Written by Felix Chiu, BGE Career Services
The job-hunting process can be a very grueling and frustrating experience; especially when it seems like your application and resume are not getting seriously considered. There might be a multitude of reasons and factors that you are not even getting interviews. Here are just a few:
- Nobody even read your resume
- Another candidate was more qualified
- You are overqualified
What can I do about it?
It might seem a bit harsh, but some of these circumstances will be outside of your control. However, you can definitely prepare yourself against them.
- If your resume doesn’t stand out, you don’t stand out
- While it is true that your resume can get lost in the shuffle amongst hundreds of applicants, human resource managers do not always look at every single application starting from the top. Particularly in government job postings, it is recommended to apply as soon as the job is posted. Just because there is a set application deadline, that does not necessarily mean that HR will wait until that deadline passes to begin looking for a candidate.
- Many HR managers use Search Engine Optimization software or other automated programs that filter out and hone in on qualified applicants based on keywords. Consider writing a focus statement at the beginning of your resume to briefly summarize your skills as well as explain how and why your experiences in other fields will translate to the position you are applying for. If you have the experiences and skills required on the job posting, automated systems will search for them in your resume, and will also search for context regarding the skill or experience. For example, if the posting states that the applicant must be proficient with JAVA and SAS, the software will specifically search for when and how the applicant used JAVA and SAS.
How do I work my network?
- As important as it is to be aware of job postings and to send out applications in a prompt manner, the most successful job searchers are able to step away from the computer and build a network of relevant people that can aid in the job search. Some ways to get exposed:
- Join social (but relevant!) groups – Find people that you share common interests with and attend these meetings. You can find these opportunities through sites like meetup.com (new window) that provide a medium for people with similar interests to meet together for events. In the DC area, there are meetup groups for Statistical Programming (new window) and Biotechnology (new window). If there is a group of people in your field, attend these events and organically build relationships with them. They may or may not be able to help you right away, but perhaps if they hear about an opening down the line, they may be able to let you know.
- Set up an informational meeting – Networking can be extremely challenging in environments where you are surrounded by large numbers of strangers. If you are at a conference or special talk, see if you can have a brief conversation and obtain a business card of a speaker or special guest. This allows you to get into contact with that person in a more comfortable setting, where you can give them a thank-you message, or set up an informational meeting. An informational meeting is a slightly more formal form of networking where you can ask questions about the person’s career path, current position, or ways to position yourself to get a similar job. It is important not to rush prematurely into asking the person for a job, or even telling them that you are looking. It is more ideal if you can establish two to three contacts with the person before even bringing up the fact that you are on the job market.
- Are you on the outside of LinkedIn? – Many employers are now looking to applicants’ LinkedIn profiles before a face-to-face interview happens. Your profile might be the very first impression to your potential employer, so make sure that it catches the eye of the reader. Make sure you have an appropriate and high-quality professional headshot, a strong profile summary, and an explanation of your experiences that is both not too brief but not too detailed. Your LinkedIn profile is not necessarily an online upload of your resume.
I am overqualified for what I’ve applied for, but underqualified for the next-level position, what is one thing I can do?
- There are many online courses that you can take to broaden your skillset and show potential employers that you are capable of learning the skills needed to succeed at the next level. Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) can cover a wide range of subjects such as programming languages, software skills, and many other courses that can help contribute toward your appeal in the eyes of employers. Some examples of free or affordable sites that provide MOOCS include EdX, Coursera, Udacity, Udemy, and P2PU. Check out the upcoming free courses at EdX HERE (new window)!
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