Few people look forward to a job search. A 2021 study of 715 U.S. adults by Pew Research Center found that half of unemployed, furloughed, or laid-off Americans were pessimistic about future employment. One-third said they felt more stressed than usual, and 56% said they experienced more emotional or mental health issues while unemployed.
The job search has only taken on added stress, with record inflation driving more and more Americans to seek higher-paying jobs, plus recent news of hiring freezes and layoffs affecting multiple sectors.
As a career coach who has worked with clients who have gone on to work at companies like Amazon, Blue Origin, and IBM, I have seen these trends play out in real time over these past few months.
If there is one thing I hope to leave you with, it’s this: A directionless job search where you simply play the numbers game sets you up for rejection and self-sabotage. My job search checkpoint methodology has helped countless clients of mine get hired at top companies without applying to hundreds of jobs. Here’s how it works.
What is the job search checkpoint methodology?
We all know that Albert Einstein quote about how insanity is “doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” But why do so many of us fall into this trap when looking for a job?
We realize when 100+ applications sent through Indeed aren’t getting us anywhere, yet we wake up every day and continue to apply. We land those first-round interviews, only to not hear back for round two time and again. But how often do we actually take the time to pause and consider our progress?
That is why I like to equip my clients with this graphic to help illustrate the process:
Remember, if something is not working, then you must resist the temptation to dig your head in the sand and keep moving forward with the status quo. Instead, take a moment to pause, and pivot if your strategy is proving to be unsuccessful.
Checkpoints 1 through 3 and the critical steps to take
There are three major checkpoints to be aware of when evaluating the success of your job search.
Checkpoint 1: I’m applying all over, but not getting interviews.
If you’re not getting interviews, the first question to ask yourself is whether you’re applying to the right roles. In my personal recruiting experience, many candidates do not read the job descriptions and meet less than 60% of the listed requirements for a role.
Applying to many roles doesn’t leave you time to customize your résumé and cover letter, which are crucial steps to helping you stand out. Consider your cover letter like a movie trailer and your résumé is the movie. A cover letter is meant to summarize your experience and grab people’s attention. If someone only read your cover letter, and never looked at your résumé, would they think you’re a match for the role?
When it comes to your résumé, evaluate each bullet point about your experience and ensure it doesn’t just say what you did, but also addresses how you did it, why you did it, and what happened. If you did market research, don’t just say “I created a survey.” Quantify it. Was it a survey for 50 or 5,000 people? The context and scale of what you did matters.
Checkpoint 2: I’m booking screener interviews, but failing to make it to the next round.
If you’re going to job interviews but not getting offers, first consider the good news: Something about your résumé and LinkedIn profile is creating a strong enough first impression to garner you interviews. However, while your résumé gets you in the door, your interview is what gets you hired.
As you contemplate your performance in interviews, consider both what you talk about (the content) and how you talk about it (your delivery). When it comes to the content, ask yourself if what you talk about in interviews aligns with your résumé.
It can be helpful to have examples of work or a case study presentation to highlight during your interviews. Writing an effective case study is all about harnessing the power of storytelling to communicate the full context of what you worked on. Your case study should serve as evidence of your skills and experience. Consider it like evidence in a legal case and, in this situation, the people in the interviews are the jury.
Lastly, it’s important to examine how you speak, your confidence, and body language in interviews. All of these things contribute to the overall impression people form about you. One of the best things you can do is record yourself doing a mock interview. To do this, try using Google’s Interview Warmup tool or a self-recording tool like Loom. Though it might seem awkward, simply listening to yourself answer questions can help you quickly identify things to improve on. For example, you might realize you speak very softly, say um or like a lot, or give long-winded answers.
Checkpoint 3: I’m making it through multiple rounds of interviews, but not getting job offers.
It’s natural to be frustrated when you go through multiple interviews and don’t get an offer. However, it is still a reason to celebrate: You’re one of the tiny percent of applicants who get that far. Of course, it’s a punch to the gut when you receive that email informing you that a company has decided to go with other candidates.
The most important thing to keep in mind is that it’s not always a reflection of your skills and experience. Oftentimes, it’s simply a situation where other candidates ticked more of the boxes than you. Take time to think about the types of jobs you are applying to. Do you have experience in another industry or niche that perhaps you need to expand your job search to?
Another major mistake candidates make in interviews is not coming prepared with questions about the position or company. Failing to ask questions can give hiring managers the impression that you’re not very interested in the role. Interviews are your chance to interview them as much as they’re interviewing you, so spend 15 minutes preparing questions you could ask about the team, product, and/or culture.
Finally, don’t be afraid to ask for feedback about why you didn’t get the role. Companies can’t always give you a specific reason for legal reasons. However, you might receive valuable insights or realize there were factors out of your control. The worst that can happen is they don’t provide feedback. So, why not ask?
Although the job search can be painful at times, we have the power to pivot and redirect our search. If you take time to reflect on what you may be doing wrong, it will unlock the door to your personal and professional growth.