Why Is It So Hard To Get a Job?

I know there are millions of people unemployed right now and one of them broke through the email and message clutter the other day to ask me one important, blunt and direct question:  ”Why Is It So Hard To Get a Job?”

I thought I would take a stab at an answer.

!.  Companies are not hiring.  Their businesses are bad.  They are getting by with fewer people.  They were over-staffed and used the economic downturn to right-size their business.  They have replaced people with lower-cost solutions, either in India or in IT, same-same.  If you want a semi-political answer, the real answer is FUD.  F is Fear of the unknown, companies are asking what is around the corner? Their predictors are broken.  They don’t know how sales will be or if their banks will be there for them, next quarter.  And, contrary to popular opinion managers hate to fire people.  They do not want to go through it again.  U is uncertainity.  Business leaders don’t know about the new health care situation, their tax planning, or how the business plans of future prospects and customers.  D is for Doubt.  They are pessimistic about the future.  Business managers and leaders are, by nature (IMHO), forward thinkers, they want even crave to do more, to serve more customers, etc.  It is almost American.  But FUD is the basis for companies not hiring.

2.  Unmatched skills. At last count, there were about 600,000 jobs available on LinkUp.com. LinkUp is our job search engine that only finds jobs off company websites.  The point is, there are real jobs out there—but certainly not enough for the millions out of work.  But companies are being very specific about the skill set of the people they do hire. If you are lacking in marketable skills, you are going to have a hard time of it.  It used to be that companies would hire for attitude and train the skill.  With so many skilled people looking, with great attitudes too, those without one or the other, are going to get left behind.

3.  Unrealistic expectations. It is difficult to lose a $75,000 middle manager job and even think of a $12/hour job that won’t pay the rent.  I don’t know the answer for you but efficiencies and productivity improvements mean those jobs are just not coming back.

4.  You are not good at serious job searching.  Truth.  You don’t do it often enough.  It is the worst thing to happen, after a death or divorce.  You are shell shocked, and not used to total and constant rejection.  I understand that there is a grieving process to go through.  Still, statistics show that you spend less than an hour a day job searching.  Finger snap to the side of your head.  It is going to be just like a job, ie, 8 hours a day. Research, network, solve a company’s problem, practice your answers, join some support groups, read, ask for help and advice, whatever.  Do volunteer work. Even when you do get that opportunity, it is hard to shake the feelings of negativity.  Companies can see it, every time.   So, dry your eyes princess, and get started.

5.  You are in the church pew, looking at the people on both sides. The preacher’s message is good, IF ONLY these two ying-yangs get it.  There are lots of oustanding career advice givers out there, but you do have to read AND understand AND do it.  Sometimes…with all the pressurefrustrationrejection…you forget.  In other words, the advice out there is for the other guy, not you.  How has that been working for you?–smartass me asks.

6.  Frankly, Frank, you are clueless, your shoes need shining, and you are kinda unlikeable.  Someone had to tell you. The good news is that it (you) can fix it and improve.  You have to if you want to win this job searching game.  Start here.

7.  Your city or job can’t support so many people like you. You can either move or learn a new skill to become more marketable.  Eight-track tape player repair MIGHT be a job again at some point.  And downtown Detroit just might become Austin, TX, but while you are waiting for either…well, don’t forget to pay the cable bill.

8. The Law of Unintended Consequences. We want to be protected from bad things and bad people. Let me tell you a true story so you see how this contributes to the overall situation.  I have a friend who, along with his son, had a great idea for a small coffee and donut shop.  They leased an old submarine shop and basically gutted it.  New ceiling tile to floor tile, they dramatically improved the space.  They even re modeled two customer bathrooms, brand new Kohler sinks and toilets.  The City Inspector came out, and made them remove the Kohler toilet because it was not ADA certified.  ”Oh really,” says Kohler…the largest plumbing manufacturer in America…”Our toilets are out of compliance?”  The city inspector, reportedly the kid everyone bullied in grade school, said “Yep, remove it and buy another one.”  My friend just spent $200,000 of his life savings on this new idea…ended up hiring 7 people…and tells this story not in a way to get sympathy but as an indicator or how hard it is to get something started.  Oh, by the way, he is getting some tax credits, for being a new business, and hiring some people.  Seven hundred bucks.  Big whop.

9.  You don’t understand some basic things. There are companies hiring who don’t tell their HR department.  Suppose you are a company with declining sales and in walks a hotshot sales person.  They will hire him.  Or the CEO keeps asking what departments are doing about social media, and someone in this random meeting just remembered having coffee with you, where you convinced him about your social media skill.  Introductions are made, jobs are gotten and HR follows up with the New Employee packet.  Your desire for a job where you contribute, develop your passion is nice, but it is somewhat naive.  Your attitude or skill should be that you can make contributions whereever you land…and be passionate about it, too.  Lastly, you need to solve problems for whoever you work for.  The more you are a fixer and helper, and can PROVE it, the more likely it will be that you get that job.

10.  Generally speaking, HR departments are overworked and the last thing they want is not another bushel basket load of resumes.  They have tools that search out key words on your resume.  And,there are literally hundreds of people applying for that one job.  HR cannot, or will not, be able to tell that you are awesomely charismatic or that you can be trusted to mill around smartly at the Christmas party.  It is especially hard to get a job if you only depend upon HR to be your advocate and helper.  It ain’t going to happen.

11.  Everyone has a story, they have not heard yours yet. You have friends, a spouse, shirttail relatives who all like or love you.  Who do they know? Why not tell your story in an interesting and meaningful way to someone who will pay you to “hang?” Putting your story in context, hopefully, showing the employer how your story can help them requires some amount of effort and practice.  Go see this brief video to help you get started.

12.  You have not helped them hire you. You show up late to the interview, not helpful.  You are wearing all your iron, not helpful.  You don’t know the industry words well, not helpful.  You are acting too cool, like you don’t care one way or the other, that is not helpful.  Help them hire you. Align yourself with their bias.

13.  It is the internet. Baby boomers like me are a bit stymied.  We create businesses the old fashioned way:  Great idea, investors invest in us and the idea, we go hire people, and build stuff.  That is our model.  The new model–good idea hatched in the dorm room, html it, try it, fix it, try it once again, then if it doesn’t work, go get another idea.  Then, repeat.  It does not require new hires, a new building, or equipment or more to the point, money.  No kidding, I have two incubated ideas on the shelf.  After a career of start ups, I am pretty sure these will work.  But they are still on the shelf here, just waiting for better times or timing.  Why will I risk so much when I am not sure about the future..or why will my investors?  I am getting my start-up mojo by lending some experience to these dormroom future Mark Zuckerbergs.  (cartoon by Tom Gauld)

14.  You are not a very good talker. Not all of us are super articulate, and we all fumble interview questions.  If you do fumble an interview question, move on.  If you fumble badly, it is legal to call or email back.  Just be forthright, “Here is what I meant to say..”  No one begrudges you that.  But there is no excuse to bungle those questions that you know are coming, like “Tell me about yourself.”  You should have this answer nailed, practiced and everything.  It contains anecodotes about your past that relate to this job.  BTW, did you see Derek Anderson, the Arizona Cardinals QB, completely come unhinged when a reporter asked him “Why were you laughing on the sideline?” during last Sunday’s ass kicking.  Instead of saying something like “My teammate  just said something trying to make me feel better, so yes, I smiled…”  he went all defensive.  He looked bad.  So much of the interview is knowing what to say, thinking a bit on your feet.  You can do it, just takes research and practice.  And no one else does either.

15. You miss the knockout questions because you are not a very good listener. Employers are a cagey bunch.  They know you practice, they know that you might look good in a pressed suit, but do you listen? Or are you too concerned about what you are going to say next?    We used to have two simple knockout questions.  (Keep in mind most companies are trying to find reasons NOT to hire you.)   I would call job candidate after the first interview and ask to meet early in the morning.  If there was the least bit hesitation in his voice, a red flag would go up.  Sorry, but that’s the truth.  One recent college graduate even told me, “Can we make it a bit later, I don’t normally get up by 7:30?”  The other one, which almost always worked was, “Will you call me back between 2:30 and 3 this coming Thursday afternoon, after you have had a chance to think this interview over, and let me know if you are still interested?”  It would amaze you how many would NOT make this call.  I am talking the people who wanted the job, they would tell us later, the didn’t know it was Thursday or that the time was “set in stone.”

2 Responses to Why Is It So Hard To Get a Job?

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  2. Bill December 27, 2010 at 2:59 pm #

    No doubt the challenge is great and the person must match it. Due to shrinking, dynamic and changing markets you must re-purpose or re-design yourself to a new world. Circumstances vary greatly from one situation to another and change in general is harder the older you get. However, determination and the will to succeed will open the doors. This is nothing new just changing faster than in the past. Do not think the circumstances will change for you. Accept the challenge. Decide where you want to be, identify what you must do to get there then do it.