What’s your greatest job search challenge?


While we’re happy to provide resources and advice to help you find a great job, our community is full of people who offer insights on the job hunt. To that end, in this week’s open thread, we’re asking people share their questions and challenges in their job search and offer each other advice and support.

Have a question to ask or a resource to share on getting through the job hunt? Add them in the comments below.

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Photo Credit: Tischenko Irina, Shutterstock

About Author

Former Editor and Creator of Idealist Careers, a publication of Idealist.org. Follow me on Twitter @ajlovesya.


  1. My greatest job search challenge is cover letters. I work tirelessly on my resume and cover letter and for some reason, several NPOs are not accepting my invitation for an interview. By the way, I am a IT student.

    • Don’t feel that it is your cover letter, but you might want to have a professional look it over and tailor it to the job description. The employer may get hundred of resumes and cover letters, and will only look at a few. It’s a challenge for sure.

  2. I have been out of work since the 2008 recession. Though I volunteered, networked, joined organizations, and let everyone know I am out of work, the interviewing for jobs has not materialized. In addition, I am currently taking advanced computer refresher and accounting courses to keep my skills up to date. I have also worked with professionals updating my resume, cover letter, and polishing interview skills. Know it’s an employer’s market out there, but this is so disheartening for experienced professionals, like myself, to be unable to find employment.

    • Ford Gardner on

      There’s also the age factor – it’s ugly enough for the kids right out of college. Also, “overqualified” is a big issue. I’ll take any help I can get.

  3. My biggest challenge is getting an interview. I am trying to shift my career away from the corporate world to a NP and am not receiving even a thank you for your interest response…. frustrating!!

  4. After much soul-searching and turning down management positions, I know I want to live my life for a higher purpose than just making a high salary. But my biggest challenge in job-searching is finding a position that fits my passions. Perhaps, I am being too specific in my job search? There are jobs that I feel I am very qualified for but it feels like a numbers game and like what Susan mentioned up there, the culture today has it that employers are accustomed to never responding to candidates.

  5. My advice is to also make sure you are eating well and exercising regularly. It will improve your attitude and when you get an interview you will glow and have high energy. A lot depends on what they feel when they interview as opposed to your exact answers. To get an interview, make sure you portray in your cover letter what you can offer them as opposed to what why you want it. Research the company and mention something that interests you about them.

  6. My biggest challenge is focus. So many folks I have met remind me that the next lead could come from anywhere: the parent sitting next to me at the little league game, the person I met in yoga class, the receptionist at the doctor’s office. I don’t want to miss that next great opportunity, so I am trying to be in all places at once — LinkedIn, Twitter, email, applications, networking meetings… Eventually, I need to limit my focus to the most likely options. But still, the fear of missing “the one” plagues me.

  7. My biggest challenge involves interviews. For some reason, I’m not able to be persuasive enough to prove that my skill set translates to what an organization needs or that my experience (while not 100% in line with the organization’s demands) match up to what they want. Any ideas?

    • Ooo tough one, Brian and you’re certainly not alone. Tomes exist on the “art of the interview” and I certainly would seek them. From quickly establishing rapport, to smoothly transitioning to the crucial “business conversation”, to highlighting how your experience could help them achieve their goals — could and should be taught in schools.
      I have found most people are not skilled in the art of “telling the story” – wrapping an interesting story around a skill you have that they relate to. If you are truly in tune with what an organization needs, and you have the skills to meet these needs, then perhaps it is a matter of presenting HOW these skills will benefit them in a colorful way. Also, reflect and take notes upon exiting your interviews to see if you can nail areas where you may need to strengthen your story.

  8. My biggest challenge is being from a third world country. I Have a decent enough profile for entry-level positions at Non-Profits that work on Conflict resolution and development and yet I’ve told over and over again that I cannot even be considered for the position for not being a US or EU Citizen.

    • Gabriel, I’m not sure if you’re looking for a position at a non-profit within your home country or trying to find a job elsewhere.

      If it’s the former, there should be jobs at non-profits and foreign government agencies for which you might qualify depending on experience, education, etc. The majority of employees at my agency’s country office are host country nationals.

      If it’s the latter, try reaching out to foreign embassies within your home country. As a U.S. citizen living abroad, I know my embassy can be a wealth of information for skill building and opportunities for employment and education for Americans and host country nationals alike. Even if they don’t have anything to really offer you, they might suggest courses you should take or skills you should hone to make you more competitive in the fields of conflict resolution and international development.

  9. I share Lisa L’s sentiments as I, too, am in that same boat. I’m an experienced professional out of work since 2009. It’s hard to believe. Since then I have and continue to do “all of the right things” like volunteer and go back to school to acquire new skills that build on my experience. I took a p/t min wage job in the hope that I would make connections and it would lead to something but it hasn’t. Geography has consistently proven to be a stumbling block even if the opportunity is only 2 hrs away in the same state. A rationale I simply don’t understand.

    The problem, in large part, is due to the long-term-unemployed stigma. It is seemingly impossible to get around. And being out of work for so long, my connections/network become weaker links despite my efforts to keep them up.

    There was an article last week with a study that in short basically stated that the LTU are just as employable and productive. My initial reaction was FINALLY! My second reaction was frustration that a study needed to be published, followed by defeat knowing that study will largely be ignored by employers.

    This market is incredibly disheartening.

    • Ford Gardner on

      I share your frustration, especially when I hear that companies only want to hire people that are already working, when there are 40 million people out of work. i was underemployed from ’08 to ’12, then became unemployed in ’13. It can be hard to keep one’s head up, but I’m determined to not go on the dole.

  10. Gabriel Grelle on

    I share many of the same challenges as other contributors here. An additional challenge, however, is that I have just completed my Master’s thesis but have no relevant experience for the jobs I am interested in (mainly environmental non-profits as well as organizations focused specifically on public participation in environmental policy). I taught at the university level for two years but it always feels like a stretch when trying to make the link between the skills I acquired in academia and what these positions require.

    • Hi Gabriel. Based on my own experience, I don’t think it is necessarily a disadvantage to be a recent graduate. Many organizations prefer to hire someone who is enthusiastic and has fresh ideas for entry-level positions. They’ll usually look at what you’ve accomplished in your academic program and don’t expect you to have relevant work experience. If possible, you might want to consider an internship or a volunteer position, to at least get a foot in the door.

  11. Priscilla Masilamani on

    Angela is right. It’s soooo hard to even get one interview. I don’t even know if my resume and CV got read. Many times, I feel I am a match for the position until I receive zero response. As Lisa noted, I want to update my skill level but left with no financial resources, I am unable to take my studies further. If only someone offers me , I will definitely equip myself right away. So frustrating having to spend two hours tailoring each resume and CV and meeting with a dead end.

    • Priscilla,
      What is your field of study? There may be some free courses available to you online. Also, have you asked for an information interview? The information interview helps you to get first hand information about a company without coming right out and asking for a job. Choose several businesses in your area and ask for the information interview from the businesses for which you would least like to work and practice the information interview on them. Then call the businesses for which you would really like to work to request an information interview after you have the information interview down pat.

      • Priscilla Masilamani on

        Thank you so much Lola for your reply and for your valuable piece of info. Never heard of Information interview until now. Going to pursue it right away. As to your question, I am a news writer with seven years of experience with a renowned news agency . And ever since I decided to use my writing skills for a greater cause, I’ve been looking to work in a position in communications or publishing related to NPOs. Also, I took a couple of writing courses online. I have a Masters in Biology. Sometimes I wonder if that different field of study negates my experience and desire. Frustrating yes. But giving up No. Wish everyone out there the best in their endeavors.

    • Ford Gardner on

      If you aren’t on LinkedIn, you should be. You need to be found and that’s the best way.

      • LinkedIn and also, Facebook. Sometimes, I find people more willing to engage on Facebook than LinkedIn. Can’t hurt to do both. Just a suggestion.

        Doing Informational interviews is a terrific suggestion! They are very beneficial! Typically, people will be more than happy to talk to you. If you have not already, Google how to do an informational interview so you know how to approach it and are prepared. Good luck!

  12. I agree with Priscilla. It IS incredibly difficult to get an interview and monumentally frustrating having to spend two hours tailoring each resume and cover letter only to meet a dead end.

    On a very small positive note, I have noticed that the level of in your face hostility from employers has improved some towards the LTU. From 2009 – 2011 employers were downright abusive. The attitudes remain, however, appear to have been tempered.

    So, I’m curious what Idealist is going to do with this information? Solutions would be great. Maybe I’ve become to cynical, but unless you can change the mindset of employers and eliminate the technological blocks that make the odds of getting noticed the same as winning the lottery, I’m not sure what value this thread offers aside from providing a forum to share (thank you). A light has been shown on these challenges but more noise can’t hurt ( squeaky wheel, so to speak). Unfortunately, the reality is unless people are caught up in this, they don’t get it…nor do they want to.

    To everyone here, keep the faith! I wish you all an abundance of prosperity, joy and peace. 🙂

    • Priscilla Masilamani on

      Grace, your point on ‘ technology block’ is right on. That’s where ‘potential’ is stopped. Hope Employers who post on Idealist gets to read this forum and share their views and then act for improvement.

  13. My biggest challenge is age. I am getting interviews, but at 60, people harbor concerns about my salary expectations, especially after a long and successful private sector career. And I think they worry about my ability to be managed by someone younger.

    Here in Thailand, I also believe there are concerns around health, energy and flexibility, i.e. can I work productively and happily in an under-resourced environment. The jobs I am interviewing for are often in border camps.

    As an HR pro, I would encourage organizations to recruit older workers who want nothing more than to serve the community and contribute to a meaningful mission. Older workers have lots of useful experience and will likely produce at a very high level. They are also quite willing to be managed. For the confident young manager, they can provide excellent counsel from time to time without undermining authority. As well, they can be excellent mentors for young professionals entering the workforce.

    Fear not; the older worker who may be the same age as your parents is not interested in playing a mom and dad role. We just want to apply our skills and knowledge in order to serve.

  14. My biggest challenge when job searching is going through the process of the phone interview, face to face interview as well as create a writing assignment, only to be told in a nice way that they are going with someone else. Or worst they tell me in a subtle way, they think I will leave the opportunity for something else for more money. I have also been told that I am overqualified based my degrees. This leaves me feeling very discouraged.

  15. I have been seriously looking for nonprofit in the Maryland / D.C. area since December 2013 (but periodically for the past two years). I left that area 3 years ago, and would like to return. I’ve revamped my rèsumè and cover letter, so I’m getting more attention, which is great. But, lately, while I have gotten several phone interviews which seem to go pretty well, further interest is rarely shown. More often than not, the interviewer realizes I am out-of-state at some point during the phone interview. I’ve thought about submitting my rèsumè with a MD / D.C. address, but I don’t want to be dishonest and possibly be called in for an interview I’m not close enough to make. I try to emphasize that I am more than willing to relocate and I am familiar with the area, but I have a sneaking suspicion that my location counts against me . . . or perhaps it could be any number of other reasons for the pattern.

    • M Roberts, Unfortunately, location *does* count against you. I’ve experienced this myself and have been told point blank by some that geography is the problem. So, I’m passing along advice friends gave to me…lie. Never lie about your experience or education, however, lie your face off and divulge nothing (like where you live) when it comes to everything else. You have to. Employers focus on how they can rule you out rather than what you can bring to the table. This is the ugly environment employers have created where the job seekers back is against the wall of bias and limited thinking. Lie. 🙂

  16. Pingback: What’s your greatest job search challenge? | MyCareerTesting Social Media

  17. Lately job search has bummed me out due to the request for a master’s degree. It is very disheartening when you read a job description and you meet 90% of the requirements only to discover that last one,”require Master’s Degree”, disqualifies you. Mind you these positions sit vacant for months because of that little clause “requires Master’s Degree”.

    To see how cavalier employers are with disregarding the Bachelor’s Degree is alarming. I understand employers want educated people working for them but in this market maybe being a bit more flexible might get you the candidate you have prayed for. There is no degree that can replace or fill-in for actual work experience and proven results.

  18. I have been working at the same place for 20 years and over the past year or so have decided to move on for that “encore career” My biggest concern is my age. I am 62 – will anybody look at me TWICE when I do get an interview knowing that I am “that old.” I don’t feel it and I know I have a lot to offer and not ready to retire but this issue really scares me. I am not sure I will know how to respond if people ask why I am changing careers so late in my professional life. HELP?

  19. My biggest challenge when I was looking for jobs was to find postings I felt qualified for. I think I lack the confidence to believe I can accomplish everything that is on the job duties. Then I think of the number of people looking at the post, many of them who are more qualified and with more experience. It takes some time to build myself up, but I do.

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