Find Your Dream Job, Episode 325:
Why You Aren’t Getting Hired in a Tight Job Market, with Cathy Lanzalaco
Airdate: December 8, 2021
This is Find Your Dream Job, the podcast that helps you get hired, have the career you want, and make a difference in life.
I’m your host, Mac Prichard. I’m also the founder of Mac’s List. It’s a job board in the Pacific Northwest that helps you find a fulfilling career.
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In many communities today, there’s a labor shortage. To attract scarce workers, employers are giving signing bonuses and raising wages.
But for some workers, the job search is very different. They aren’t getting interviews, much less offers.
Cathy Lanzalaco is here to talk about why you aren’t getting hired in a tight job market and what you can do about it.
She’s the CEO of Inspire Careers. Her company helps new college graduates, executives, and professionals land jobs and create careers they love.
Cathy joins us from Buffalo, New York.
Well, Cathy, let’s get started. Let’s begin by talking about the job market. We’re hearing about labor shortages and large numbers of people quitting. You know, it’s being called the great resignation. But is this a tight job market for everybody, for all occupations?
Well, there are some differentiators, Mac. So, let’s first define what a tight job market means for those folks listening that don’t really know what that is. The concept of that is when the economy is really close to full employment and recruiting good candidates, talented candidates is difficult. Now, we know that COVID threw the entire job market into a whirlwind, and just to give you some perspective, in September, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the unemployment rate was at 4.8 percent. Alright, we know that not everybody’s always looking for a job there’s always some form of unemployment, and around four percent is about average. September of last year, 2020, at the height of the pandemic, it was 7.8 percent. So that tells you that so many more people have entered back into the job market, and so, the job market has tightened up.
But you mentioned the great resignation, Mac, and that is really what is feeding this labor shortage now, and I think it’s important for people to understand what impact that has on their job search.
Well, talk about that impact. What are you seeing in the work with your clients?
Well, you know, the great resignation is the hot topic of today, and the concept is that people are leaving their jobs and they’re exploring other opportunities. They believe they can do better. They believe new opportunities are out there, and all of that is true. But as these passive job seekers in most parts are flooding the market now, they weren’t intending to leave their jobs a year ago or two years ago. But now, what’s happening is people that weren’t originally going to be looking for jobs are out there, becoming your competition now. So now, you’ve got not just people that are unemployed but people that don’t necessarily have a stake in trying to find another job, but they are exploring, and if the right opportunity comes, they’ll take it. You know, which is a great thing if you’re in that type of position, and a lot of these positions are not people that we think about when we talk about what’s happening in terms of trying to find people for organizations. Right?
I mean, everybody’s talking about people that are doing service type of work whether it’s in health-care, whether it is in restaurants, warehousing, those type of things, we know how difficult it is in every market, in every city across the country to fill those. I mean, truck drivers, my goodness, nobody can find a truck driver to get behind a wheel anymore, causing all types of problems with the supply chain. But even at the higher professional and executive levels, a lot of those people are leaving those jobs, and that was never intended, so now they’re out there looking, too.
And that’s what’s causing the trouble.
Well, talk about the contradiction. Apparent contradiction there, though, Cathy, you’re talking about people leaving jobs, but the unemployment rate remains low. Are people competing with what you call passive job seekers? People who are in jobs but haven’t left yet. Why do you see this contradiction? Because if unemployment is so low, it should be easy to get a job, but for people who’ve been looking for a long time, why are they struggling?
That’s a really great point, and I think that’s the whole point is why people are struggling with that concept and why they thought they would have an easier time when they’re applying for jobs, and why they’re not getting those calls back. I mean, we’ve got two things happening here, we’ve got people that aren’t willing to work for minimum wages anymore, and that’s why, as we talked about a minute ago, the warehousing work and service work, restaurants, those types of things are very difficult. But those types of industries are making shifts in their business models to accommodate that.
But these other people we talked about, these passive job seekers, they are taking the jobs that are available, but they weren’t in the job market previously. So that’s where, when people say, “Gee, you know, I’m applying for all these jobs. You know, I don’t know why I can’t get the jobs that I want. I really thought that people were hiring.”
Well, yeah, people are hiring. My clients are getting hired all over the place. There’s a lot of opportunities out there, but there’s a lot more competition because people are out there looking, so it’s taking longer for people to find jobs than it did before because there is so much competition.
So you’ve got competition that isn’t reflected in the official unemployment rate. Can you paint a picture, Cathy, of who is having challenges finding a job? When we’re enjoying these historic low unemployment rates, do they have common qualities, or traits, or challenges?
Well, I think it’s less about what their traits are than, really, how they’re going about looking for the jobs, Mac. You know, when I work with clients that are looking to make shifts, whether they are passive or active job seekers, you know, if you’re gonna sit behind the computer screen, and you are making the assumption that every single job available is listed on Indeed, or Glass Door, or LinkedIn, that is going to take your search, and it’s going to multiple your search by another couple of months.
That is not where all the jobs are, and people that are relying on their job search for these job boards are gonna get frustrated because there are hundreds, and depending on the job, it might even be more than that, that people are applying online. People can apply for these jobs all over the world. So there’s really nothing to prevent people from applying for these. So that is the first reason that people have longer searches.
So people who are just focusing on online jobs are only seeing a portion of what’s available, and you said a moment ago, they’ve also got this hidden competition – these passive job seekers – who, as part of the great resignation, are actively looking for jobs or are open to recruitment or throwing their hat in the ring. Are there any other factors besides those two that listeners should be aware of?
Well, I think the other thing is doing the same thing over and over again is gonna get you the same results. So what I mean by that is if you’re a job seeker and you’ve been applying for jobs online, and you’re doing it for one month, two months, three months, and four, and you’re not getting the interest that you anticipated to get, then you need to shift up your strategy.
The first strategy may be that your resume’s not where it needs to be. I mean, if you’re not completely understanding about these ATS – Applicant Tracking Software, the keyword searches that are happening online, and your resume does not meet those standards, doesn’t have those right keywords, that’s not gonna get you through. But even if it does, let’s even assume that you’ve made an investment in a professional to help you do that, and you’re still applying for jobs on there. Again, it’s difficult to break through the crowds.
So what I tell people is you need to find a way to differentiate yourself, and to differentiate yourself from your competition comes in the form of being able to tell branded stories in your resume. Not just a good resume, but really one that responds to the problems that employers have and how you can help them solve that.
Making sure that you provide a cover letter when you’re applying for a job, and not just taking it as optional and making sure that you have a fully optimized LinkedIn profile. So that you give employers another avenue to review your materials and also allow recruiters to come to source you, and so they’re working for you while you’re sleeping.
So just applying online isn’t always the best way when you can really be having the tentacles out there. You can have a lot of different things working for you at the same time.
So you’ve got to learn good job search habits and skills. Is there anything you especially recommend to compete against passive job seekers when you’re working with someone who’s been out of work for a long time, particularly in this market?
Yeah, absolutely it’s a great question, Mac, and the number one thing that I recommend for those people to do is actively network, and network is the number one way that people get jobs, always has been, and I anticipate it always will be, and you need to talk to people. You need to be able to uncover people that are working at these organizations that you want to work at, and a little-known fact, targeting an organization is a far better strategy than just waiting for the right job title, quote-unquote, to come up online.
Terrific, we’re gonna take a quick break, Cathy. Stay with us; when we come back. We’ll continue our conversation with Cathy Lanzalaco about why you might not be getting hired in a tight job market and what you can do about it.
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Now, let’s get back to the show.
We’re back in the Mac’s List studio. I’m talking with Cathy Lanzalaco.
She’s the CEO of Inspire Careers. Her company helps new college graduates, executives, and professionals land jobs and create careers they love.
Cathy joins us from Buffalo, New York.
Now, Cathy, before the break, we were talking about why you might not get hired in a tight job market and what you can do about it, and you made the point that you gotta focus on good job search skills, particularly because if all you’re doing is responding to online positions, you’re only seeing a portion of the market, and you’ve also got to be aware of your competition, particularly passive job seekers, and networking is one way to compete with those passive job seekers. Are there other strategies that you recommend to your clients for competing with passive job seekers?
Yeah, really to hone your skills for the jobs that you’re looking for. So what I mean by that is, if you are in a technical position, making sure that your technical skills are really the state of the art for your search so, if you think that you’re particularly soft in a particular area, to spend time prior to the job search or even during it to strengthen those skills. Really, I mean, think about it, if it’s between someone out of work that’s actively job seeking, and someone else that has a job, which we call a passive job seeker, in many cases, you know, that old saying is actually true, is that you know, the best time to get a job or the easiest time to get a job is when you already have one. So really, that person may actively be engaging in improving their skills every day at work. So, you know, get those skills updated.
But also, you know, when I talk about networking, I mean not just, you know, reaching out on LinkedIn, although that’s super important, but I mean getting out and talking to people—setting up one-to-one meetings, really developing relationships. People still hire people, and if you’re uncomfortable talking to people, then you better figure out how you’re gonna get over that fear because that’s where you can really make a huge impression.
How do you help your clients get over that fear of reaching out to people they don’t know and talking to people that they’ve never met?
Ooh, that’s really good. I’ll tell you what I think is so very helpful, is to provide warm introductions to people. So what I mean is, job seekers, don’t be afraid to ask for an introduction to someone if you’re a little timid about cold calling someone, to say, “Oh,” you know, “I’d like to talk to you about your company,” “Oh, I would like to ask you more about the type of work that you do,” ask someone, a mutual connection, ask someone to help provide you an introduction. What a great way to be able to catch someone’s attention by having someone in their trusted network introduce you. Don’t be afraid to do that.
But if you’re too timid to even ask for that, then you need to be able to ask yourself why, and you need to be able to be more comfortable with communicating your message. I find that maybe that’s probably the problem with a lot of people, Mac, is they don’t know how to effectively talk about themselves, so they’d rather have the computers do the talking for them instead of having to talk one-on-one to people.
What’s your best tip for learning how to talk about yourself well when you’re doing a job search?
I think the best way to do that is to take a deep dive of reflection and figure out who you really are and what you have to offer. Develop your value proposition. What is your zone of genius? Where do you work best? What is the best part of you that you’re offering to an employer? And if you’re not sure what that is, ask your trusted circle of your own network. Ask your circle of trust is what I call that. Ask your friends, your family, your peers, previous people that you’ve worked with, and say, “What do you think I’m best at? What do you think that I do better than other people? Why is it that you hired me ten years ago?” You know, ask those questions and see what kind of feedback you get. Sometimes that will help spur your thought process.
What do employers think in your experience when they receive an application from someone who’s been out of work for three, six, or nine months especially in a market like this where news stories say help wanted signs are everywhere?
Well, I think they’re still a level of forgiveness or a curve, if you will, for people that were displaced during COVID last year, but I do think that those days are waning in terms of the expectation that, really, if you wanted to have a job by now that you probably could’ve gotten one. But the problem is, depending on the job you had before, you know, what has happened to those types of jobs in the meantime? A; lot of jobs have changed; they’ve morphed into different types of jobs since then.
But for people that have been out of work for six or nine months, what you have to be able to do is effectively explain what you’ve been doing within that time, and that doesn’t mean that you’ll, you know, owe them an explanation of every moment of your time. But what they’re really looking for is, what have you been doing to develop your skills, to improve your level of professionalism or the value that you will offer to them? That again, back to those passive job seekers, the people that are employed and are doing those jobs every day, they’re getting better every day. What have you been doing to get better every day?
So ideas for that could include taking online courses, attending webinars, getting certifications, networking, doing volunteer work. There’s a lot of things that people can do that have been out of work for a long time to help close those gaps and help bridge that experience.
Why does that matter to employers? What do they think when they hear the examples that you just shared?
Well, I think what it is, is it’s that old saying that everybody wants what everybody wants, and what I mean by that is, if you’re not working, why aren’t you working? So they may make the assumption that you have applied for a lot of jobs and for whatever reason, you’re not a desirable candidate, and that may not be true at all. But that is the impression that could be left with an employer if you have been out of work for a long period of time. Like, what’s wrong with this candidate? What am I not seeing? You know, what is the reason they haven’t gotten picked up? So really, somebody should have wanted them, and if they don’t, why not?
And so, that’s where the candidate really has to close that gap and be able to explain what they’ve been doing within that period of time.
Now there’s also people that have had serious health issues, or personal matters, you know, that caused them to be out of work, that may not have anything to do with COVID, and there are certain times where you can absolutely express that. I mean, if you’ve been a stay-at-home mom for five years raising your kids, you know, you can absolutely talk about that. But to also be able to talk about how you have prepared yourself to reenter the job market. That’s all employers are really looking for. Just tell them the story because if you don’t tell them the story, they’ll make it up for themselves.
So again, and lead with that idea which is, here’s what I want to do, and here are the steps I’ve taken during this period to accomplish that goal. It’s not that you’ve just been taking courses in the abstract; it’s in support of a goal that leads to that particular company.
I’m curious, Cathy, about personal matters. What is a professional way to talk about something like a health problem that you might be reluctant to share because it’s both personal and you might think it’s just a little awkward to bring it up in a job interview?
Yeah, I think there’s a limited time that you can do that. I don’t think it’s an appropriate conversation all the time. Right? The employers have an expectation on their end because of laws that are in place to protect job seekers that they can not ask about medical conditions and disabilities, and so forth. So you have to be cautious about volunteering those types of things.
But let’s just say that you had some type of medical problem that kept you out of work for a while, and if you’ve had that issue resolved, you can say that. You don’t even have to talk about what the issue was. But to be able to say, “Yes, I was out of work for the past nine months. I had a medical issue that is now one hundred percent resolved.” You could say that, or if you were home, again, raising children, or if you had a family member, a senior family member, you know, to say, “My father was terminally ill, and I took time off of work to help him through that period of time, and then after that, I spent a few months after that getting his estate in order,” and whatever. Perfectly understandable. You know, it’s not likely to happen again. Right? You’ve lost your father once. You’re not going to lose him twice.
And I would tell you that employers nowadays are having a new respect for that balance that candidates, employees need to have and that they are expecting in their employees. We all have lives outside of work, and that is something now that employers, the good employers, are responding to and that they won’t hold that against job seekers. But again, you know, you have to use that sparingly because nobody wants to hear that, you know, I have nine thousand medical problems, and if you hire me, I’m not likely to get through the first month of work.
Well, it’s been a great conversation, Cathy. Now, tell us what’s next for you?
It’s an exciting time for us at Inspire Careers. As the year is going by very quickly, we already are starting to work with a lot of college seniors getting ready for graduation. The spring is not that far away, and so we are working with numerous college seniors to help them prepare for their career launches in the next upcoming months, and really it is not too early to be submitting applications for jobs for graduation dates in April and May and June. So we’re helping them with their resumes, with their interview preparation, making networking connections, and getting ready to start putting those great degrees to work that they worked so hard for over the past four years.
Well, that’s exciting work. I know listeners can learn more about you and your work by connecting with you on LinkedIn, and I encourage them to mention that they heard you in the show, so you know where they’re coming from.
Now, Cathy, given all the great advice you’ve shared today, what’s the one thing you want a listener to remember about why you aren’t getting hired in a tight job market, and what you can do about it?
Differentiation. So do something, you know, be able to separate yourself out from the other candidates, whether it is with exceptional skills, whether it is because of the people that you have met or worked with. Maybe you’re taking a little bit of a different approach or getting off of the online systems, and you’re talking to people. Think differently to get different results.
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Next week, our guest will be Melanie L. Denny.
She’s an award-winning resume expert, nationally certified LinkedIn strategist, and international career speaker. Melanie is also the author of The Job Seeker’s Secret Guide to LinkedIn.
You’re ready to change careers. But how do you talk about what you accomplished in your old field and persuade employers that your skills matter in your new industry?
Join us next Wednesday when Melanie L. Denny and I talk about how to rewrite your resume for a career change.
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This is Mac Prichard. See you next week.