Top 5 Reasons You’re Unemployed

You may blame the economy, but as any sad sap who’s ever heard the words, “It’s not you, it’s me” knows, it’s definitely you. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to always be you. I’ve compiled a list of 5 simple and common reasons candidates may get overlooked for their dream job.

#5. Too revealing answers to cheesy interview questions

Interviewers love to ask the dumbest questions. What’s your strongest weakness? What’s your weakest strength? Something like that. You’ll almost always get a question purely designed to make you uneasy and to put you on the spot. For example: “What’s the greatest risk you’ve ever taken and failed?” They’re setting you up for failure, to see if you take the bait. Of course, not taking the bait is a sign of weakness too. So, you either say you’re inadequate to some degree or you’ll be seen as inadequately answering the question. Neither works in your favor. Yes, it’s a trap.

So, what to do? Avoid answering the question with anything that would relate to your ability to do the job. You have to answer, and when the interviewer is fishing for your weaknesses, don’t admit, “I spend most of my time tweeting about tiger blood.” That tells them you won’t be focused on the job, and may hint at a drug addiction.

When you’re thrown these kinds of questions, keep it simple and for Heaven’s sake don’t say something that relates to the position you’re applying for! If you want to be a copyeditor and your greatest weakness is the English language, then it doesn’t matter how honest you may be. You simply aren’t going to get the job done. It’s also a mistake to go with a classic “I’m a perfectionist”. Really? I think you’re just a dishonest fool with no creativity. There’s nothing perfect about that.

Ultimately, you have to be original, be honest and go with a weakness far removed from the abilities needed to perform the job. “My greatest weakness is that I can’t do math quickly in my head.” If you’re applying for a copywriting position, then there’s nothing wrong with that. Hell, that’s what calculators are for. On the flip side, if you’re applying to be a web developer, then maybe your greatest weakness is understanding poetry.

Whatever your greatest weakness, ALWAYS follow up with, “It’s something that frustrates me. I want to improve and am always working at it.”

Clark Kent

"Kryptonite, but I'm trying to build up an immunity to it."

#4. Job hopping

It’s like a man who’s been divorced multiple times. “There has to be a reason for it.” It doesn’t matter if it’s true or not, that will be the perception. It can be particularly difficult early in your career to not job hop. Several positions are only meant to be temporary, and perhaps your life situation as well as goals have changed considerably during a short amount of time. That’s all okay, but be ready to explain it.

With internships, there’s always the question of, “Why didn’t they offer you a full time gig after it ended?” So, you should make it clear that it was only a summer thing or that you only wanted the specific experience before moving on to a more stable career (which you’re now applying for). You’ll want to make sure to convey that you’re looking for something real, steady and longterm.

Of course, that’s for spinning job hopping in the interview. First, you want to get to the interview, so consider working an explanation into your cover letter. That’s your chance to tell them you’ve been exploring different options, learning a variety of skills, and now you’re ready to find your career.

Conan on NBC

"Where I really want to be is TBS."

#3. Your resume doesn’t say anything

So, you were an intern at some publisher? Great, but what does that mean you can do for us? Since interns rarely get money, let alone a job title, it can be a challenge describing these early steps of a career on your resume. A good start would be to say what kind of intern you are. Yes, they are all pretty much the same thing: under-appreciated gofers. When an employer looks at your past job titles and descriptions, what they’re looking for are words that convey relative experience. So, even if your primary task was coffee retrieval, you technically were a marketing intern. So, say that. Be as specific to the job you’re applying for as you can be without stretching the truth so much. Focus on the aspects of the position you had that matter to the one you want.

Secondly, describe the job in the same manner. Chances are we aren’t interested in you for your ability to paper clip 100 sets of presentation handouts. And while we’re on that subject, leave out arbitrary numbers. Saying you generated “over 9000 leads” for your previous employer doesn’t necessarily mean anything to us. Are those a lot of leads? Were they any good? The point is you generated leads. That means you have lead-generation skills. The number is irrelevant. All it says is “Look at me try to impress you with a number I hope you will think means business.” It’s unnecessary clutter. However, necessary clutter would be adding things like “Assisted in the planning of new media marketing strategies” in place of “Attended market strategy meetings.” While you shouldn’t lie, it is important to make sure your description gives a meaning that is relevant and tells the prospective employer that you were more than a wide-eyed seat-filler.


This IS my job description.

#2. Your resume includes 2 months at Papa John’s

If you’re applying to work in the food industry, then it’s relevant experience. However, if you’re trying to get out of the food industry, it’s not going to help you one bit. An employer doesn’t care about your talents outside of what you can offer them. If they’re not in the business of preparing and boxing pizzas, then it doesn’t matter that you can do 20 in under 30 minutes.

Yes, an employer wants to see some work history. This is why it’s so important to have work history. But if you have little else other than your stint in fast food, then you’re going to have a tough time getting a good desk job. Start somewhere that has computers that are more than Big Mac tabulators, then you can get real world office experience to throw on your resume.

Burger King King

Or forever work for this guy.

If you’ve got the experience, say at least two jobs and/or over one year, then go ahead and cut Papa John’s from your resume. An employer will only look at it and think, “Why the Hell does he think we care he worked at Papa John’s?”

#1. No practical experience.

This is the biggest killer, and an epidemic now. Kids today, they don’t know what it’s like out in the real world. They spend all their life in college and on the Twitter. Then, when it comes to getting a job, they find they have no marketable skills!

When an employer is hiring for a non-internship position, they want someone who can do it. They’re not looking to train someone from scratch. Unfortunately, when college graduates begin entering the full time job marketplace, they don’t usually have much more than a piece of paper and some mindless internships. When you’re a mindless intern, it’s not just your job to refill staplers, but you also should be absorbing information and learning the inner-workings of the industry. While you may be deprived opportunities to get real hands-on experience, you can stay observant and get an understanding for how your company does whatever it is it does.


"I think there were widgets involved."

Consider your past jobs and think specifically about what you did there that had real, meaningful impact. Then, put that on your resume.

Common sense goes a long way in an interview, but if you’ve never done your own laundry, cooked your own food, paid bills, changed a tire, taken apart a ballpoint pen….SOMETHING, then you could easily find yourself lacking in this department. When the only thing you’re good at is turning in homework assignments online at 11:59 pm, then perhaps you should consider why you went to college in the first place.

The key to getting hired is being valuable. To be valuable, you have to have something to offer. Generally this is a skill of some sort. Find a skill, something relevant to the career you want, and hone it. If you can’t get work experience, then find a way to do it on your own. Public relations? Boast an impressive Twitter following. Web development? Make a website. Photography? Have an engaging Flickr portfolio. If you can show that while you may not have had a lot of opportunity professionally, you have still succeeded at developing a skillset of some kind, then you’re one huge step closer to getting hired.

  • asd

    God this is fucking terrible.

    • Jahh

      Was literally scrolling down to see if someone would point this out. There is hope.

  • Dream Job is then, when do some with pleasure 🙂

  • Johnnyangel57

    your site has helped me make a better resume and focus on things that really matter thanks

  • No1

    taurus feces

  • nairb

    this is some solid definitely gonna use your tips in my job search

  • Interesting

  • The more you discipline yourself to working non-stop on a single task, the more you move down the “Efficiency Curve.” You get more and more high quality work done in less and less time.

  • # 5 and # 4 don’t apply for Ad agencies or Marketing. Thank God.

    Other than that try to be a little more upbeat and provide more actionable recommendations, giving examples of “Here’s what you gotta do” versus “Don’t do this!”

    Regarding my own blog I definitely should take my own advice though in that I have to make more posts…

    • I hope to write a follow up sometime, with suggestions rather than warnings.

      • Hey there, in regards to #4, what would you consider a reasonable amount of time to stay at each agency? Is 1 year enough, 2, 3? I get that 3-6 month stints are bad, but in your opinion, what’s a reasonable jump point? Isn’t this industry built to job hop a bit due to rapidly changing roles, clients, managers etc.?

        • It depends on the industry. Digital marketing is more forgiving of job hopping. At least stay at a place for a year, though. That says you committed to it, you learned the ropes and maybe there wasn’t decent advancement opportunity so you went elsewhere. If you don’t make it a year, then you’ll have some explaining to do, I think.

  • Realist :)

    #1: You have a degree in a fine art

    • Paul Caudell

      This shouldn’t make a difference if you have practical experience. I went to art school and I’ve been an SEO for 6 years.

  • Disgruntled

    This is a good blog, but somewhat smacking of a typically judgmental HR executive with no skill or knowledge whatsoever in the area that they are looking to hire a qualified individual within. No wonder, with these attitudes, that Corporate America is facing a skilled workforce shortfall.

    • I don’t work in HR.  I generally do similar work that people I interview would be expected to do.  The biggest problem I come across is that people just don’t know how to do anything yet.  Everyone is entry-level.  They’ve taken no initiative to build out a skill set.  It’s like a degree replaces the need for talent in today’s workforce. 

      • Entry-level old man

        Ya know, u were once entry level urself buddy.

        The biggest problem in America is we think because someone has done it before they are good at it. Just look at how we vote- we vote corrupt careerists in repeatedly and expect change.

        You should hire people who work hard, regardless of their skill set. Hard workers, if given time to learn their job, will be more valuable and productive in the long run than someone with experience who is not as hard a worker. Therefore, entry level or not is a non-issue when hiring, IMO. Whether or not someone has the drive to do the job right is what i consider most important.

  • terry

    You are telling people to get meaningful job experience as if it is something they hadn’t thought of before.

    You seem completely unaware of this infinite loop:

    • This is why you fail.

      If the only way you can gain skills is on the job, then you aren’t what people are looking for. Employers want self-starters, people who are proactive and capable of learning on their own. You don’t have to have a job to build a skill set and a portfolio. If you can’t land a job, then work on yourself.

      • terry

        You do realize that I was talking about gaining relevant job experience, not improving skills in free time right? They are not the same thing. If when you say job seekers need experience, which is strongly implying job/work experience, you actually mean skills, you should state that. And what is with “This is why you fail”? You don’t know anything about me or my proactivity.

        Also, #2 does not make any sense. You are telling people listing their work history on their resume “is not going to help you one bit” and then literally 3 lines later saying “yes, employer wants to see some work history, its so important to have work history”. How does that make any sense?

        #4 applies to an extremely small amount of people who are unemployed. If someone is currently unemployed because they have been offered too many different opportunities that interested them, I don’t think they are going to need help falling back into a job for obvious reasons.

        • Employers want to see relevant job history. If you have that, then there’s no reason to include whatever you were doing as a teenager unless it somehow contributes to the job you’re applying for.

          In lieu of experience, employers want to see that you can do something. Nobody actually cares about job experience for the sake of job experience. Plenty of people have been employed and are still useless. The thing is that job experience tends to prove you know how to do something. Therefore, people who don’t have job experience need to make up for the lack of experience by being proactive and building a skill set and portfolio, which is what I say at the end. I say practical experience, not job experience. Believe it or not, some college grads don’t know how to do their own laundry. Combine an utter lack of practical skills with no job experience and it’s no wonder they’re having trouble getting employed. Oh, but they’re usually okay at answering multiple choice questions and writing essays. Maybe they should apply at a job doing that.