Everywhere you look, there’s another “help wanted” sign. The economic trend known as the Great Resignation has led to a significant shift in our workforce with more job openings than people looking for work. This imbalance should benefit job seekers, so why is it so hard to find a job?
From resume gaps to the increased demand for remote work, many factors make finding a job during the Great Resignation challenging. Here’s what you can do to improve your chances.
The Pandemic Isn’t Over
The pandemic isn’t over yet. No one knows the full long-term economic impact or if another lock-down might be right around the corner.
Roughly 200,000 U.S. businesses permanently shut down within the first year of the pandemic, which eliminated many positions. Many companies continue to struggle and therefore are hiring less, if at all.
Safety is also a concern. Employees hesitate to return to roles that put themselves and their families at risk. In addition, a lack of childcare prevents some from returning to jobs that don’t provide work-from-home options.
More Competition & Demand for Remote Jobs
It’s not hard to find a job if you don’t care about your work. Finding a good job that pays well and isn’t soul-crushing is the challenge.
People aren’t quitting just for the sake of quitting. They left their former jobs for valid reasons, such as poor working conditions, low pay and bad management. Therefore, the “no one wants to work” narrative is misleading. People want to work – they just aren’t interested in applying for these roles.
The pandemic showed us that working from home is feasible, which is both a pro and a con. There is much more competition for remote roles that offer generous perks and compensation, but many companies only need to hire one person.
If you are struggling, consider what criteria are the most important to you and identify where you can be flexible.
Employees Want Higher Salaries
In November 2021, the “quit rate” in the U.S. reached a 20-year high. According to a survey by the Pew Research Center, the top reasons people quit are low pay and the lack of advancement opportunities.
People aren’t quitting the workforce but are “reshuffling” into better roles.
While some companies have raised their starting wages, many others avoid paying higher salaries by just not hiring, or adding responsibilities to existing employees.
Yes, the salary is important, but don’t overlook other benefits like health insurance and paid time off.
It Depends on the Industry
“The ‘great resignation’ is not evenly balanced,” says Jon Hill, CEO of The Energists. “Those most impacted are ones with traditionally lower pay rates, such as food service, hospitality, and retail—and many of the employees quitting from those sectors have shifted into more white-collar positions.”
According to a study by ManpowerGroup, large companies (250+ employees) are having a harder time recruiting and retaining staff than smaller companies (10 employees or less). Therefore, applying to smaller organizations is a smart tactic for finding a job.
It’s also wise to apply where the jobs are. “Recent reports show that resignations are highest across tech and healthcare, so if you’re looking for a job in either industry, you’re in luck because there’s a very intense demand,” says Kathryn Minshew, CEO at The Muse.
A Lack of Skills
When businesses moved online, interpersonal skills became critical, as did the demand for digital skills. Unfortunately, many candidates have skill gaps because this transformation happened so quickly.
People are also struggling to get entry-level jobs. Some employers have unrealistic expectations and only want to hire highly-qualified people, even when the job doesn’t require it.
If a lack of skills is holding you back, there are many ways you can learn new job skills for free, such as taking an online course or working with a mentor.
Companies Are Too Selective (or Discriminatory)
Although some companies say they are desperate for workers, many are extremely picky or biased about who they hire.
Age discrimination is a factor. “Employers are likely to view younger applicants as more adaptable and cheaper when compared to older, more experienced job seekers,” says Brian Snedvig, CEO of Jofibo.
That doesn’t mean that young people are having an easy time getting hired either. “Employers have limited the pool of available jobs to those with a good deal of experience, which younger people typically do not have,” adds Andrew Fennell, Director at StandOut CV.
In addition to age discrimination, “there is extreme unemployment among people with disabilities who have the skills to work, and formerly incarcerated people looking for a second chance,” according to Stan Kimer, President of Total Engagement Consulting. “Many companies complaining of labor shortages are simply not looking at a more diverse universe of available talent.”
Companies can have good reasons for being picky, though, as hiring someone new is a lengthy and expensive process.
Focusing on Retention
Some companies learned that specific roles and tasks could be outsourced or automated. Others are demanding more from their employees instead of hiring more people.
“Many companies are investing more in retention instead of hiring to fill vacant roles,” adds Mike Gardon, Host of the Careercloud Radio podcast. “They’ve done this by reskilling and promoting within or giving people more money and responsibility.”
Accepting a position slightly below your skillset can work to your advantage if there are opportunities to be promoted quickly.
Job Seekers Are Making (Easily Avoidable) Mistakes
It’s easy to make mistakes when applying for a job, but these are avoidable.
“A recruiter needs to immediately see proof that you have the relevant skills to do this job, not just any job,” adds Chris Villanueva, CEO of Let’s Eat, Grandma Resume Services. “If your resume doesn’t clearly show relevant accomplishments with metrics to provide that proof, it will get passed over, and you’ll stay stuck.”
You can also get hired faster by using your network and developing relationships with employers.
What Can You Do to Get Hired?
Now that you know why it’s so hard to find a job, what can you do to stand out?
Stop sending out hundreds of resumes and applications only to hear nothing back. Instead, recognize that the job market has changed, and re-think your strategy. Target companies that are more likely to be hiring, and when you see a job posting, read carefully. Then tailor your resume or cover letter with key phrases mentioned in the posting. Don't be dishonest, but emphasize the skills you do have that they're seeking. With patience, flexibility, and preparation, you will find a great new job.