You’ve updated your CV, scoured the job boards religiously and even signed up with multiple recruitment agencies. But months have passed and you’ve made absolutely no progress. Whether you’re making it to interview stage, but failing to close the deal or you’re struggling to secure an interview, the end result is the same. You want a new job, but your job search is not working. Don’t panic because the problem is fixable says Ros Toynbee – career coach and founder of the coaching company The Career Coach. Here, she shares the four commonest causes of a fruitless job hunt and her top tips for turning things around.

How seriously are you taking your search? Are you actually applying for jobs on a regular basis?

If your answer is no, then the reason your job search is not working is simple. You aren’t applying for enough jobs to stack the odds in your favour.

But why are you not putting your all into your job search?

Answer the following questions:

  • What is driving your desire to find a new job?
  • Is that desire still strong now that you’ve compared your role to others in the job market?
  • How could you connect with this compelling vision every day to inspire you and keep you motivated to take action?

It’s also important to look at any practical limitations that may be holding you back.

  • Are there parts of the job search process you’re unsure about? (eg CV, research, interviewing, networking). If so, who could help you with that?
  • Do you have a clear vision of the type of role and company that would suit you?
  • Do you have a plan of action, with time set aside for your search each week?

If the answer to any of these questions is ‘no’, now is the time to make a plan and reach out to family, friends or a career coach who can help you overcome these limitations.

You’ve been applying for jobs lots of them but you just can’t get an interview

Take an honest look at the last three jobs you applied for. Did your CV and cover letter closely match the requirements of each job? Look at the experience required for the role. Were the jobs too senior, too junior or completely mismatched to your skill set? If so, start applying for jobs that you’re suitably qualified for and get a second opinion on how clearly your CV shows you have the skills and experience required for the role.

Pay attention to your cover letter as making it to interview stage is not just about ticking the right skills and experience boxes. Employers want to know that you’re interested in their company and knowledgeable about the sector, so make sure your cover letter clearly demonstrates this.

Finally, it’s important to remember that a single job advert can easily attract hundreds of applicants, so you need to make sure you stand out from the competition. Was your university dissertation on a topic of potential interest to the company? Have you done a course that’s particularly relevant to the role? Do you have language skills that are relevant to the countries the company does business in? Mention them!

And on the subject of competition, never rely solely on job boards for finding vacancies, because that’s where everyone else is looking. Instead, tap into your network to discover opportunities that are yet to be advertised and don’t be shy about making speculative applications.

job search not going well
The job hunting process can be long and frustrating, especially if you’re changing career. Don’t forget why you started!

You’ve been getting interviews but no job offers

Receiving a job offer after an interview really comes down to two things: demonstrating you’re a good fit for the company and showing that you can actually do the job in question.

Let’s look at the first part of that equation.

Did you establish rapport during the interview? To establish rapport and show interviewers you are like them and well aligned with the company, you need to make it clear that you understand the needs, values and different personalities of those interviewing you. Think back to your last interview. Do you think the interviewers connected with you and did you demonstrate you matched the organisation’s values?

If so, the problem may be that you’re failing to show you’re capable of doing the job itself.

Recall the last two interviews you attended and ask yourself:

  • Did you really answer their questions?
  • Were those answers positively received?
  • Did you have lots of great examples to share?
  • Did you offer sufficient proof that you can do this job?
  • Did you demonstrate that you can provide extra value that other candidates can’t?
  • Were you passionate about the job (or might you have come across as too aloof or desperate for the job)?

Finally, if you still can’t work out what went wrong, seek feedback from the interviewers. They may not always provide it, but if they do, it’s an ideal way of knowing exactly how to improve your performance the next time you land an interview. A coach can also provide feedback if you can’t get it from interviewers and you’re genuinely stumped about where you’re going wrong.

You’re getting offers but the money is too low

While a job’s salary can feel beyond your control, this is not always the case. Firstly, don’t be afraid to negotiate. If the money on offer is a little lower than you’d like, ask if there’s any wiggle room and counter with a higher figure. Another approach to this is expanding the job description at the offer stage to justify a higher wage.

If you’re already applying these strategies but still receiving offers that are too low, it’s time to review the actual jobs you’re applying for.

  • Do these jobs require fewer skills and less experience than you have? If so, consider more comprehensive roles with more responsibility.
  • Are you applying for a type of company or sector that tends to pay less than your current sector (e.g. public service, charities)? If so, consider looking for your ideal role in companies with bigger wallets (e.g. larger companies, employers based in big cities, more lucrative sectors like finance).

Moving forward

The final thing to remember if you’ve been looking for a job for months and the search is not working is that these things take time. Don’t lose heart it’s often better to wait for a job that’s a good fit than it is to scramble into a nightmare role out of desperation. Be patient, stay reflective, ask for feedback and reach out for support when needed.


Ros Toynbee

Ros Toynbee

Ros Toynee is a leadership and career coach ( with over 15 years’ experience in the field. She's passionate about helping professionals to have fulfilling careers that make a positive difference in their chosen field. Her clients include the BBC, Legal & General and Judge Business School. Ros is accredited by the ICF and is a member of the Association for Coaching.

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