Why Can’t I Find a Job? – 20 Reasons (and Tips!)

By Jeff Gillis

Why can’t I find a job? It’s a question plenty of candidates ask at some point in there. 

In the end, a job search is almost always challenging, even if you’re incredibly well qualified. While the current state of the economy, where you live, your skillset, and other factors are definitely in play, generally speaking, it takes about nine weeks to land a new job. Wow, right? 

But if it is getting close to that nine-week mark and you don’t have a bite, you might start wondering, “Am I doing something wrong? Or is finding a job just that hard?” 

If you can’t figure out why you can’t find a job, there may be a reason that you’re overlooking. Luckily, we have your back. Here’s a look at the top 20 reasons why you can’t find a job, as well as some insights and tips that help.  

Top 20 Reasons Why You Can’t Find a Job 

1. Not Tailoring Your Resume 

If you are sending out the exact same resume for every job, you are going to see results. Failing to customize your resume for every position means you aren’t including critical keywords that you need to get past automated screening software. Plus, even if you aren’t screened out, you won’t look like the strongest match once the hiring manager sees your resume, causing them to move on to candidates that seem like a better fit. 

2. Mistakes in Your Resume or Cover Letter 

Spelling and grammar mistakes in your resume or cover letter are a big deal, leading hiring managers to pass you by. Make sure yours are error-free before submission. 

3. Only Using Major Job Boards 

While using major job boards can be part of your job search strategy, it shouldn’t be all of it. Instead, you want to use a combination approach. Try some niche job boards and job search engines, tap your network, and otherwise use any available resource to increase your access to opportunities. 

4. Unprofessional Email Address 

Even if your resume is otherwise stellar, if your email address isn’t professional, you could be out of contention right there. Not everyone is going to appreciate an email address that’s humorous or tongue-in-cheek, and some may find it outright inappropriate. 

Ideally, you want to create an email address that’s based on your name, like JohnDoe@domain.com or John.C.Doe@domain.com, as they are suitably professional. 

JEFF'S TIP: Having trouble snagging an email address based on your name because every option you can think of is already taken? Try working in a bit about your field or job. For example, John.Doe.Engineer@domain.com could work for a slew of engineering professionals. This approach can give you more options, making it easier to create a professional email address. 

5. Unprofessional Voicemail 

Many hiring managers prefer to call candidates to schedule interviews instead of email, and there’s always a chance that the call will end up going to your voicemail. If your outgoing voicemail message is unprofessional, the hiring manager may decide to drop you as a candidate right there. 

Always check your outgoing message when you’re job hunting. When in doubt, change it to a default option that just says your name. While that’s generic, it’s also safe, and that is what matters here. 

6. Aiming Too High 

If you apply to dream jobs that you aren’t actually qualified for, your job search is going to go nowhere. While a small stretch is fine, you need to look like you can do the work. If you’re missing more of the requested skills than you have, you’re aiming too high. 

7. Aiming Too Low 

While it may seem like applying to positions you could easily do would work in your favor, if you’re overqualified for the role, you might get bypassed by the hiring manager. Many hiring managers worry that overqualified candidates will jump ship as soon as something “better” comes along, so they typically won’t risk it. 

Either update your job search to align with your qualification or, if you’re aiming lower for a reason and plan to stay long-term, explain that reason in your cover letter. That way, you give the hiring manager some peace of mind. 

8. Objectionable Social Media Content 

Any social media content that is publicly accessible and doesn’t show you in the best light can cost you dearly in a job search. This can include posts you make, pictures you’re tagged in, people you follow, and your comment and like history. 

Before a job search, either clean up your social media accounts or make them private. 

9. Not Networking 

If you aren’t networking, you’re missing out on opportunities. About 70 percent of open positions are never publicly advertised, so you need to network to find out about them. Plus, as many as 80 percent of jobs are filled through networking, so it’s connections that helped people land those positions. 

10. Networking the Wrong Way 

Networking doesn’t mean reaching out to a ton of people and starting conversations with “I can’t find a job” or “I need your help finding a job.” Instead, it’s about forging mutually beneficial connections that are built on give-and-take first. 

Think about it; people are usually willing to help friends but aren’t as inclined to extend themselves for strangers or casual acquaintances. Make sure the relationship can bear the weight of your request before you make it. 

11. Not Practicing for Interviews 

Interviewing is a skill, and it’s one that usually takes time to hone. If you aren’t practicing your answers to job interview questions, you aren’t going to be comfortable with what you’re sharing with the hiring manager, and it’ll usually show. 

As the saying goes, practice makes perfect. By practicing for interviews, you’ll come across more confident and eloquent, and that works in your favor. 

12. Having the Wrong Attitude During Interviews 

Alright, it’s important to realize that there is a fine line between confidence and arrogance, and essentially no one likes a braggart or a know-it-all. Make sure you kind an eye on your tone during interviews and focus more on showcasing how awesome you are by sharing relevant achievements instead of declaring your amazingness outright. 

13. Only Applying to 100 Percent Matches 

Some people think that they need 100 percent of what the hiring manager is asking for if they want to apply; that simply isn’t true. If you use that approach, you’re screening yourself out of positions you could actually do. 

In many cases, applying if you are at least a 60 to 70 percent match – depending on how niche the position is and whether the company may be open to training – isn’t a bad idea. That’s especially true if you’re passionate about the field, are willing to learn, and are otherwise enthusiastic about the role. 

14. Choosing the Wrong References 

If your references aren’t saying stellar things about you and highlighting why you’re a great fit for the job, they may be bringing your job search to a halt. Make sure you choose references who think you’re amazing and can tell the hiring manager specifically why you’d be an outstanding match. 

15. Not Doing Any Research 

Research is your friend during a job search. It lets you learn more about what the hiring manager is after, what the company does or makes, and whether you’re genuinely a good match for the role and culture, and that’s all important. 

By doing research, you can tailor your resume and interview answers to the job with greater ease. Plus, there’s a chance you’ll be asked directly about the company’s offerings during the interview, and not being able to answer could doom your chances of being selected. 

16. Expecting an Unrealistic Salary 

What are your salary expectations?” is a common interview question. If your number doesn’t make sense for the position, you aren’t going to land that job. 

Do some research to see what similar positions in your area pay. If you aren’t comfortable with that number, then you may not be looking at the right opportunities. If you are, then you’ll be ready for that salary discussion, as you’ll have evidence that shows what you have in mind is normal and fair. 

17. Not Having Great Quantified Examples 

During an interview, examples that showcase your skills are vital. But if you want them to pack a real punch, then you need to be able to quantify the details. 

Numbers give the hiring manager valuable context and can make your achievements more impressive. Make sure you can work a few numbers into your examples, increasing the odds that you’ll stand out. 

18. Asking No Questions at the End of Your Interview 

Not asking questions when you get the chance at the end of your interview makes you seem disinterested. Ideally, you want to have at least two smart questions that you can ask, ensuring you come across as engaged and passionate about the role. 

19. Failing to Send a Thank You Email 

While not every hiring manager expects a thank you email after an interview, some do. Usually, it only takes a few minutes to create a compelling thank you email, so why not play it safe and send one? It might make all of the difference. 

20. Bad Luck 

Alright, there is a chance that why you can’t get a job isn’t purely about you. You never know if you’re up against other genuinely amazing candidates that are barely squeezing you out of contention. It can happen. 

Some companies get a ton of applicants, so you could do everything right and still end up missing out. Sometimes, you can find out if that’s what happened by asking for feedback from the hiring manager. At times, it’s clear based on how they tell you about the decision. 

In many cases, if you keep going, you’ll find something. You’re on the right track, and that’s a big part of the equation. 

What to Do When You Can’t Find a Job 

If you can’t find a job and aren’t sure what to do, don’t panic. Here is a step-by-step approach for how to find work when you seeming can’t get a job. 

1. Review Your Master Resume and Cover Letter, and Correct Mistakes 

Since spelling and grammar mistakes can doom your chances, start by reviewing your master resume and cover letter for errors. If possible, as a trusted person to take a look, too, as a second set of eyes may catch mistakes you miss. If you spot anything, fix it immediately. 

2. Start Building and Priming Your Network 

Since networking can be the key to how to find a job, start building and priming your network now. Focus on connecting first, ensuring the relationships are strong. Once they are, you can ask for help finding a job. 

3. Choose the Right Openings 

Ideally, you want to send applications in for jobs you can reasonably do. While you don’t have to have 100 percent of what the hiring manager wants, focusing on positions where you are about a 70 percent match is smart. 

4. Do Your Research to Tailor Your Resume, Cover Letter, and Interview Answers 

Research is your ally, particularly when it comes to tailoring your resume, cover letter, and interview answers. Learn more about the position, the company’s culture, and its products or services. That way, you can position yourself as a strong match. 

5. Keep on Keeping on 

You won’t land a new job if you stop looking. Do your best to keep moving forward. That way, when the right opportunity comes along, you’ll be there to snag it. 

Putting It All Together 

If you’re wondering, “Why can’t I find a job?” review the reasons above to see if any might be behind your job search slump. If one (or a few) could be the cause, use that information to hone your approach. That way, you can increase your odds of landing a new position, allowing you to ultimately declare your job search a success. 

About The Author

Jeff Gillis

Co-founder and CTO of TheInterviewGuys.com. Jeff is a featured contributor delivering advice on job search, job interviews and career advancement, having published more than 50 pieces of unique content on the site, with his work being featured in top publications such as INC, ZDnet, MSN and more. Learn more about The Interview Guys on our About Us page.