Job Search Trouble: Are You a ‘Low Quality’ Applicant?

Chris Farley and David Spade display "low quality" traits during a job search in the movie "Black Sheep"

Chris Farley and David Spade display “low quality” traits during a job search in the movie “Black Sheep” | Paramount Pictures

You don’t hang out with “low-quality” people. Relatives notwithstanding, we like to spend our time with people who are upbeat, friendly, and that have good energy. This is the same way employers feel about the people they hire. If you’re going to spend a good chunk of your week in the same office or workspace as a potential applicant, you want to make sure that you guys mesh. Employers want a “high-quality” hire.

But if you’re on the job search, what if you’re one of those people that employers evade? One of those people that hiring managers won’t consider? What if you’re a “low-quality” candidate?

That can be a tough revelation to grapple with — and that’s for those with the insight and objectivity to look at themselves from another’s point of view. It isn’t easy to realize that people aren’t exactly thrilled at the prospect of working with you. But there is a silver lining. If you haven’t had much success in improving your career prospects, you may have pinpointed the reason. And there are things you can do to improve your image.

It all comes back to having the ability to objectively measure your worthiness as a candidate, though. Being self-critical is extremely difficult for most people, and it may take some work. An employer may ask what your biggest weakness is, which is also something you should also be asking yourself. Not just coming up with some sly, evasive answer to get you to the next question.

How do you know if you’re a “low-quality” candidate or a risky hire? Here are nine questions to ask yourself that should help you come up with an objective assessment. If you answer “yes” to No. 5, you definitely look desperate to HR.

1. Do you send identical resumes to multiple companies?

A boring, boilerplate resume

A boring, boilerplate resume | iStock.com

A foolproof way to make sure your candidacy is short is to send out the same boilerplate resume to every employer. Each job and job listing is unique; your resume needs to reflect that. Specifically, it needs to reflect how you fit the position. Obviously, some job listings are going to be more intricate than others. But you do need to do some tailoring to keep your resume out of the trash.

2. Are you missing some basic qualifications?

A woman fills out a job application

A woman fills out a job application | Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

This is another problem that arises when you’re not aiming at the right jobs. If you’re taking the “shotgun” approach to applying — that is, a scattershot strategy — you may be completely missing some key qualifications. In other words, you may be completely unqualified for a job you’re applying for. Not only will this not get you the job, but if your name pops up again later and a hiring manager remembers it, you’re not going to look good.

3. Are you writing cover letters?

Man banging out a cover letter

Man banging out a cover letter | iStock.com/opolja

Yes, writing a cover letter sucks. They’re time-consuming to put together, and nothing is more frustrating than taking the time and effort to write a cover letter and then getting crickets in return. As much as this is frustrating, nothing says “you’re not trying” like refusing or refraining from submitting one. And like your resume, don’t just change the names and dates — take a bit of time to create an original.

4. Do you respond to emails and phone calls?

Girl on the beach and using a mobile phone

Girl on the beach and using a mobile phone | iStock.com/iprogressman

You hate it when people don’t respond to you when you send in an application or resume. Employers hate it when you don’t get back to them, too. If you think you’re in the running for a job, or at least are a good fit, be sure you’re answering your phone and checking your email. Look in your spam folder. Pick up when an unfamiliar number calls. And check your voicemail.

5. Are you applying for multiple, unrelated jobs at one company?

Man applying for job on internet with coffee on table

Man applying for job from a coffee shop | iStock.com/Rawpixel

Touching on a couple of points we’ve made already: the scattershot strategy. You may be desperate for a job, and willing to take anything you can get. But spamming an employer (even a big one) by applying for several, seemingly unrelated jobs, isn’t going to look good. Instead, spend time focusing on one or two roles that you’re particularly suited for. If an HR rep sees your name all over the place, they’re probably going to write you off without a second thought.

6. Is your social media presence a liability?

Social media icons on a smart phone

Social media icons on a smartphone | iStock.com/Anatolii Babii

Get your social media accounts in order. This is something that can and will cost you a job offer. If your Facebook page is out there, unprotected, containing pictures of you doing stupid things? It’s a liability. But it’s not just photos or dank memes. Think about all of the things you “like” or comment on — these can also be a liability. Delete any stupid comments or posts, set your profiles to private, and make your social presence works for you, not against you.

7. Is your job history spotty?

A crumpled resume -- bad news for a job search

A crumpled resume — bad news for a job search | iStock.com/ragsac

Nothing says “low-quality candidate” quite like a spotty resume. You may be in a situation in which you’ve been out of work for a while. Or you’re young and don’t have much experience. There are ways to bake those considerations into your resume. But if you’ve been fired several times or simply can’t hold a job for whatever reason? That’s harder to spin. Make your application, cover letter, and resume about your “career rebirth”, and don’t screw up another chance.

8. Do you even know what you’re looking for?

A woman sobs at her job prospects

A woman sobs at her job prospects | Thinkstock

Many of the aforementioned issues really come down to one core issue; you don’t know what you’re looking for. Sending out resumes hither and yon might land you an interview. But your success rate will be low. And you should be gleaming one piece of insight from your own behavior: You need to figure out what you want out of your career and focus on it.

9. Are you aiming a bit too high?

A boss experiences a power trip

A boss experiences a power trip | Thinkstock

Sometimes you need to temper your expectations. It’s true in the dating world, and it can be true in terms of your career. If you’re having little success in landing interviews, perhaps you need to aim a little lower. Wait until you’re a “higher-quality candidate” before applying to be a manager. Apply to be an assistant manager instead. Or a shift lead. Sometimes, you can jump a few spots up in life. Other times, however, require that you grind it out.

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