If you’ve been trying to find a job for months without any luck, you’re undoubtedly frustrated, confused, and discouraged. It’s not a fun position to be in! But there is some encouraging news: there’s likely a logical explanation for your lack of progress. You need to do a little digging to identify it. Then, you can take steps to correct it.
Here are 19 likely reasons you can’t find a job.
1. You lack required qualifications
Most jobs come with some minimum requirements, like a certain number of years of experience or a specific degree. In some rare cases, you may be able to convince a hiring manager to interview you despite your lack of experience. Still, more often than not, these requirements are non-negotiable to be seriously considered.
Many companies use applicant tracking systems to screen resumes. These automated systems won’t pass you through to the next round without meeting the baseline criteria. So, even if you meet all but one of the requirements, you still won’t be offered an interview.
If this is your situation, consider pursuing additional schooling to obtain the required degree, staying in your current position until you gain a few more years of experience, or searching for positions with a more junior job title.
2. Your experience isn’t a close enough match
Just because a job is in the same field as yours doesn’t mean your experience is transferable. For example, accounting and auditing are both financial positions, but the core functions of the jobs are different. Thus, it might be more challenging than you’d think for someone with an accounting background to transition into auditing.
You can get a better idea of whether your skills are transferable–and learn which new skills you should acquire–by holding informational interviews with people in the role you want. You can also do research using our library of career guides.
3. You’re overqualified
This issue is basically the opposite of the first two: you’re applying for jobs where you have too much experience. How is that even possible? You might be wondering. It’s a valid question, but for hiring managers, overqualified candidates can present problems.
Candidates with too much experience may become bored in the role and start looking for other opportunities quickly. Hiring managers may worry you’re just looking to land a job fast and will jump ship as soon as a higher title or salary come along or that you’ll start angling for a promotion right out of the gate.
Hiring managers may be concerned that being overqualified can signal that you lack ambition and won’t give the job your all. Or, they may simply assume they can’t afford you based on your credentials.
Justified or not, these are absolutely legitimate reasons overqualified candidates don’t land interviews. If possible, the best thing you can do is get in touch with the hiring manager directly or use your cover letter to express the reasons you want the job even though you could reasonably land one with a higher title. 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
Remember, if you can’t find a job, there are only so many positions out there, and even in a candidate’s market, there are usually more applicants than the company can hire. This could mean you’re simply getting edged out by stronger candidates. This is particularly likely if you’re applying for very niche roles.
To address this problem, you may need to consider shifting your focus to alternative job titles, lowering your expectations for job title/salary, or waiting it out until the market becomes less competitive.
5. Your resume raises red flags
Even if your experience and skills are on point, your resume may be doing you a disservice in other ways.
Having held multiple jobs in a short time frame, for example, can raise concerns that you’re a chronic job hopper. Listing hobbies and interests that aren’t relevant to the job can show you’re out of touch with professional norms. Or maybe your resume is peppered with typos.
If you’ve applied to numerous positions and haven’t received any bites, reviewing your resume with a fine-tooth comb is worthwhile to ensure it’s free of red flags.
6. Or your resume needs to be stronger
If you can’t find a job, one of the biggest resume mistakes we see is merely listing job duties rather than describing their impressive 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, saving the company time or money, and so on.
If you’ve been applying for many jobs without any responses, there’s a good chance your resume has something to do with it. Even if there aren’t glaring red flags, it might just not be impressive enough.
For lots more resume help, check out these resources:
- The top 9 resume mistakes to avoid
- How to find keywords to use in your resume
- 150+ action verbs recruiters want to see
- Sample resumes for every situation
7. Your cover letter isn’t customized
Are you copying and pasting the same cover letter for every position? That’s a big problem. Your cover letter should be updated for every job you apply to in order to speak directly to the hiring manager for that role.
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 the accomplishments you highlight and your reasons for wanting the job, at a minimum, should be tailored to the individual position.
Don’t know how to compose a cover letter? Check out these tips on how to write a cover letter to impress the hiring manager.
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 where your problem is. Consider whether your interviewing skills could use a tune-up.
Proper preparation 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
Maybe you can sell your own skills day in and day out, but you’re falling short on interview questions about the job, company, or industry. This means you must spend more time doing your homework, a.k.a. finding out everything you can about the job, the organization, and the current market conditions.
You want to go into the interview with a clear understanding of what the company does and how this 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 you further tailor your answers to what they’re looking for and improve your chances of getting to the offer stage.
10. Your attitude needs an adjustment
Fair or not, an interviewer’s personal impression of you can color how they score the interview. There are all kinds of factors that could be affecting that impression, like if you come across as shy, underconfident, arrogant, defensive, cold, the list goes on.
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.
11. You’re only applying to positions from job boards
While it’s absolutely possible to land a job from a listing you found on a site like Monster.com, you’re competing against hundreds if not thousands of other viewers who also see that listing. If you want a leg up on the avalanche of competition, it’s best to learn about positions straight from the source.
How do you do this? 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 email 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. Or, you can work with a recruiter. Recruiters are often first to learn about upcoming positions so they can get a jump start on sharing them with strong candidates.
12. You’re not utilizing all 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?
Make it known among people in your network that you’re open to new opportunities. Attend events in your industry. Make contact with former peers and bosses to check-in. Utilize career resources in your community or on your campus. If you’re having trouble getting a job, having others on your team can really make a difference.
13. You’re not taking the job search seriously enough
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. According to one study, 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.
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 the difference in getting a job, like following up with hiring managers and reaching out to people in your network.
14. You come across as desperate
You might feel a bit desperate if you can’t find a job after months of applying. It’s warranted, but it can be a turn-off for employers, and you might not even realize you’re telegraphing it in interviews.
Being overly eager for a position shouldn’t be a bad thing, but many hiring managers view it that way. If they learn about your lengthy job search, they might wonder why another employer hasn’t snatched you up or whether you’re “damaged goods” in some way. Even if you’ve been searching for a while, try to approach your search and your conversations with hiring managers with the enthusiasm and confidence of a new job seeker.
15. You’re looking to relocate
Are you searching for jobs outside of your city or state? In a tough job market, this can be a reason for companies to pass on candidates. Some employers don’t want to deal with negotiating relocation expenses if they can find a similarly qualified candidate who doesn’t need to move for the job. Also, local candidates can generally get up and running more quickly than someone who has to sell a house, drive across the country, find a new place to live, etc.
If your move is out of your control, sometimes it can be better to wait until it’s complete and you have a local address to use on job applications. Or, omit your non-local address from your application materials where possible.
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. Do some research to learn whether your desired salary is realistic based on your credentials.
When in doubt, it doesn’t hurt to ask. After being passed up for a position, it’s completely reasonable to ask a hiring manager if they can share feedback on the reasons for their choice. 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.
17. One or more of your references isn’t a good one
This doesn’t necessarily mean they’re saying bad things about you (although it could, which is certainly a possibility to consider). It might be that it’s been too long since they’ve worked with you, and their opinion is outdated, or they’re simply hard to contact.
To be sure you’re only using contacts who will give you a glowing review, be sure to touch base with them every few months to ensure they know you’re still interviewing and are comfortable providing a reference.
18. You’ve developed a negative reputation
A checkered past could be the reason you’re having trouble finding work. The professional world is a surprisingly small one; 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. You need to do some damage control before resuming your job search.
19. You haven’t asked for feedback
Humans aren’t very good at seeing their own flaws. You’d think this would make us more likely to ask for input from others, but in fact, the opposite is true: most candidates just don’t ask for feedback.
If you can’t find a job, don’t take for granted the valuable input 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!