Job Search Conundrum: Why You Can't Get a Job

You're following every single job search best practice to a T, yet you still haven't landed a job. What gives? Here are some thoughts on the forces that may be working against you.

In the course of reporting job search stories over the past five years, I've interviewed several IT job seekers who've spent a year or more looking for work. These individuals appear to be doing everything right in their job search: They spend a lot of time networking. They've developed authentic personal brands. They're conducting targeted job searches, and they tailor their resumes and cover letters to whatever job that interests them. Instead of wasting time on job boards, they're active on LinkedIn

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Image courtesy of deanmeyersnet on Flickr

Despite using all of the aforementioned job search best practices, these otherwise qualified IT professionals aren't landing jobs. What's holding them back? Here are a few thoughts. 

1. It may be their age. I hate to say this, but I would not be surprised if age was a barrier for the job seekers I've interviewed who are in the 50+ bracket. After all, employers' reasons for favoring younger workers over older workers are well known: Older workers command higher salaries that cheap companies may not want to pay. Their healthcare costs can be higher than younger workers'. Some employers view older workers as stuck in their ways. They may also view older workers' skills or attitudes outdated. 

Make no mistake: I am not condoning age bias. I think all of the reasons employers trot out to not hire older workers are ridiculous and short-sighted. Unfortunately, I think ageism is preventing older job seekers from landing jobs in an already hyper competitive job market. 

2. It may be their attitude. A 2009 study conducted by the University of Missouri showed that a positive attitude really does help people land new jobs. But when you've been unemployed for several months and your job search isn't turning up any leads--let alone any offers--keeping a smile on your face isn't easy. 

Today's job searches can be a downright depressing, especially when prolonged. Some job seekers, without even realizing it, can grow cranky, and understandably so. However, these disgruntled job seekers need to be extremely careful about how they present themselves in person, over the phone and via email to prospective employers and networking contacts. A negative vibe or a sarcastic or passive-aggressive comment will put off hiring decision makers and networking contacts. No one wants to refer or hire a candidate with a bad attitude.   

3. It may be the length of time they've been unemployed. The longer you've been out of work, the harder it is to get a new job for two reasons:

  1. Because of the competition you face from candidates who've been out of work less time and from candidates who are currently employed.
  2. Because you have to battle the perceptions certain narrow-minded employers hold about job seekers who've been out of work for a year or more: They view them as damaged goods, with outdated skills, who will not be able to quickly adjust to a high-pressure work environment. 

4. It may be the economy. Let's face it: The economy remains precarious, and the IT job market, while improved since two years ago, isn't exactly booming. 

I hope that the job seekers I've interviewed for stories who are still looking for a job after a year or more will eventually get good ones. They are all good people, with good attitudes and strong professional backgrounds. I hope it's just a matter of timing for them. Getting a job after a year or more of unemployment is not unheard of. I  know many IT leaders who've done it. 

I welcome your thoughts on this matter: What do you think may be preventing otherwise solid, qualified IT professionals who are doing everything right in their job searches from landing jobs?  

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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