9 Reasons It Really Is Hard to Find a Job (and Tips for Finding Success)

It’s not just you: Landing a job is tougher now. But there are ways to improve your odds.
Updated Jan. 18, 2024
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desk witth job applications and resume

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Searching for a job has never been the easiest thing in the world. But it might be even tougher now.

Available jobs dropped during the summer by a few hundred thousand. The job market appears to be cooling off from the boom that occurred as the economy reopened post-pandemic.

So, if you’re struggling to find a job so you can move beyond living paycheck to paycheck, here are 10 possible reasons why — as well as some tips for finding success.

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Companies may prefer internal hires

Africa Studio/Adobe young woman waiting for interview indoors

Despite publicly posting a job, some employers might prefer to hire someone who already knows the company. That means the company might not actually want to bring on someone new. 

According to Forbes, roughly half of American companies plan to hire internally or promote someone to fill an open position. That makes it harder for anyone outside the company to make their way in.

What you can do: You might be able to improve your odds by showcasing skills that make you unique or pointing out that an outside perspective can benefit the company.

Companies may rely on private job postings

mrmohock/Adobe data information with blank search bar

Some employers might have openings that you will never be aware of, even though you could be a good fit. This happens when the company keeps job postings internal instead of going public.

Companies typically do this when they are relying on internal hires or recommendations from current employees or recruiters. This is sometimes called the “hidden job market.”

What you can do: Network and get to know more people in your chosen field. Try reaching out to recruiters. And you can always try to contact companies directly to ask about openings.

‘Ghost jobs’ are being posted

MclittleStock/Adobe computer job search

The job you’re applying to might not really exist. The term “ghost job” describes a practice that some companies use to solicit resumes from potential candidates they might eventually have a use for down the road.

This technique also might also be used to create an impression of company growth or optimism.

What you can do: Look to see how long the job has been listed. If it’s recent, go for it. Something that’s remained unfilled for months, on the other hand, could signal that it’s a “ghost job.”

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Having a degree isn’t a guarantee

ijeab/Adobe business job interview

Scoring a job might actually be tougher on those with a higher education, according to a Harris Poll commissioned by Time magazine.

More than half of applicants who had bachelor’s degrees or higher went through the interview process without an offer. By contrast, just 35% of those with only a high school diploma did not receive an offer.

What you can do: Take a deep breath and refocus. Not getting an offer is frustrating, but you will land a job if you keep at it.

More candidates are being ‘ghosted’

Tom Mc Nemar/Adobe job search

You might think you would be more likely to hear back from a company after getting through at least one round of interviews, but that’s not always the case.

More than two-thirds of candidates have been ghosted after an interview, according to a recent survey by Greenhouse.

What you can do: There isn’t much you can do about a company that ignores good candidates. Remember that it is their loss, and keep plugging away at the job search.

There are a lot of qualified candidates

Studio Romantic/Adobe waiting in line for job interview

A lot of Americans are looking for jobs. One survey from Monster earlier in the year put the number at an astonishing 96% of workers. In addition, the BLS reports unemployment is on the rise, ticking up to 3.8% — or 6.4 million people — as of August.

Each job, for example, gets around 250 applicants, according to Zety. Only a handful will be invited to interview. And, of course, only one person will land the gig.

What you can do: You’ll always compete with other qualified candidates, but optimizing your resume for the company’s tracking system can help you stand out.

The interview odds aren’t great

Pixel-Shot/Adobe young candidates sitting on chairs in frontwaiting for their call at job interview

As noted above, every job posting may see around 250 applicants. Of those, about one-quarter get through any hiring software an employer has, according to TopInterview.

Around 10 might be screened in a phone call. Fewer still come in for a meeting. And fewer still go through multiple interview rounds.

What you can do: You have to be at the top of your game and impress your prospective employer every step of the way. Run a lot of practice interviews so you become an expert at the skill.

You might be overqualified

Looker_Studio/Adobe data search technology

There is a chance you’re overqualified for the jobs you’re applying to.

Employers and recruiters don’t want to hire people who may be too good for the role. There are a variety of reasons for this fear, including concerns you might leave your job the second something better comes along.

Employers also might worry you will quickly become bored, or that you will want too much money.

What you can do: If you’re overqualified for the jobs you’re currently applying for, set your sights on more advanced positions.

Your resume could be holding you back

rh2010/Adobe woman holding resume document indoors

Resume standards have changed over the years. As such, having an updated resume doesn’t just mean including your most recent position. Instead, it’s also important to make sure your resume fits the modern style.

The modern resume style is more minimalistic. Everything is trimmed down. Employers don’t spend a ton of time looking at resumes — somewhere around six or seven seconds on average, according to Indeed. So, the faster an employer can absorb your details, the better.

What you can do: Make sure your resume is up to current standards and tailored to the job you seek, especially if you're expecting to make more money.

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Bottom line

zakokor/Adobe people searching for a new job

Searching for a job is a job in itself. You must be persistent and ready to adapt.

While the job market may have chilled a bit, there are still industries adding positions. The BLS notes that openings have increased in information, transportation, warehousing, and utilities.

So, don’t give up on your dream of finding a fulfilling job that can help you grow your wealth.

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Author Details

Will Vitka Will Vitka is a D.C. area reporter and writer. He previously worked for WTOP, The New York Post, Stuff Magazine, and CBS News.

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