Young male professional with a confused expression sitting behind his laptop looking at print outs of his resume

If you’ve been trying to find a job for months without any luck, you’re probably feeling frustrated, confused, and discouraged. It’s not a fun position to be in, but there’s always an opportunity to turn it around – and quickly.

At the risk of coming across as tough love, there’s almost always a logical explanation for the lack of results. You just need to do some digging to identify it and then take steps to correct it.

Since time is of the essence, I’ll get right to it and list the most likely reasons you haven’t secured a job (yet!), plus a recommendation for each.

1. You lack the required qualifications

Most jobs have a set of minimum requirements, such as relevant experience or a college degree. In some cases, you may be able to convince a hiring manager to interview you despite your lack of experience, but that’s not something you can count on in this competitive market. Instead, you should expect the listed requirements to be mandatory for consideration unless otherwise noted in the job description.

Many companies use applicant tracking systems to screen resumes. These automated systems will not pass your resume through to the next round unless it meets the baseline criteria. So, even if you meet all but one of the requirements, you won’t be offered an interview. 

The solution: Instead of applying for jobs you aren’t qualified for, concentrate your efforts on applying to positions where you meet the criteria listed in the job description.

2. Your experience isn’t transferrable

Just because you have worked in a particular industry or field before doesn’t mean that your experience will apply. For example, while accounting and auditing are both financial positions and, in many ways, related, their core functions are very different. While it may seem to be a logical fit, transitioning into auditing is likely more challenging than you’d think for someone with an accounting background. 

The solution: Arrange informational interviews with professionals in the role you want to help determine whether your skills are transferrable. This will also allow you to nail down the specific skills you need to acquire to make the jump. You can also do your own research using our library of career guides

3. You’re overqualified

This issue, applying for jobs when you have too much experience, is essentially the opposite of the previous two reasons. Too much experience! How is that even possible? It’s a valid question, but overqualified candidates create cause for concern among many hiring managers. 

Justified or not (and believe me, I don’t always agree with their logic), here are the reasons managers will reject you for being overqualified:

  • You’ll expect a promotion and/or a raise right away
  • You’ll become bored quickly and start looking to leave
  • You’ll jump ship as soon as a job with a more senior title or higher salary comes along
  • You lack ambition and/or are lazy
  • They assume they can’t afford you

The solution: Find a way to get in touch with the hiring manager – either through direct contact or a recruiter and/or use your cover letter to express why you want the job even though you could reasonably land one with more responsibilities. You can also update your resume to omit some of the experience that goes above and beyond the job requirements. 

4. The competition is fierce

There are only so many positions out there, and even in a candidate’s market, most openings receive more applicants than the company can hire. Applying without success could simply mean being edged out by stronger candidates, which is particularly likely if you’re applying for niche roles or positions where you barely meet the requirements. Another possibility is that you’re applying after a job posting has already received hundreds if not thousands of applications – a common occurrence these days on popular job boards.

The solution: I recommend doing these four things to gain an advantage over the competition:

  • Sign up for daily email alerts based on job titles, keywords, and location to be the first to know about and apply for new openings.
  • When applying, send your resume directly to employers. Many times, the recruiter’s or hiring manager’s name will be listed in a job posting. Email them and connect on LinkedIn. If no name is listed, call the company and ask to speak with the person responsible for filling the position.
  • Target jobs you’re fully qualified for. You can still apply to jobs that are a stretch, but focus your efforts on the openings where you meet all of the criteria.
  • Work with external recruiters (i.e. staffing companies). You can find a list of the top-rated companies by industry and geography on Recruiters don’t send resumes to a black hole – they hand deliver candidate resumes to their clients, who are the end-user employers.

5. Your resume raises red flags

Sometimes, even if your experience and skills are on point, your resume may be doing you a disservice in other ways. When choosing which candidates to move forward, recruiters look for resumes that don’t raise alarms. Here are the most common red flags that will eliminate an applicant from consideration:

  • Multiple jobs in a short time frame (i.e. job hopping)
  • Gaps in employment
  • Overlapping dates of employment
  • Typos and bad grammar
  • Conflicting or confusing details

The solution: First, view your resume through the eyes of someone who is seeking the ideal candidate. Consider whether any part of your professional history resembles the items listed above. Improve what you can, but acknowledge any glaring issues that persist. If so, plan on addressing the red flags up front by sending a concise and well-written cover letter with every resume or application.

6. Your resume needs to be stronger

One of the biggest resume mistakes is merely listing job duties rather than highlighting accomplishments. Under each position you’ve held, detail the significant results you achieved while leveraging your skills, like increasing sales, improving customer ratings, solving problems, or saving the company time and money.

If you have applied for many jobs without receiving any responses, your resume might be to blame. Even if there aren’t glaring red flags, it might just not be impressive enough. 

The solution: Use the articles below to improve your resume’s descriptions, words, and phrasing:

Utilize a professional resume service like BeamJobs to land more interviews!

7. Your cover letter isn’t customized

Are you copying and pasting the same cover letter for every position? A generic cover letter serves no purpose, and it may be doing more harm than good.

The solution: Make your cover letter specific to the job and company. What qualifications are they looking for? How are you uniquely capable of doing this job? As you’re writing your cover letter, think about the job description and what the hiring manager is most likely to be looking for. You don’t have to completely rewrite your cover letter each time, but it must be tailored to the individual position and situation to be effective. If you need help, check out these tips on how to write a cover letter.

8. Your interview skills need work

If you’ve made it to the interview phase once or twice but haven’t gone any further, this could be your problem. Consider whether your interviewing skills could use a tune-up. 

The solution: Proper preparation. It will go a long way in helping you ace an interview (more on this in a moment), but you should also work to strengthen your poise under pressure and the language you use to describe your skills. Check out our interview preparation checklist for 11 ways to stand out when speaking with a hiring manager or recruiter. 

9. You haven’t done your homework

You could have the perfect professional background, skills, and personality for the job, but none of that may matter if you go into an interview without knowing how your amazing traits will apply to the job, hiring manager, and/or company. Whether it’s having a feel for organizational culture or knowing the day to day-to-day duties, being uninformed is a big knock on even the most qualified candidate.

The solution: Go into every interview with a clear understanding of what the company does and how the job contributes to that mission. Be informed about what’s happening in the larger industry landscape, like new technology changing the field or mergers that have caused shakeups. Finally, prepare by learning about your interviewer. This will help align your answers to what they’re looking for and improve your chances of getting to the offer stage. 

10. Your attitude needs an adjustment

Like it or not, an interviewer’s personal impression of you can, and likely will, influence how they score the interview. A variety of factors could contribute to that impression, for example, coming across as shy, underconfident, arrogant, defensive, cold, and so on.

The solution: Take a hard look in the mirror to assess whether your demeanor negatively impacts your job search. It can be helpful to ask a handful of trusted friends to weigh in here, too. Practice with mock interviews. And most importantly, always show enthusiasm.

11. You’re only applying to positions from job boards

While it’s possible to land a job from a listing you found on a site like, you’re competing against hundreds, if not thousands, of other candidates who apply for the same opening. If you want a leg up on the avalanche of competition, it’s best to learn about positions straight from the source. 

The solution: For starters, you can regularly check the careers page of companies you’re interested in for new listings. Following your desired employers on social media can also help you learn about new positions first. You can also email recruiters and hiring managers directly, which is a tactic that can work well if you’ve made contact with them in the past through networking or a previous interview.

12. You’re not utilizing all available resources

Everyone needs a hand from time to time. Many great jobs are acquired with help from a friend, mentor, colleague, or former coworker. Are you taking full advantage of all of your professional connections to help you land a job?

The solution: Make it known among your personal and professional network that you’re open to new opportunities. Tell everyone! Reach out to former peers and managers to find out if they know of openings or can make introductions. Attend events in your industry. Utilize career resources in your community or on your campus. When you’re having trouble getting a job, having others on your team can really make a difference. 

If your job search activities consist mainly of firing off applications on your lunch break, the problem could be that you’re not dedicating enough time to your search. The average job seeker spends 11 hours per week looking for a new position. So, if you’re sending less than that, you’re behind most of your competition. 

The solution: Set aside dedicated time each day, or at least most days, to focus on job search activities. This doesn’t just include applying for positions; don’t forget about other important activities that can make a difference in getting a job, like those listed above.

14. You come across as desperate

If you can’t find a job after months of applying, you might feel a bit desperate. Your feelings may be warranted, but an outward display can be a turn-off for employers.

The solution: No matter how long you’ve been searching, approach each opportunity and conversation with the enthusiasm and confidence of a new job seeker. You might not even realize you’re telegraphing desperation in interviews, so at the very least, be conscious of how you come across while making an effort to keep your emotions in check.

15. You’re only looking for remote jobs

It’s not 2021 anymore. The landscape has shifted, and not many companies are requiring employees to return to the office. At least partially or in a hybrid environment. It’s a matter of supply and demand. The already heavy competition for remote-only jobs is increasing constantly.

The solution: Open your search to include office-based roles. 

16. Your salary expectations are too high

If you made it to the final rounds of interviews for one or more positions but were ultimately not offered the job, your salary expectations may be out of line with the going rate for your role.

The solution: Do some research to learn whether your desired salary is realistic based on your credentials. Also, if you have been passed up for a position, it’s completely reasonable to ask a hiring manager if they can share feedback. Some won’t discuss this type of information, but if salary is the main culprit, they might be more than willing to fill you in.

Are you being paid what you are worth?

Browse our salary data tool to know the current market value for your skills and labor!

17. One or more of your references isn’t a good one

If you didn’t have a great relationship with a former manager or left your last job under less-than-ideal circumstances, a negative reference is a possibility. Even if the circumstances were good, it might be something as simple as your reference being unreachable.

The solution: Reach out to all references before giving their names to a prospective employer (and never list them on your resume!). Ask directly if they are willing to provide a positive reference. If the answer is yes, great! If it’s a no, avoid sharing their contact information. Follow up with them every few months to ensure they know you’re still interviewing and are comfortable providing a reference. 

18. You’ve developed a bad reputation

A checkered past could be the reason you’re having trouble finding work. The professional world is surprisingly small; if you’ve left multiple jobs on bad terms or had a particularly explosive incident at work, there’s a not-small chance that word may have gotten around.

The solution: You need to do some damage control before resuming your job search. It’s time to take an honest look at past transgressions and do your best to make amends. I’ve generally found recruiters and hiring managers to be very forgiving to those who own their mistakes and apologize for wrongdoings.

19. You haven’t asked for feedback

Humans aren’t very good at seeing their own flaws. Knowing this, you think it would make us more likely to seek input from others, but in fact, the opposite is true: most candidates just don’t ask for feedback. The result is continuing to make the same (potentially avoidable) mistakes unknowingly.

The solution: Take advantage of the valuable feedback mentors, bosses, colleagues, and hiring managers can offer you. If you’re unsure where to turn, you can even consider enlisting the services of a career coach. While it’s hard to hear critical feedback, it could be the turning point that finally helps you put an end to your job search with a well-deserved offer. Check out this post for tips on how to ask for feedback after a job rejection!

Good luck in your search. I hope these tips help you achieve career zen. Happy hunting!

Home / Career Advice / Job Hunting / Why Can’t I Find a Job? 19 Likely Reasons (With Solutions!)
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Pete Newsome is the founder of zengig, which he created after more than two decades in staffing and recruiting. He’s also President of 4 Corner Resources, the Forbes America's Best Staffing and Recruiting Firm he founded in 2005, and is a member of the American Staffing Association and TechServe Alliance. In addition to his passion for staffing, Pete is now committed to zengig becoming the most comprehensive source of expert advice, tools, and resources for career growth and happiness. When he’s not in the office or spending time with his family of six, you can find Pete sharing his career knowledge and expertise through public speaking, writing, and as the host of the Finding Career Zen & Hire Calling podcasts. Connect with Pete on LinkedIn