If There’s Such a Worker Shortage, Why Can’t You Get a Job?

Supposedly there’s a shortage of workers but people are still getting nowhere with their job searches. What’s going on and what can you do about it?

Experts talk a lot these days about how we’re currently seeing a “candidate driven market,” meaning a shortage of workers has made things such that it’s the job candidates who have the upper hand and can set the rules, choose where they want to work, and ask for the wages they want.

Awesome, right?

So, what about all the people out there who can’t find jobs even after sending out hundreds of applications? Who keep getting ghosted? Who go to three interviews and still get told “no.”

The reality seems to be that there are two narratives out there right now. One is coming from companies insisting that there are huge labour and skills shortages and that nobody wants to work. The other is from frustrated and exhausted job seekers who can’t catch a break.

What gives?

There’s obviously truth to the labour/skills shortage narrative. There is a big demand for people to fill food service, hospitality, retail jobs, and others, so much so that businesses are shutting down due to lack of employees. Manufacturing and health care are also seeing big labour shortages. Increasing wages for these often low paying roles can solve a lot of the problem, and many companies are doing just that and finding other ways to try to attract employees.

See also: What to do if you’re laid off during COVID-19

On the flip side are the companies posting “entry-level” positions requiring 10 years of experience for strangely low wages. Experienced applicants say they are sending out countless applications with no success and are even starting to look for positions below their experience level, and still getting nowhere.

This can probably be attributed to several factors. One is that the jobs people are desperate to fill aren’t necessarily the jobs people are looking for. Another is that companies are cramming more requirements into job postings.

According to the BBC, an analysis of close to four million jobs posted on LinkedIn since late 2017 showed that 35% of postings for “entry-level” positions asked for years of relevant work experience. This is particularly notable in the tech sector. More than 60% of listings for entry-level software and IT services jobs required three or more years of experience. They concluded, “In short, it seems entry-level jobs aren’t for people just entering the workforce at all.”

A source interviewed for the article also noted that, “In the last five years, we’ve seen a 20% increase in the number of skills required on job listings.”

Here’s an example (as seen on the Twitter account of career coach, Jermaine Jupiter):

Another factor may be that qualifications for these positions are increasingly common. Less than a decade ago “data scientist,” for example, was named the “Sexiest Job of the 21st Century” and businesses were calling data scientists “unicorns.” Now they’re everywhere and there can be hundreds of applicants for open data science positions.  

And if you’re over 40, good luck to you. Ageism is another rampant problem on the market.

So, what can you do if you can’t find a job in the face of increasing job requirements? You may have to step wide outside of your comfort zone. Try these tactics:

Tap your network

This is your #1 strategy. The first thing you need to do is reach out to people you know and ask for help. Referred candidates are significantly more likely to be interviewed and hired for jobs. If you find a job posting you want to apply for, see if someone you know works at that company and ask them for a referral. If you don’t know someone, try to meet someone. Get a friend to introduce you or find a person on social media and, if they are active, try to get a dialogue going by leaving a positive comment on one of their posts. Then reach out and say “Oh hey! I noticed that you work at X company. I just applied for a job there!” Or something like that, and see if they engage and you can become fast friends.  

Expand your skills list

Note the above-mentioned 20% increase in required skills in job postings. Pay a lot of attention to your skills list. Write down all of your skills and spend time thinking about it. If you’re changing careers or jobs, make sure you include transferable skills. Look at the skills in the job posting and make sure those keywords are listed in your resume. Look at the skills of your competitors Also look at the most in-demand skills across industries and be sure to include those too.

Contact the hiring manager directly

People are often afraid of being pushy and turning hiring managers off but, really, if you haven’t been able to find a job, what do you have to lose? If you see a job you want, find the hiring manager’s name and write them an enthusiastic note stating your interest in the position and why you are perfect for it. If you don’t do this, you risk your application getting rejected by the Applicant Tracking System or HR without even being looked at.

Leverage social media

Increase your social media presence and become a recognizable name. If you’re between jobs anyway, you might have the extra time on your hands to do this and can add it to your daily job search activities. You don’t have to become an “influencer” with 100,000 followers. You don’t even need 5,000 followers. What you do need to do is start posting smart, thoughtful content on LinkedIn every single day for your 300 connections, or however many you have.

A thought for the day, an article you read, a video you saw, anything related to your industry or your personal brand. At the same time, build your network by reaching out and adding new connections and commenting on and sharing other people’s posts. If you post regular content you will start showing up in people’s news feeds and they will recognize your name. Then, when you reach out to the hiring manager or your new connection, they may make the association and be more likely to pay attention. Also join industry specific and area specific social media groups. These can be good places to hear about jobs.  

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