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If unemployment is so low, why can’t I find a job?

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The Bureau of Labor Statics recently released a comparative report showing that Colorado has some of the lowest unemployment rates in the country, at only 2.6% unemployment as of April 2017. [source: https://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/metro.pdf] In fact, that’s the state’s lowest rate since the record keeping began in 1976.

However, many people are still struggling to find meaningful work. Normally, a low unemployment rate helps the job seeker, as there is less competition. However, because of the way that the modern job search has evolved, even people who easily found work in tougher markets are still struggling to find a good job.

What is going on here?

  1. Unemployment figures address the entire market, not necessarily your industry or experience level.

In Colorado, the top occupations by number of job ads for April 2017 are registered nurses, truck drivers, retail workers, food/ restaurant positions, customer service, administrative support, and general maintenance workers [source, Colorado LMI Gateway: https://www.colmigateway.com/gsipub/index.asp?docid=400 ]. In general, the jobs that have the most openings are easier to land, as the need is great.

However, if you are seeking something outside of these industries or experience levels, you are still facing a significant amount of highly qualified competition.

For example, the IT industry in the Denver and Boulder area have been pretty hot for quite some time. Once again, there are more lower level positions or technical positions – both network system administrators and software developers show in the top 10 job ads. But if you are seeking a project manager, senior administrator, mid-career technical or management position or executive leadership role, the competition is still stiff.

  1. Employers are relying more heavily on automated screening systems: the dreaded Applicant Tracking System (ATS).

Computerized screening tools have not only become more efficient, they have become more affordable as well. This means that more companies are using the ATS to manage and screen their candidates. Unfortunately, this means that qualified applicants are still getting cut because of a lack of KEY WORDS.

Anytime you apply to a job online there is a good chance that you are being screened by a computer before a human being even sees your resume. To do this, they rely on the key words within the resume itself. However, computers are dumb and may not recognize similar terms.

For example, if the job description says, “Microsoft Office” but your resume says, “Word and Excel,” the computer may screen you out because the terms don’t match.

One of the worst cases I saw of this was just a few months ago when I was speaking at an IT Career Day. An audience member pointed out that he spoke to the recruiter after submitting his resume and discovered that the ATS had disqualified him as a viable candidate because he didn’t have a Bachelor’s degree. In fact, his resume stated, “BS in Computer Science, University of Colorado.” As humans, we understand that this is the same thing, but in this case, the computer was not configured to recognize the abbreviations.

  1. There is a disconnect between your LinkedIn profile and your resume.

If you are a professional seeking a job, you need a good LinkedIn profile. 90% of employers will go check out a candidate’s profile before bringing them in for an interview [source: LinkedIn, 2016]. If there is something off, you may lose the opportunity.

While it’s not a good idea to make your LinkedIn profile a carbon copy of your resume, there are some things that recruiters and HR departments specifically check:

  • Consistency on the facts of your work history: dates, titles, companies, and locations
  • Consistency in the education
  • Well-written summary section
  • Number of connections
  • Number of recommendations and for what jobs
  • Any volunteer work
  • Professional development, such as ongoing classes, courses, or professional organizations
  1. You are giving too much information.

Some people might consider this ageism. Others call it “overqualified.” Whatever the case, it can be challenging to break into a new job if you have a lot of experience. This is why most resumes only address 10-15 years of experience. Similarly, you don’t have to list the date of graduation on your resume or LinkedIn profile, especially if you obtained your degree 20 years ago or more.

Conversely, if a younger worker is still listing every job since high school, that’s overkill and usually not relevant. If you have been out of school for over five years and you have professional experience, listing your grade point average or specific classes becomes less important.

No matter what your circumstance, everything on your resume must be supportive of the job you actually want – any skills, achievements, or responsibilities that fall out of that target can be distracting to the recruiter. Show your strengths in a strategic manner instead of making them sift through a ton of irrelevant data. Remember, you only have 20 seconds to make that first impression with your resume. Be clear, be precise, and be relevant.

  1. You aren’t reaching out to hiring managers.

HR departments are notorious for cutting applicants – in fact, that is their job. They don’t hire anybody. It’s the department managers that make the final decisions. Thanks to tools like LinkedIn and other social sites, it is easier to find the decision makers than ever before.

If you aren’t taking the time to track down hiring managers, keep in mind that your competition is. It’s not enough to throw your resume at the HR department and hope for the best. Even in a hot job market like Colorado, you must outperform the competition and proactively network to land those crucial interviews.

Want a see how your resume stacks up to the competition? Visit my website to schedule a  free resume review: http://personaltouchcareerservices.com/contact

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About the Author:

Since 2004, Donna has been teaching job seekers of all levels effective job search strategies. In 2009, she published her book "Get a Job Without Going Crazy: a Practical Guide to Your Employment Search." Donna is based in Denver, and has presented workshops in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Dallas. She continues to work with job seekers across the country.
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