August 22, 2008

Staying positive in the face of negative feedback

"Why can't I find a job? I have the skills and experiences that employers are looking for?"

"What's wrong with my resume? 20 applications and no bites?"

"How did they get a job? I could easily do their job?"

Ever find yourself asking yourself these, or similar, questions. If so, you aren't alone.

In fact, every job seeker will undoubtedly experience negative feedback during the course of their working career - unless they happen to join an organization due to a solid network and remain with that organization until retirement.

Over the course of my career as an employment counsellor, I've found that negative feedback from employers, which I consider to be an application that did not result in an interview, can come from a number of factors.

Most often, a negative response is due to an issue with the applicant's resume or it's due to applications received that clearly do not meet the requirements of the job.

And sadly, a number of people experience what I call "artificial negative feedback" because an employer never has the chance to review their resume as the position was quickly filled, most often with an internal candidate.

Regardless, having to deal with negative feedback is hard, especially if the person applying believes that they are the ideal person for the job and have all of the required experiences and skills.

With that being said, if you find yourself having to deal with a great deal of negative feedback, here are some things to keep in mind:

1) Follow-up on every job and every lead

The issue of following up on job leads and applications is something that I've discussed before (click here) and it bears mentioning again.

Usually, when a client would ask me why their resume wasn't attracting the attention of hiring managers or recruiters, I'd instantly ask if they had followed-up a few days after applying. More often than not, no follow-up phone call or e-mail was made.

I cannot stress the importance of following up. By simply making a phone call or sending an e-mail, you can pique the interest of potential employers. Better yet, by following up, you'll increase your chance of having someone search for and review your resume.

As well, following-up can instantly tell you if the job is promising or not. If it is, great, and start looking forward to an interview. If not, don't be discouraged - start looking again.

2) Re-examine the types of jobs you are applying for

Far too often, I find that students and youth get into a bad habit of applying for every job they see, regardless of experience required or other things, such as hourly pay and working conditions.

Usually, this pattern develops after a few unsuccessful applications. Rather than focusing on jobs right for them, those who fall into this pattern change their mantra from "a job that's right for me" to "any job".

This becomes problematic when you start applying for jobs that you are clearly not qualified for. It starts a vicious cycle because these companies will possibly bypass your resume, giving you another negative feedback experience, and the cycle will repeat itself over and over.

If you find this is what's happening to you, step back and take a critical look at the jobs you are applying for. Ask yourself questions, like, "Am I qualified for this job?" and "Should I be offered the job, am I likely to accept?"

As well, in the age of electronic applications, be careful not to blanket a group of online postings with the same resume. Even if you are qualified for the job, employers who screen your resume might question why it, along with your cover letter, weren't tailored to the specific job in question.

At the same time, be careful not to let this mentality take over you. If you start critically examining each job, you might begin to talk yourself out of applying for the job altogether. If you clearly aren't qualified, not applying for the job lets you focus on other jobs. But if you are qualified and let this mentality take over you, there's a chance that you might find yourself not applying for the job because you believe that because you lack something, you stand no chance - in cases like this, it is beneficial to apply, since hiring criteria can often be arbitrary.

3) Re-tool your resume and cover letter

This sounds like a no-brainer, but surprisingly, I found that many students and youth overlooked any potential issues with their resume or cover letter.

Just as I explained you should do with the jobs you are applying for, take an objective look at your resume and cover letter. Look for key areas that you can improve upon - a more punchy objective, more diverse skills, re-branded experience, etc.

These changes can be either small or substantial, depending on how much work you think your resume and cover letter need. I recommend making a few small changes first (diversifying your skills listed or your job duties) before making a substantial change (e.g. moving from a combination resume to a functional one). If you find that you still aren't satisfied, or you continue to get little feedback on jobs you've applied for, consider making a substantial change.

But before you make such a change, I recommend consulting with friends, parents, or career experts. Explain to them your motivation for changing either your resume or cover letter and see if they agree. If they do, great and you can move forward. If they don't, find out why and ask them for their honest and objective feedback - perhaps you won't need to really make any changes at all.

And like I said before, be careful that you don't over-correct your resume. You'll know you've hit this point if you constantly change your resume. While each resume can be tailored to specific jobs, overhauling your resume each time not only costs you time, but it also makes your job search more confusing.

4) Start expanding your network

Networking is the thing to do now. Get out there and let people know that you are looking for a job. Start with friends, family, neighbours, and teachers are go from there.

Make sure that when you approach them, you don't sound desperate. You can let them know that you are looking for a job, but don't tell them that the last 50 jobs you've applied for have resulted in no job offers.

And know that sometimes those in your network do not know of any opportunities. Rather than get discouraged, make sure you keep this connection open, because you never know what the future might bring.

5) Believe in yourself!

Simple enough, but so often forgotten. It's very easy to get down on yourself - after all, society is always telling us that there's something wrong with us - from our physical characteristics, to our clothes, to our smarts.

But when searching for a job, it is imperative that you have confidence in yourself. A lack of confidence can really shine through, be it when you are dropping off your resume, to when you are conducting an interview or follow-up phone call. And a lack of confidence is one sure job killer!

Essentially, it's important that you know and believe that you can land your ideal job. Finding a job is not easy - someone will not magically appear and give you an instant job.

But keep your head up, and keep positive. Positive energy will radiate through your resume, cover letter, and any contact that you have with a potential employer.

And if you need extra motivation, know that having a positive attitude is the attribute that hiring and human resources managers often see in a successful candidate - so take their lead and let the positive energy flow through every facet of your job search and you'll eventually find the perfect job for you!

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