Does this sound like you? You comb through LinkedIn day after day finding jobs that you think are a match for your skills and experience. You optimistically prepare your resume, review your LinkedIn profile, even create a thoughtful cover letter. You take a deep breath while simultaneously saying a prayer and clicking your finger purposefully on the mouse - hurtling your intentions into the universe. You then wait (not so) patiently for a response or at least some sign of life. An indication that someone, anyone on the other end knows you're here and ready to serve. <crickets>
Or, even worse, you're contacted by a recruiter with an "exciting opportunity" that you just might be perfect for. The anticipation of this kismet is almost too much to bear. Despite the giddiness, you press on, act like a professional and stay calm and composed as you move through the phone interview step. Just when you think your luck has changed, you check your gmail for 1100th time the next morning for a response. Something. Anything. <tumbleweeds>
You can't help but wonder what you're doing wrong. You toss and turn wondering if you should have tweaked something here or highlighted something there. Maybe you didn't say the right thing? Maybe someone else had more training? Maybe you should just give up?
These are all completely common reactions. When we have to guess as to why we aren't moving forward with the hiring process, it's normal to move towards the all too familiar road to negativity. We've usually been disappointed so many times that we actually begin to expect rejection. We then slowly build one brick of rejection on top of another until we build a wall of self-doubt that's impenetrable by even the tiniest sprig of hope in our job search.
Well what if I told you that it's not your fault? What if I told you that despite you doing everything right, the odds were stacked against you? Without the luxury of feedback and transparency during your job search, I'm here to tell you what happens on the other side of the interview.
Below are three possibilities of why you aren't advancing in your search so you can let yourself off the hook and hopefully gain a new perspective.
1. It's 'Who You Know' Sometimes
This is a sad reality that needs to be acknowledged. Employee and network referrals hold a lot of weight during the interview process. It makes sense that hiring managers would rather rely on the opinion of someone they already work with before taking a chance on someone new.
In fact, I once interviewed for a role only to learn later that the company recruiter (who recruited me) was actually in consideration for the same role. Meta right? They were ultimately chosen for the role because the company decided to combine the People Operations (my role) and Recruiting function (their role) into one job. Since this person was already a tried and true rockstar within the organization, it made perfect sense to offer it to them. To their credit, the recruiter handled the situation professionally and with grace.
I completely understood the decision and would have made it myself if the roles were reversed. But if I didn't know the full story, I would have run all the way down the self-doubt rabbit hole to hide my head and lick my wounds. All the while blaming myself for how I could have navigated the process better. There was nothing I could have done differently in that case.
Please resist the urge to second-guess your worth and blame yourself during this process. It only tears you down and keeps you stuck in the mud. Keep your chin up and look ahead to the next opportunity because you never know what's around the corner. Clichè, yes. But very true.
2. Last Minute Restructure
This happens all of the time. I mean constantly. I know all too well because I'm usually part of the team assisting with the development of the organization as it morphs and grows. During the pandemic now more than ever, companies are struggling to pivot to the new normal. It's possible that positions are being combined like in my own example above, or eliminated quickly when more news of the economy breaks.
What keeps companies going is staying nimble and adjusting to the needs of their consumers, stakeholders, employees and current state of affairs. It's possible that a job you applied for yesterday has already been canceled, put on hold or the description and priorities have shifted. This is not your fault. But it could be a reason why you aren't moving forward.
3. Halo Effect
This one pains me the most to share. But it must be mentioned because it exists.
The Halo Effect is a psychological term that describes a a type of unconscious cognitive bias. In this case, a hiring manager may connect with a single aspect or trait of a candidate, leaving them blind to other traits that may be less desirable for the position.
For example, there could be certain characteristics that a hiring manager unconsciously values such as a warm smile, glasses, a certain accent. If a candidate with these attributes evokes a positive reaction initially, the hiring manager may ignore other necessary requirements that the candidate might be missing.
However, bias doesn't always have to be something that an interviewer has in common with a candidate. Rather, it could be as simple as regarding a certain skill above others.
For example, a candidate could have experience with a very specific tech stack that most people don't have, but the hiring manager while focused on this skill can't see that the candidate doesn't meet any of the other job requirements. A hiring manager will sometimes let this one piece of information outshine other important attributes of the job as well as other candidates, including you. Although you could have been a much better choice for the position, the hiring manager couldn't see what you had to offer because of their own biases.
There are ways that hiring managers can and should be trained to notice when they are grasping on to one characteristic or commonality and ignoring the rest. Even scarier, if the manager tends to choose candidates that are most like them, even with no ill-intention, a homogeneous and non-diverse environment will be created. For HR and People professionals, Unconscious Bias awareness is a must have function in your organization to avoid this phenomenon and to create an inclusive environment of belonging. My pick for a comprehensive program that can be tailored to your organizational needs is Paradigm.
I hope you now understand a few reasons why your job search efforts can be thwarted through no fault of your own. But, that doesn't ease the pain in the meantime. I know.
So how do you feel better while you wait? There are some actions you can take now to prepare for your big moment. You can try things like brushing up on your interview skills, reaching out to hiring managers and recruiters on LinkedIn, taking time to work on a personal project that brings you joy or simply reflecting upon how you'd like your career to take shape. These are all meaningful ways to level up during the "in-between". Here are a few more suggestions for you.
But for now, I'm beggin' ya here, please don't build a fortress of solitude around your job search disappointments. The truth is that no one can bring what you bring to the job and to the lives of those around you. There is value in understanding what you have to offer at your core. I know it doesn't pay the bills right now, but it will eventually. I promise.
Hang in there, my friend. Keep looking forward. Oh, and keep being perfectly YOU.