Career Poll: Most Challenging Job Search Issue?

After running some terrific career-related polls over the years (like this one here) that have attracted up to 500 responses, I’ll confess — ha ha — this most recent poll of mine laid an egg!  After hanging out there on LinkedIn for 30 days, the survey only attracted 14 responses, so either it somehow didn’t end up gaining the usual amount of exposure on the system OR the question being asked simply wasn’t as compelling as previous ones.

Either way, for those who missed it, the specific inquiry I threw out there recently was:

“What aspect of job hunting do you generally find to be the most challenging?”

The five response choices were:

1) Resume & cover letter writing
2) Leaning how to “network” effectively
3) Mastering today’s job search technology
4) Selling yourself in an interview
5) Talking money & negotiating job offers

Again, a total of 14 people cast their vote on this particular topic, and while you’ll see a small graphic of the results below, you can click here to access the full set of results.

The Analysis?  While we’re FAR from dealing with a statistically significant number of responses to this question, what the heck — let’s have some fun anyway in examining the answers to this survey and what they might symbolize.

For starters, I’d emphasize that the main purpose behind this poll was to illustrate that job hunting is an important and discrete skill set in its own right these days, comprised of multiple sub-competencies (e.g. interviewing, resume-writing, negotiating…) that should be approached and learned just like you would tackle any other broad body of knowledge, such as sales or project management.  Some people will struggle mightily with certain aspects of the process, such as interviewing.  Others will find selling themselves in an interview to be a piece of cake, but will instead get stuck on and struggle around tactical steps such as technology usage, time management, or cover letter development.

As for THIS particular audience of 14 job seekers, there’s obviously a pretty split distribution in terms of responses, as you can see, but it appears that the number one issue people are wrestling with is the networking process.  And while I haven’t talked to any of these respondees personally, I’d hazard a guess that many of them are feeling confused about things like how best to access the “hidden job market” via networking, how to use on-line networking tools like LinkedIn, or how to psyche themselves up to network, to begin with, if they’re fairly introverted, shy, or lacking confidence at the moment.

These are usually the issues that come up in most discussions about job search networking, at least.  For these people, in addition to the great many books already out there on the subject of developing leads through personal contacts, I’d recommend spending some time on the series of networking-specific blog articles I’ve written over the years — which you’ll find here.

Beyond that, there also seems to be a bit of angst floating around about talking money with employers and how best to handle the salary questions that tend to come up, early and often, in the modern interview process.  There’s a lot of conflicting advice on this subject, as well, although I continue to maintain that the best way to handle a salary request is NOT to avoid answering it — which can deal a death blow to your rapport with the interviewer — but to instead give an educated, well-considered “range” of compensation that appears to match up appropraite to the job in question.

In other words, you’d say something like “Based on similar jobs I’ve seen out there, and been discussing with other employers, I’d estimate that this job we’re talking about — if I understand your needs correctly and the caliber of person you’re looking for — would probably fall within the $60-75,000 range.  So that’s the rough ball park I’m targeting, although a lot depends, obviously, on certain other factors that I’m sure we’ll eventually talk about such as the culture of the company, the benefits package offered, and similar factors.  Does that sound pretty reasonable in terms of the salary range you have in mind for the position?”

So that’s how I’d handle the “how much money are you looking for?” question that many people agonize around.  And if you’re interested in how to push back with a counter-offer, when an offer has been extended, it’s hard to give much black-and-white advice in that regard since offer scenarios are extremely situational.  In these cases, your negotiating strategy needs to take into account factors such as leverage, whether you have other offers pending, how desperate you are to find work, and the like.  So we’re going to skip the finer details of that subject for now, as well as the three other poll responses that barely drew a vote.

As for the coming month?  You’ll find my latest LinkedIn poll question here, asking anybody who cares to comment: “Do you think checking references is still a useful and relevant step in hiring somebody? If not, what’s the main reason?”

3 Responses to “Career Poll: Most Challenging Job Search Issue?”

  1. I found that there isn’t enough job interview Q&A out there. There’s so much to a job hunt , it can be overwhelming. The workshops that worksource provides aren’t the best. I think getting first hand experience or advice is ideal.

  2. John: Thanks for submitting your thoughtful comment, and yes, in a perfect world I would have provided a number of additinoal choices to the “most challenging job search issue” beyond the five I selected, since one could easily conceive of dozens of places where folks get stuck in the job hunting process. And in retrospect, if I WERE to include the issue you’re suggesting, I’d probably have phrased it as “The confidence-eroding effect of not hearing back from employers, after submitting” or something similar. To be fair, though, this issue is more of a systemic issue about the job market (that none of us can really change) on a macro level, versus an actual competency of the job hunting process people can improve their skills around, which is more of the gist of what I was shooting at in my survey. Still, your feedback is appreciated, and not many people would doubt the impact of the dynamics you mentioned…

  3. Marc,
    In my opinion the job search survey questions lacked a key element/question. In one form or another the single largest comment regarding job search difficulty is the “Black Hole” effect…never hearing your resume was received; having a company supposedly be interested and never hearing another word (even from direct connections); being interviewed by phone or one or multiple times in person and receiving no follow up – ever – unless pressed to the point up to and appearing rude to find out WTF(!); an initial contact through interview process taking months or a year, going nowhere and slowly disappearing into the sunset; after being selected and having a company say they are very interested or want to hire you and never hear another word… or …. hearing they will hire you as soon as they can find the funding – or similar disconnected recruiting scenario!!! ????
    The broken, overwhelmed system manned by under qualified, over worked and overwhelmed staff is the single largest problem with job hunting, not the various processes of preparing and looking. It’s not these preparations aren’t important because they are. However, no amount of preparation can prepare anyone for what awaits in the actual job searching. When RPO (Recruitment Process Outsourcing) ATS and computer scanning (Kinexa, Taleo, etc.) further limit selection and cut off the passing through of qualified candidates due to a “quota”, it only adds to the “Black Hole” effect and frustration. Unfortunately for the employers, the success of these methods is equally frustrating and counterproductive with low stick rates, high turnover, constant recruiting, constant training and constantly rising costs and decreasing profits.
    My two cents.

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