Are you applying for roles but never hearing back?

Less than 3% of candidates that apply to job boards get a reply, with 2/3’s of those the standard “Thanks for applying…” or “Sorry but…” email. As someone who has hired hundreds of professionals, I can tell you from experience that employers are bombarded with applications. It’s administratively costly to personalize a response to anyone except for the candidates they feel are qualified for an interview.

Are you concerned your “experience” is a problem (i.e., age)?

First, most employers are not committing age discrimination. There are several factors in play, the big one being that with technology and changing roles, even “experienced” or lead roles only require ten years of experience. That puts professionals in their early 30s in play for many positions. As a result, they are adding to the number of potential candidates available.

Still, trying to figure out how to stand out?

You understand that despite our government and media telling us how great the job market is (and in some ways, it is), many people are applying for good jobs. So how do you get the employer’s attention?

Before sharing some insights, I want you to know that your challenges are NOT YOUR FAULT; this is a broken process, and everyone is doing it wrong. However, the good news is that there is a clear opportunity for those who apply different approaches and find the tools and support needed to compete differently.  

  1. STOP applying for every job you think is a close fit.

One of the reasons our job search process is broken is that applying is so easy. Being un or underemployed can lead to desperation for many resulting in clicking “Apply” as much as possible. You tell yourself…” Something has to work?” Aggressive applying wastes time and could burn your bridges because if you apply to multiple roles at the same employer, you could be tagged and blocked by HR and Recruiters. Instead, invest your time into creating a Plan and focus your efforts.

  1. Define a Job Search Plan

For Executive and Senior Professionals who have experience crafting business plans, leading business strategy, and executing it – apply those skills to this challenge. If you have been out of the job market for years, do not underestimate how it’s changed, and update your strategy. This Blog gives some ideas and for a simple outline of the process, use this:

  • Discovery – get the clarity and focus you need for the roles you need or want.
  • Branding – Your Resume, LinkedIn Profile, cover letters, and networking are all tools that convey your Brand.
  • Job Search Techniques – This blog address one technique – using job boards, only 30% of jobs are posted. 70% are not – the hidden job market – especially for leadership and executive roles. Stay tuned or reach out for more on that approach.
  • Interviewing – you worked so hard to get to this point; are you prepared? Are you able to “Close” the deal? Today’s employers are leveraging multiple tools – phone, video, panel interviews, behavior interviewing, etc. beware of how to excel at these methods. Find some help doing a mock interview where you can get honest feedback.
  • Mentoring – invest in yourself and get help. One word of caution – don’t rely on friends or family – you need someone who understands the job market and search process and will tell you what it is.
  1. Put your HR hat on and do your skills and qualifications checklist.

One of my essential tips is to put yourself in the employer’s shoes. Get clear on what they want. What’s remarkable is that most employers provide a reasonably good job description – bullet points with critical skills, qualifications, and duties. Treat that as a checklist and objectively walk through each and rate yourself. Are you less than 80% qualified? Maybe it’s not a good fit. Ideally, you’ll be closer to 90%+. Forget those job boards that try to tell you how skilled you are; they are just selling engagement, not matches.

  1. Employers hire Experts – Brand yourself as One.

Hiring managers need team members to help them solve problems. It’s that simple. Your Resume, LinkedIn Profile, Cover letters, and networking are all tools to showcase your Brand. While your Resume can be more to the point of skills, qualifications, and accomplishments, use these other tools to communicate your WHY, MISSION, and VALUES. Many of you may have had a part in helping your employer define and express theirs; do it for yourself. Be a “Business of One” to help get your message and value proposition out there.

  1. Accomplishments – Accomplishments – Accomplishments

Focus on the challenges you solve, how you solve them, and the results you have delivered. Use this basic formula to highlight your accomplishments: COAR- “Challenges” provide the “Opportunity” for “Action” and get “Results.” Use numbers to quantify, give scope, and scale your accomplishments wherever possible. That can be challenging but so powerful. Highlight your best accomplishments at the top of your Resume and LinkedIn profile while networking. And yes, be comfortable “professionally” bragging about yourself.

  1. Create a Resume that is easy to scan and read.

First, most professionals and ALL executives should own the creation and editing of their resumes. It’s a skill you need to have. That’s not a criticism of writers. Excellent grammar, storytelling, formatting, etc., are essential. But realize resume writers serve candidates, not employers. Another tip, if anyone says they can write a resume and guarantee it will get through an ATS (Application tracking system)… run. No one can guarantee that. Some essential tips for improving the scanning of your Resume are to keep it simple, use one font, no italics, use font size above 11 points, use single columns, and no graphics. If you have more than ten years of experience, two pages are OK. The biggest tip is writing it to be quickly scanned and read. Recruiters take 6 seconds to scan a resume and determine if it’s worth reading. Make sure they can tell what job you want, your critical skills and qualifications, and can quickly scan your work experience in 6 seconds. Draw them in with accomplishments.  

  1. Connect with Hiring Managers in one of two ways and ask for an interview
  • Research the company and hiring managers and discover compelling – emotional connections

Part of your research into where to apply should include identifying why you are a good fit for the company. What connection do you have with them? Do you believe in their mission, products, leaders, what? Do you have a connection with the Hiring Manager – research their public social media channels to see what they talk about or follow, and look for a connection. Use this information to draft a letter with a compelling reason you would like to work with the company. Use some emotion. When you write that letter, write it conversationally – like you are in front of them talking. Be yourself. Get away from that standard dry cover letter and focus on why you want to work at that company.

  • Focus on key accomplishments – challenges you have solved, how you solved them, and the result.

Another approach is to focus on one or two critical accomplishments that will compel the hiring manager to take action. Hiring Managers, good ones, want to build a team of problem solvers and bring value. 

  1. Invest in Yourself – It Takes Confidence and a Growth Mindset.

Remember to consider the benefits of wellness and mindset to your career and your search. A job search can be stressful. Take a portion of your time; an hour a day can be massive. But even if you only have 5 minutes to invest, it will make a big difference. Meditation, exercise, yoga, and journaling are some of the best mindfulness practices. Building your Confidence, determination, and strength to be the best you come across in all areas of your search.

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About David McKnight and NotionPath.

Thank you for reading, and I hope you found value in this article; if so, please comment and share it with your network. I have spent 20 years as a CEO, COO, and CFO, and the last several years focusing on building teams, recruiting, and Career Mentoring. A few years ago, I experienced an 18-month gap for a job. Since then, I have been on a mission to help professionals and executives better understand the challenge of a job search and bring tools and solutions to serve executives, professionals, and employers who NEED top talent.  


I provide mentoring in this process and am happy to offer a consultation to explore the options of jump-starting your search process. Please follow this link and schedule your complimentary appointment.