response rate of only 10-30 percent—but this makes it even more worthwhile when your hard work pays off. Whenever you’re at a stand still and feel bummed you’re not getting job interviews, take the opportunity to switch up your application strategy and learn what works best for you.
And remember, referrals are your friend! No pun intended.