Sometimes, it's painfully easy to figure out why you didn't land the interview. Case in point: The 1991 cover letter I wrote to one "Mr. Wooward" instead of the correctly spelled Mr. Woodward. He sent it back to me with a circle around my fatal mistake.
Most of the time, though, it's much more difficult to pinpoint why you're not getting called for interviews. But if it keeps happening, you've got some detective work to do. Here are three key suspects you'll want to investigate, either on your own or with the help of a counselor at your school's career center:
Your Resume and Cover Letter
Maybe your resume and cover letter aren't laced with mistakes, but if employers find even one or two errors, you're toast.
And maybe your resume and cover letter are grammatically perfect, but they won't get you anywhere if they're not persuasive. Examples and specifics are crucial, as are an eye-pleasing design and details regarding your key skills and accomplishments.
Finally, if you've been sending out the same resume and cover letter to every employer, you might as well stop wasting your time. In many cases, employers will quickly toss one-size-fits-all documents.
The Jobs You're Applying For
There is such a thing as aiming too high. If you don't have the skills, experience and credibility a particular job requires, you'll be dismissed from consideration -- quickly.
For example, if you're 22 years old and just finishing your bachelor's degree in journalism, you're not going to land an interview for the head writing job at a major daily newspaper. (You guessed it: I foolishly attempted this in 1991.)
The Way(s) You're Applying
"Consider your channels of distribution," said award-winning speaker and business columnist Elizabeth Freedman, principal of Elizabeth Freedman & Co. and author of "The MBA Student's Job Seeking Bible." "For example, are you only applying for jobs on campus or online? If so, you're making things tough on yourself, because when you only apply for jobs through these passive channels, you're competing against lots and lots of people for a single opportunity."
You'll be far better off diversifying your job search instead of constantly competing with hundreds or sometimes thousands of other job seekers by restricting yourself to online or print job ads.
Remember: It May Not Be You
You'll boost your own psyche by remembering job-search rejection can be utterly beyond your control.
Once in a while, a company will opt not to fill an open position after all. Sometimes a company already has an internal candidate for the position but is running an ad to cover its bases legally. And much more often than you might realize, rejection isn't so much a case of you not measuring up as it is too many others being exceptional.
"It's such a numbers game that sometimes there are lots of 'perfect' candidates," says Brad Karsh, a former recruiter for advertising giant Leo Burnett and author of "Confessions of a Recruiting Director." "It wasn't uncommon for me to get 400 resumes for one job at Burnett. I know there were probably 50 candidates who could do the job, but I could only pick a handful to interview."
You can increase your chances of being among this handful of chosen candidates by critically evaluating your job-search tactics and tools -- and, if necessary, changing your ways.
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