Job Search Stuck In Neutral? What You Need To Know

At first glance, the U.S. economy appears to be in relatively good shape with fewer and fewer Americans stuck in a job search. According to most recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the current official unemployment rate is at 5.1 percent.

However, 5.1 percent represents roughly 8 million Americans, of whom 2.2 million are among the “long-term unemployed,” meaning that they have been in a fruitless job search for at least 27 weeks or more. Furthermore, economists and politicians alike debate what the true unemployment rate is, as the Bureau of Labor Statistics “uses surveys and statistical sampling to calculate how many Americans do or don’t work,” and does not include millions of Americans who voluntary are not in an active job search according to a recent article on Politifact.

For the millions of individuals classified as underemployed, recent reports have shed light on what today’s employers are looking for in potential candidates, and how applicants can adapt to have better success in the job searches. By examining a few key elements of how applicants are viewed by recruiters and interviews, the goal is to take back control of the job search process, and ultimately, the outcome.

GPAs And Test Scores Matter Less Than You Might Think

Traditionally, recent college graduates and young professionals have been taught that a strong academic track record and an impressive cover letter are the keys to a successful job search. However, a recent article on Forbes indicates that today’s employers are far less interested in those metrics than once thought when evaluating candidates.

“63% of recruiters ranked cover letters as the least important part of an applicant’s profile and 57% said GPAs were practically irrelevant. What mattered most? Eighty-seven percent of respondents said they cared about previous work experience, 88% prioritized ‘culture fit,’ and 51% said they thought references were very important.”

Hiring The Person, Not The Resume

Employers today increasingly appear to be relying on the face-to-face interaction with job searchers that occurs during the interview as a major part of their evaluation. Many see this as part of a growing trend among hiring managers of relying on a competency-based interviewing approach as opposed to hiring based on a resume or past accomplishments.

In an article on Interview Edge, Google’s senior vice president of people operations, Lazlo Bock, is quoted as saying that he looks for candidates who express “learning ability, emergent leadership, humility, and ownership — qualities we think trump a report card every time.”

Know Yourself Before Beginning A Job Search

Before embarking on a new job search, an advice column on U.S. News & World Report emphasizes that job seekers will find much more success in their search when they “take the time at the beginning to understand yourself, your goals and your value.”

If a job search has come up empty, applicants are suggested to step back, evaluate, and ensure that they can clearly articulate answers to specific questions about themselves and their career goals when speaking with interviewers.

  • What are your career goals?
  • How does the prospective job fit into those long term career goals?
  • What could you accomplish in the short-term or long-term in the position being applied for?

Employers today are more likely to engage in questioning that seeks to uncover how job searchers might handle certain situations if hired, and having the ability to confidently express those qualities is a critical element of any job search.

Beware Of Social Media

A recent survey from Jobvite indicates that 92 percent of recruiters now use social media as part of their hiring process. For those involved in a job search, the findings suggest that they need to be actively aware of the social presence they are projecting online. Sharing details about professional accomplishments and volunteer work is viewed as a positive, while poor grammar or sharing details of alcohol or marijuana use is considered to be a big negative.

However, simply deleting social profiles entirely, referred to by some as a “panic dump,” is not advised either, as some on social media suggest that such an occurrence might be viewed detrimentally during a job search, akin to a job gap on a resume.


[Image Credit: Justin Sullivan / Getty Images News]