Ask LH: Why Can't I Get A Job Interview?

Hello Lifehacker, I've been looking for a job but I've had no luck in finding one. Wherever I send out resumes, it seems like there's always someone with more experience or flexible schedule. I believe I have good knowledge in IT support both on hardware and software, but I have yet to finish my courses. It's been a while and I'm feeling hopeless. Can you give me some advice? Thanks, Hard At Work

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Dear HAW,

It's common to experience a dry spell when job hunting. It could be due to market conditions, an influx of high-quality applicants or just plain bad luck. But don't lose heart! Anyone can improve their chances of landing a job — you just need to identify the areas that require a bit of tweaking.

From your email, it sounds like you're not getting many callbacks, which suggests your resume and/or cover letters might need some work. Instead of treating these as a formality to get the ball rolling, you need to be more strategic with them. Remember; this is your first chance to sell yourself and stand out from the crowd. This is where the job interview technically begins, so give it the attention it deserves.

This model resume from professional career advisor Amanda Augustine is definitely worth a look: it highlights 19 key elements that can help your resume outshine others. Some noteworthy tips include avoiding unnecessary pronouns, quantifying your achievements with specific details and listing work history in reverse chronological order.

You should also take some time to secure a solid referees list — which means finding semi-relevant professionals who are willing to vouch for you. Your referees don’t necessarily have to be from within the same industry; rather, they should be able to speak to the quality of your work/character and highlight skills that carry across multiple sectors. As a general rule, try to concentrate on people who hold a senior position in their line of work and who you can actually trust to sing your praises. Three or four should be plenty.

You can find some additional tips in this resume writing guide which highlights six of the most common resume flaws and how to fix them. For even more advice, head to the resumes section of our website, which you can find here.

If you lack relevant work experience, you'll need to put extra effort into your cover letter to convince them you're worth considering. Naturally, you should customise the cover letter for every position you apply for rather than recycling the same generic statements.

Read the job listing carefully and tick off each skill that the employer is looking for. In your cover letter, address each of these specifically. Be sure to list the programming languages and IT technologies you're proficient in, as well as any relevant certifications you've earned. (For advice on certifications, click here, here and here.)

Once you get that elusive callback, the next hurdle is the actual interview. Our advice here is to be yourself and come prepared. You need to treat every question seriously because the answers are all being assessed. (For example, many interviewers begin by asking the applicant to tell a little about themselves and their hobbies. This is more than just breaking the ice — the interviewer may be checking your communication skills and how confidently you present yourself.)

One good strategy is to finely hone a few workplace anecdotes that showcase your strengths as an employee. It could be an occasion where you improved productivity, worked well with a particularly difficult person or took on extra responsibilities for the company. There are bound to be questions during the job interview that these stories will be a perfect fit for, which will cut down on improvisation and nervous rambling.

As with any test, knowing the type of questions that will be asked ahead of time can be a huge drawcard. This infographic outlines the logic and purpose behind 19 common interview questions, which can help you to formulate good answers. You can also find advice on answering particularly tricky interview questions here and here. For even more tips, head to our Interview and Job Search sections.

On a final note, you should be able to take solace in the fact that IT support has a relatively high turnover rate. As long as you continue to persevere, the odds will eventually fall in your favour.

See also: What Shouldn't You Mention On Your Resume | How To Write A Resume That A Recruiter Will Notice And Love | Customise Your Resume To Your Profession

Cheers Lifehacker

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    I had the same problem for several months after moving state.

    I decided to change my resume a few times & took a new approach to my cover letter. By the third change I was getting call backs, and had a new job within a week.

    It gets horribly disheartening after a while & damages your confidence in your own abilities. If you're having problems keeping your confidence try getting a certificate in your chosen field.

    The point that most tend to ignore is that majority of the positions that are advertised (in larger corporations and establishments) generally have someone that is in the acting role. The positions are opened just to make the person permanent not to get any new hires.

    The other point is that the same position is advertised by agencies over and over again, so there is no way to know if this is the same position that you applied for with another agency or not.

    The last point is that many recruiters do not even understand a resume, however they throw buzzwords around to sound knowledgeable. It's like a child in kindy trying to recruit a Teacher for Uni.

    Writing Selection Criteria and addressing the positions is a huge waste of time and applicable only in Australia, while in other countries the HR people actually do some work when they receive a resume not make the candidate work for it. For those that are out of state or new arrivals, they need to understand how things work in that particular state/locality/industry. That is the first impediment towards landing a job interview.

    Retaining the job can warrant a manual in itself. Good luck.

    With me it would be because you have poor spelling and bad grammar.
    If you cannot spell correctly in your resume or the cover letter.... in the bin, don't care who you are.

    Apart from the obvious directions given to you in the position description and the advertisement about key selection criteria needing to be address. Do that!

    Pro tip - if we all have these 19 key elements we don't outshine anyone....

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