Your Biggest Obstacle to a Job Search: YOU

job search PortlandIt’s a tough job market out there.  What jobs exist are few and far between, and oftentimes, it seems like a never-ending case of chasing an elusive tiger’s tail in pursuing them.

But given the fierce competition for these openings, if  you are constantly getting no responses to the countless applications and résumé submissions, instead of blaming everyone else and the economy, maybe it’s time you took a tough love look at yourself.

Are you the one thing holding yourself back?


Here are some tough questions you might want to ask before sending in that next application:

Is your résumé REALLY that good?
  Informally, I have been asking human resource managers and recruiters their opinion, and the results are in.  Around 85-90% of everyone’s résumé are awful.  So many times, potential clients have emailed me their documents and reassured me that they are very happy with their résumé and it just needs a few tweaks, but when I open it up on my screen, it is clear that this document alone represents a significant barrier.  Buy a “how-to” résumé writing book or hire a writer, but whatever you do, invest time and money in doing it right – the rewards will be immediate. Don’t just count on what you know now about how to write a résumé to carry you forward.  Most of the time, it is incorrect, which is why most résumés are so awful.

Do you know about Applicant Tracking Systems? If not, then you’d better read up, and fast. That could the single determining factor as to whether your résumé advances to a real live human being versus being tossed out by a computer who can’t match your skills up with the job requirements.

Are you thinking too highly of yourself?  Most people are well-grounded in what they offer, but I have seen, from time to time, a lost soul who clearly sees themselves performing in a much greater role that what they are actually qualified for… and this gap comes across as loud and clear on the other end.  Don’t overreach your abilities. Just don’t.

Are you selling yourself too short? The stamp of being “overqualified” usually is the kiss of death for many applicants; your best route to job search success to align your efforts/activities around positions that most closely match your skills and experience.  Sometimes, however, there simply aren’t any jobs in your current skill set; that may beg the question of whether you should “dumb down” your résumé.   Sometimes, that works, but instead, it is much better to examine other similar jobs that you might be able to capitalize on your transferable skill sets versus taking a step backward in title and earnings.

Is the job something you LIKE to do versus CAN do?  Many applicants, particularly new workers / graduates, start their job search off by looking for employment that sounds “interesting” to them, but oftentimes neglect to check the requirements to see if they even have any of the necessary skills.  This is the toughest and most honest part of the job search process: “What am I actually QUALIFIED to do?” If you can answer this part, you’ll have much better luck.

Are you holding out? There’s always the irresistible lure of a potentially better job offer lurking around the next corner, but there oftentimes comes a point where you have to make a tough decision: taking a lesser palatable job now because there is no guarantee a better one is coming down the pipeline anytime soon.

Do you have a network? Shy or not, you’ll need one of these to make connections in target companies. So many job offers result from person-to-person connections versus job boards that investing time in building meaningful network is really where you need to be expending your energies.

Are you up to date? Being so busy on the job means that things like professional development and how you are learning new on-the-job skills often fall by the wayside. What are you doing to keep yourself updated, and more importantly: relevant?

The more you can get out of your own way in searching for a job, the more success you will enjoy!

Photo By Pen Waggener (Flickr: Economic Landscape) [CC-BY-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons