6 Reasons You Might be Getting Stuck in Your Job Search

The job search process can be exciting with many possibilities to explore, but it’s also not always entirely clear why things aren’t moving forward, which can make it difficult to know what to change. Below are three milestones along the way to landing a job or internship, along with a few possibilities for why you might be stuck at that stage.

I’m not getting invited to interview

If you’re applying for roles and not getting any interviews, here are a couple of possibilities why:

1. Your resume isn’t customized to the role. If you’ve had your resume reviewed via VMock, the CDO, and other folks including Core Fellows, alumni in the field, etc., then your resume is likely to be generally strong. Still, even strong resumes may need to be customized to the role you’re applying for. This takes more time and effort, but it yields better results rather than treating the job search as a numbers game or what we call “spray and pray”: I’ll apply to a lot of jobs (spray) and hope I get interviews (pray). While you don’t want to pin all of your efforts and hopes on one job, applying to too many likely means you don’t have the time to really customize the resume and, where applicable, the cover letter.

Solution: Narrow down and clarify the target roles you want to apply to, so that you can balance quality with quantity and put the time and effort into customizing your resume and, where applicable, your cover letters.

2. Your resume isn’t a strong fit for the role.
This may be a matter of customizing your resume to make sure your transferable and relevant skills are clear to the reader, especially for career changers. On the other hand, sometimes no matter how good the resume, our backgrounds aren’t aligned closely enough with what the company is looking for (It happens to all of us!).

Solution: Understand the role and company (do your research, talk to alumni and people at the company, etc.) so you have a good sense of what they’re looking for and can customize your application. If you are missing key skills needed to do the job, explore classes, clubs, projects and micro-internships as a way to gain a new skill and demonstrate your commitment to your new target role on your resume.   Don’t hold back from applying to jobs you’re interested in, just be sure to understand the position and make strategic decisions about investing time only in applications  where there is a realistic sense of how well your background fits with the role.

One additional note: be sure to double check a job’s instructions about where to apply – sometimes students don’t pay attention to the details and that’s the reason they didn’t get an interview!

I’m not getting past the initial interview stage

If you’re getting interviews but not advancing within the process, from an HR/recruiter’s perspective here is what is likely happening:

3. Your skillset is not as closely aligned as it appeared from the resume. Sometimes, a company is intrigued to talk with you based on your resume. Then, as they explore your skillset in an initial conversation, they determine that there isn’t a strong match with what they’re looking for. At this stage, the recruiter’s job is to identify and progress only those candidates who meet the qualifications.

Solution: In this case, it’s likely just not a fit and there isn’t necessarily anything you could have done differently. Consider it practice!

4. Your interview skills need to be strengthened.
If your skillset really is a good fit, then it may be that you need to improve your ability to communicate that fit and value in a concise format in interviews.

Solution: Interviewing well takes practice. Consider signing up for mock interviews (when offered), doing a mock interview within a 1:1 career advising session (anytime), or doing a mock interview with a second year student, Core Fellow, or Alumni Advisor. YourCDO also has links to additional resources to help you practice, such as Big Interview.

I’m not getting offers

If you’re getting to final stage interviews but not getting offers, you’re almost there! 

5. Another candidate was better qualified. While you may be qualified for the job (after all, you made it to the final round!), there may be another candidate whose skills or qualifications were stronger, and they received the offer.

Solution: There likely isn’t anything you could have done differently here as the job market is competitive. Take encouragement from the fact that you made it to the final round, keep a positive attitude, and remind yourself that the right fit will come along.

6. You might not be forming a connection with the team.
At this stage in the process, the company believes you could perform the job, otherwise they probably would not have had you progress this far. So what might be lacking is a genuine connection between you and the people you’d be working with. Did you get a sense that the working relationship between you and the team would be a good fit? Did you communicate that fit well?

Solution: Reflect on the interview process and ask yourself if both the job and the team genuinely seemed like a good fit for you. If you believe they were, then there may be room to improve your communication and relationship-building skills so that a good connection is built throughout the interview process. We can help you with this during an advising appointment. Or, you might decide that the job was almost a great fit, but not quite. In this case, while we all prefer to receive an offer than not receive it, you can rest assured that there is an even better job out there for you.

Hopefully this helps you pinpoint what you can do differently when you are feeling stuck. If you need help identifying what’s happening or you think something else might be going on, we encourage you to meet with an MBA Career Advisor to talk through your situation!

By MIT Sloan CDO