Why Is It So Hard to Find a Job? (+ 6 Tips)

Charlotte Grainger
Charlotte Grainger

16 min read

White man holds his head while sitting in front of a blue water background. He is wearing a plaid button up shirt, jeans, and a watch.

Looking for a new role? If you’ve been searching for a job for any serious amount of time, then you understand how difficult it can be to find a job these days. You might even wonder if you’re perhaps not as employable as you thought you were. 

Believe us when we tell you: you’re not alone. Millions of other job seekers are experiencing those same frustrations--just check out the comments on this post.

Sadly, many job seekers expect that finding a job this year will likely be just as difficult. Once you understand why jobs are so hard to find right now, you can take steps to improve your odds of success. In the following guide, we will be taking a look at why it’s hard to find a job, the factors that you may not have considered, and how you can boost your chances. 

Why is it so hard to find a job?

It can be frustrating to look at job boards and see all those open positions, especially when your cover letter and resume are being ignored. And it’s hard to ignore all those ‘Help Wanted’ signs you see whenever you’re driving through any town’s business district. 

After all, if there are that many companies in need of employees, why can’t you land those interviews you need? How is it that your resume is being passed over time after time? Why is it so hard to find a job? These are the questions that may be flitting around your mind. 

Stop for a moment. First, you need to recognize one thing: many companies and hiring managers have no intention of filling all those job positions. That is a hard pill to swallow but it’s something that you simply have to accept. Many businesses promote from within. Others solicit resumes on a regular basis to build up a reservoir of potential candidates they can turn to when positions do come open. It’s not always as cut and dry as you might imagine. 

As a result, the job market may not be as wide-open as it appears at first glance. In short, don’t assume that your job search is any more difficult than any other job seeker. When you see hundreds of job openings online, you may think that there are tons of opportunities. However, that is not always the case. The fact is that you’re all competing for a finite pool of available jobs. For that reason, you need to try extra hard when you’re seeking a new role.

Why many candidates can't find a job

As you see from the graphic above: a typical job opening receives nearly 250 resumes. Out of those candidates looking for a job, four to six will be called for an interview. And, as you know all too well, usually only one person will be given an offer

When we break that down further, that means that you have a one in 250 chance of landing every role that you apply for. So, when you don’t immediately find the success that you have been looking for, you can give yourself a break. To stand out from the crowd, you need a spectacular resume, cover letter, and the interview prowess of a pro. It’s a tall order. 

Of course, that’s not the only reason that it’s typically hard to find a new job. You’re not psychic and don’t know what is going through the hiring manager’s mind. So, you can never truly know why you’re not landing every interview. However, you can make a relatively educated guess here. Let’s look at some other reasons why it's so difficult to find a job.

1. Companies are overly selective

Companies are looking for a mythical “perfect candidate.” A quick review of many job descriptions will paint a picture of an experienced, highly-educated expert with a wide variety of skills and experience in a broad range of categories. If these candidates exist, there aren’t enough to fill all these positions. Instead, employers need to find candidates who check the most boxes on the perfect list of qualifications.

It’s also important to recognize that the job market has changed. Decades ago, employers would hire candidates with the intention of employing them for life. They viewed those hires as long-term investments. That meant that they could take a chance on a new hire, train that person, and get a return on their investment over time.

These days, that dynamic has changed dramatically. Most employees move from job to job throughout their careers. Companies are no longer as loyal to their employees as they once were. Because of that changed relationship, employers need to get an immediate return from their hiring investment. So, put simply, they look for perfection. 

That’s led them to become ever more selective about who they hire. They need to know that you can provide immediate value to the firm. For that reason, you need to take extra measures to demonstrate your skill-set when you’re applying for jobs. Showcasing the unique talents that you have should be your number one priority. 

2. Enter the Applicant Tracking Systems

An applicant tracking system, or ATS, is a tool used by over 90% of employers to parse and sort resume submissions. As we detail in our post on how to format your resume for an ATS, "ATS resume scanning software is designed to scan a resume for work experience, skills, education, and other relevant information." It’s kind of a big deal, actually. 

For many workers, the ATS may be a real obstacle to finding a job in the digital age. These applicant tracking systems are used to screen resumes based on keyword usage. Yes, it is a questionable way for humans to hire other humans—but it’s also an unfortunate reality.

If you are unaware of ATS software or—on the other hand—choose to ignore its existence, you’re doing yourself a disservice. With so many businesses using this software, it’s vital that you tailor your resume to battle the bots. Failing to keep the program in mind could mean that your next resume ends up in the trash without a human ever laying eyes on it. 

Job seekers who are not sufficiently aware of how an ATS screens a resume may find it difficult to overcome that obstacle. Later in this piece, we’ll offer some ATS-related advice that can help you with this challenge, and introduce you to a tool to check your resume for ATS compatibility.

3. A reliance on outdated resumes

When we ask “why is it so hard to find a job,” there’s an obvious answer you cannot ignore. For many struggling job seekers, the problem is as simple as their resumes. Employers are looking for resumes that stand out from the crowd, so those old, outdated resumes are not the best option. In the simplest of terms, you need to boost the effectiveness of your resume.

When it comes to finding a job, successful candidates will have resumes that effectively showcase their value as employees. Unfortunately, many of today’s job seekers have no idea how to craft that type of resume. You may have been taught some of the basics back in high school, but those approaches are no longer applicable in the modern world. 

Chances are, you are making some of the all-too-common errors here. For example, does your resume still rely on the objective statement to capture a hiring manager’s attention? If so, that could be a major mistake. Objective statements on a resume focus on what you want from your career, rather than how you can meet the employer’s needs.

Think about that for a second. If you were in that employer’s shoes, would that approach appeal to you? It’s likely you’d want to hear more about how that candidate can add value to your team, right? With that in mind, you should be tailoring your resume to meet the expectations of the hiring manager. Focus your energy on what you can offer them instead. 

4. Not all jobs are promoted to the public

Most job seekers rely solely on the magic of Google to find new opportunities. However, you might be missing a trick here. Experts predict that as much as 60% of job openings are not listed on public jobs boards or online. Yes, more than half of all vacancies are part of the “hidden job market”. So, it’s important to understand how you can tap into them. 

When a business has a job opening, the HR team doesn't always rush to a jobs board. In fact, much of the time, the company managers may consider if they can promote someone internally or if they already know of the perfect candidate. If you want to be in with a shot, it is worth making networking a central part of your job seeking approach. 

On the other hand, some of the largest businesses in the US may work directly with recruiters. These companies rely on a middle-man to help them acquire the right talent for their ranks. This approach is favorable to hiring managers as it means that they can target the type of candidate that they want to attract. Making sure that you’re working with select recruiters—who happen to specialize in your given industry—could be a real game-changer. 

5. You’re applying for the wrong jobs 

As you scroll through seemingly endless jobs boards, you have to be selective. Applying for any position takes time. At the low end of the scale, you have to submit a tailored resume and write a stellar cover letter. At the high end, you may also need to take pre-selection assessments, answer an interview form, or even complete a task ahead of time. 

With all of the above in mind, it’s fair to say that job applications can be time-consuming. So, you can’t—and shouldn’t—apply for every single opening you come across. Submitting applications for roles that you are unlikely to get is a bad move. It wastes your time and it means that you are more likely to receive a barrage of endless rejection emails. 

Don’t put yourself through that drama. Instead, take a more selective approach when you are choosing which roles to apply for. Take the time to carefully read the non-negotiable criteria and ensure that you have what it takes. By applying for fewer—but more appropriate—jobs, you give yourself a better chance of landing an interview. This approach means that you can take more time on applying for the openings than ever before. 

Finding a job: How to improve your odds

The good news is that the job search process doesn’t have to be an excruciating experience. There are, in fact, many things that you can do to improve your odds of landing a job. Most of them are focussed on just a few key areas of concern, though. If you’ve been applying for jobs for a while and having no luck, you’ve come to the right place. Let’s take a look at six simple tips you can use that will boost your chances of landing your next job role. 

1. Focus on your resume!

There’s no way around it: if you want to maximize your odds, you need a stellar resume. 

Sure, there was a time when resumes were all but a formality, but they carry a lot of weight these days. Since hundreds of candidates apply for each opening, you need to stand out from the crowd. If your resume is mediocre at best, you won't have much luck landing an interview, let alone getting your dream job.

Your application is likely to be passed over time and again during the job search for other candidates with better—even if you’re just as qualified. So, before you do anything else, you need to go back to basics. Review your resume and consider whether it is impactful. 

Should you find that your application is falling short of the mark, there are some simple ways that you can improve it. For example, you may want to:

  • Use clear language. Is your resume hard to read? If you make things difficult for the hiring manager, your application may end up in the trash pile. Use concise language that gets to the point quickly. Avoid business-centric jargon or convoluted terms. 

  • Highlight your value. What do you bring to the table as a candidate? What skills do you have that make you perfect for the role? Put simply, how can you make your manager’s job easier? When you are writing your next resume, focus on answering these questions. The hiring manager should instantly see your value at a glance. 

  • Choose the right design. Looks matter more than you might imagine. When the hiring manager first looks at your resume, they will be judging its design. If it looks hard to digest, they may not even bother reading the application. So, when you are choosing how to present your resume, make sure that it is clear and attractive. 

  • Keep it short and sweet. As a general rule, your resume should not be longer than two pages. If you are running onto your third page, it’s time to do some serious editing. Hiring managers spend just seven seconds looking at each new resume. That doesn't give you a whole load of time to make the right impression on them. 

  • Quantify your experiences. Showcasing your value to a hiring manager can be tricky. But everyone understands numbers and statistics. When you are writing about your experiences, be sure to quantify each of them. Giving evidence of how well you did in a certain situation will set you apart from the sea of other candidates. 

2. Use keywords wisely

Remember those ATS screeners we mentioned earlier? Do yourself a favor and learn how to use keywords in your cover letter and resume. That will help to ensure that yours gets past the machine and onto the desk of a hiring manager. By including the right words and phrases in your resume, you improve your chances of getting seen by the right person.

You can get a head start on improving your resume by checking out this post: ATS Resume Test: Free ATS Checker and Formatting Examples.

3. Write your resume for an ATS scan

Now that you know what your resume is up against, you can adjust your resume to have a better chance of performing well on the ATS test. Once you've made some changes to your resume, Zipjob has a free resume review tool that will give you the results of an ATS scan and an expert's opinion of your resume. This sneaky hack could make all of the difference when it comes to your job search. Make sure that you don’t miss out on it!

4. Apply for the right jobs

Are you applying for the right positions? Too often, many people fail to choose positions that best match their skill sets. Other times, they fail to properly showcase the right skills in their resumes. Remember, most hiring managers only spend a few seconds on an initial examination of your resume. Make every single moment count.

If your resume doesn’t catch their eye in that time, it gets tossed aside. Make sure that your most relevant skills and experience are the ones required for the job opening—and make sure to highlight them in your summary statement. Similarly, you should focus your search on jobs that are looking for people with your skills. 

Looking for some additional insights? Read more tips on How To Find A Job Fast.

5. Network, network, network!

Don’t forget about your network. You’ve spent years building a network of associates and contacts in your industry. Leverage those relationships to get your foot in the door and in front of employers. Ask them for referrals. Proactively request news about new job openings that match your qualifications. This is a tip that too many job seekers overlook. 

In other words, don’t just wait for a job to appear—use every tool available to you to land that interview you need. You can attend real-life networking events or increase your presence on LinkedIn. The aim is to expand your network and, as a direct result, hear about more job openings than before. The more people that you know, the more likely you are to be in the loop. That’s why networking needs to take a central position when you’re searching for jobs.  

6. Reach out to your ideal employer 

Do you have an ideal employer in mind? Is there a company you’d love to work for? If the answer is yes, now is the time to reach out to them directly. While that may sound like an intimidating feat, it could be what you need to get you out of this job-seeking slump. 

As we have already mentioned, the majority of vacancies may never appear on jobs boards. Taking your chances and targeting the business you want to work for could give you the competitive edge. In short, applying to jobs online is not as effective as reaching out to the company or hiring manager directly. Take your shot now.

Read our guide to sending a cold email during the job search (with examples).

Final words

Finding a job doesn’t have to be an excruciating experience—seriously! While the job search experience is seldom easy, finding a job doesn’t need to be a painful ordeal. The key is to recognize the challenges that you face, and take proactive steps to counter those obstacles.

With the right resume and job search strategy, you can find that job you deserve--and do it without much of the frustration you’d otherwise experience.

Searching for a new job? Take advantage of our free resume review today and increase your chances of landing your next interview. Save yourself time and energy, whilst also making sure that your next application wows the hiring manager. 

Recommended reading:

Charlotte Grainger

Written by

Charlotte Grainger, Editor & Content Writer, Charlotte Grainger, Editor & Content Writer

Charlotte Grainger is a freelance writer living and working in Sheffield, UK. She has a passion for career development and loves sharing tips and advice. Follow her on Twitter

Person working on laptop outside. ZipJob Branded.

Our resume services get results.

We’ve helped change over 30,000 careers.