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Good Question: Why can’t I get hired?

Q: “I’ve applied for more jobs than I can count in the past year, but haven’t landed anything. I graduated from university five years ago, have had two employers in that time, and earned one promotion. I’m still considered a junior-level employee so I’m looking for my next move. At first I was selective, but my friends keep telling me “Apply to everything!” even if I don’t have every qualification listed on the posting. I put myself forward for anything that’s in my industry. I’ve been called in for many interviews, but never hear back. I bring references, I’m on time, and I always follow up to show that I’m eager. It hasn’t worked and I’m discouraged and demoralized. Why can’t I get hired?”

Sue Abu-Hakima
Co-founder, President/CEO, Amika Mobile Corporation

Sue is also a 2014 Top 25 Women of Influence.

As a technology leader and CEO, Sue has reviewed hundreds of resumes and hired all staff levels including executives in technology, R&D, finance, marketing, business development, and sales.


As an entrepreneur who personally gets involved in hiring staff, I can tell you that you may not be presenting yourself as well as you think. You need to come across as enthusiastic without being arrogant, and always be honest (employers have strong lie detectors). I look for candidates who work well in teams, so reference to teamwork skills is always a bonus. In some areas of business, like technology and business development, less than two years in a position is considered job-hopping and it’s a general turn-off for employers, including myself. I find many new graduates that have grown up with social media tend to have a more shallow approach to resumes—where everything is important and there is irrelevant and unstructured information. This is not what a job application is about. It is about showing the employer that there is a depth in the area they are hiring and that you can focus and be relied on.

Here are five parts of a resume that I find are weak from new grads:

1. Positioning statement
Clearly state what defines you (highly motivated self starter or analytical thinker, etc.) and what you are seeking (the person should have a background that justifies what they are seeking).

2. Skill set
List concisely five to ten skills that relate to the job you are applying for. If you want to be a sales person, you need excellent written and verbal communication skills; if you want to be a procurement specialist, you will need experience negotiating contracts; if you want to be in finance, then you have to have demonstrated accounting and financial skills; if you want to be in technology, you have to have software language experience, etc.

3. Experience
If your position was as a volunteer or unpaid intern, it does not always get the same weight as a paid job but it is important to include. List these under “Volunteer or Intern Experience.” The employer wants to know what you were paid for but he or she will still be very interested in your volunteer work, especially if it relates to the position you are applying for.

4. Education
If you have an undergraduate or college degree, put it in. If you do not have a degree, put in the last organization you have a degree from—even if it is high school. If you only have a year or two of university and have not completed the degree, put that in and explain you chose to leave and go work. Employers will appreciate this honesty and grit.

5. Hobbies
This is often an underrated part of the resume. Always show the employer that you have other interests, even if it is film or music. Employers like to know there is another dimension to you and sometimes appreciate if it is related to your profession. For example, you may be a gamer and you are applying to work in developing gaming graphics or software. Or you may have an interest in fashion and you are applying for a position in retail procurement.


Jennifer Morrison
Enterprise Relationship Manager, LinkedIn

Jennifer is a former recruiter who works with corporate clients to maximize their talent acquisition strategies amongst LinkedIn’s 300-million+ members, the world’s largest online networking platform.


First off let me say as a former recruiter, I would recommend you ask for feedback from your interviews. I always asked my candidates to inquire what hesitations the interviewer might have about hiring you. This gives you an excellent opportunity to address any objections right then and there.

Building your professional brand
It sounds like you have a great resume, but you need to utilize it to develop your online brand and reputation. More and more companies are turning to social media to find their talent, which means you need to be on the same platforms that they choose to recruit on. The key to developing your professional brand is your LinkedIn profile. Here are the basic elements your profile needs to improve your chances of getting noticed:

  • A profile picture. Profiles with a photo are 14 times more likely to be viewed than those without a picture.
  • New information not found in your resume. LinkedIn’s members represent more than 50% of the Canadian professional market, so chances are that your future employer is going to look you up on LinkedIn to compare your resume to your profile. Maximize the ‘real estate’ on the page by including a headline, a summary, and fill out details about what you did at the places you have worked.
  • Use “key” words. A recruiter is going to search for profiles based on key words. Ensure your profile language is representative of the type of jobs you want and are qualified for.

Deepen relationships by networking online
Every day I hear about Canadian LinkedIn members who have found their dream job by effectively networking. When building your connections, start exploring THEIR connections. By leveraging an existing relationship within your network, you can ask to be introduced to the “right person” at the organization you are targeting. A warm introduction will increase the likelihood of your resume being considered.

LinkedIn etiquette
I don’t accept people into my network unless I understand how we are connected. This ensures that my connections remain valuable to me and I stay valuable to them. You should always reference how you became aware of or know the individual you are connecting with.

Related: How to Network Authentically


Islay McGlynn
SVP, Employee Experience, Global Human Resources, Scotiabank

Islay has responsibility for global recruitment strategies at Scotiabank, the first Canadian company to be named one of the World’s Best Multinational Workplaces by the Great Place to Work® Institute.


Glad to hear you are persevering! When it comes to seeking new opportunities to advance your career, it’s best to start with a self-assessment of your strengths, skills, and achievements. Think about the type of work you enjoy doing and are passionate about.

Accessing the position qualifications
You don’t have to possess all of the requirements of a job posting in order to apply. If you can show that you have similar skills and abilities that you have demonstrated in other roles or volunteer positions, this increases your chances of landing an interview, and ultimately the job.

Are you a right fit for the company?
Hiring managers are looking for the right experience, skills, and knowledge and for the right fit with the company culture and the team. As such, you would benefit from doing some research to learn more about the organization you wish to join.

Related: 3 industries poised for growth where women are in limited supply and high demand.

The interview gives you the opportunity to demonstrate how you can contribute to both the job and the team. It is also when your fit to the organization and department is assessed. Your presence and the impression you make during the interview stage is critical to your personal brand and success. So go in prepared!

Be selective! Don’t just “apply anyway”!
Your first instinct was right: The “apply to everything” advice your friend suggested is not my recommended approach. Be selective in your job search. If you reach the interview stage, hiring managers will sense your level of interest and passion for the role based on your responses.

Set yourself up for success by being more selective about your next career move. There is a lot of competition out there so targeting the right level and roles for your skill set and experience will increase your job search results. Look for exciting opportunities that leverage your strengths. This will allow you to shine and position yourself as a valuable team member. The growth, development, and progression you seek will follow when you are in the right role.

Remember that it is important to diversify your search strategies and leverage all the ways possible to land the right role. Let your network of friends and colleagues know you are interested in a new career opportunity.

Related: How to stay employable 10 years down the road.

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