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Troubleshooting Your Job Search (Part 1 of 5): How to get a phone interview

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You’ve applied to numerous jobs, emailed your resume directly to hiring managers, and followed all the instructions with precision. Yet you don’t hear anything beyond the standard “Your application has been received” (at best!).

Applying to the Right Jobs

The first question to ask yourself is, “Am I applying for the right jobs?” You’ll find lots of job postings that look interesting and fun, but if your background doesn’t align with the qualifications, that could be a straightforward reason why you’re not receiving a response.

To be fair, there’s a difference between applying to something you’re wildly unqualified for (for example, if I were to apply for a Mechanical Engineer position) vs. something that’s in your field but might not be the right fit (too junior or too senior).

If you’re applying for jobs requiring fewer years of experience, you’re likely to be dismissed as “overqualified” or as someone who will want a higher salary than the range offered. If you can honestly admit that’s true, don’t apply! Wait for the right job.

But if you have reasons to want a job that requires less experience, use the cover letter to explain. Here’s a generic example: “I note from the job posting that you are seeking candidates with five years of experience. While I have more than the required amount of experience, this role aligns with my ideal career next steps and I am excited about this opportunity. I am confident that the compensation and job duties will meet my expectations.”

On the other hand, you may be applying for jobs that require more years of experience than you have. Please have a pragmatic conversation with yourself about how hiring managers and recruiters may be counting your experience. Fellowships, internships, and similar short-term positions may carry less weight than you think. Also, the job posting may specify a certain number of years of experience in that particular function or field. You may have ten years of total work experience, but the folks screening the resumes will only count the years spent doing work that is directly relevant to the position.

Finding Relevant Job Postings

You may be applying to the wrong jobs because you’re looking for postings in the wrong places. To use an example, I work in the nonprofit sector. Mainstream job boards like Indeed and LinkedIn have a lot of job postings, but they’re not necessarily the first place to seek out nonprofit jobs. Check out my favorite impact sector job boards/lists here.

In any sector, an excellent way to find jobs—particularly mid-career and beyond—is through the LinkedIn feed. Use the “Follow” button to ensure your feed includes organizations you’re interested in, as well as recruiters who specialize in your sector. Many job postings are posted to social media (the LinkedIn feed, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram) and not formally posted to a job board. This way, the post reaches a more targeted audience and is easier for anyone to share directly with a potential candidate. (And there’s no posting fee!)

The Importance of the Resume and Cover Letter

Assuming you’ve applied to the right jobs, the next thing to ask yourself is, “How does my experience look ‘on paper’?” It may be that your resume and cover letter are not communicating what you think they are.

If this is where you’re stuck, it’s a great idea to engage with a resume coach. I’ve received several direct testimonials about this. A couple of hours with a professional can result in a resume with a format and language that aligns best with the jobs you’re seeking.

In parallel, I’m a big believer in the importance of cover letters, especially in the impact sector. When the qualifications in your resume align clearly with the job responsibilities, your next step is to use the cover letter to communicate why you want to bring those professional skills to this specific organization or mission.