Why Finding a New Job Has Gotten a Lot Harder

For a variety of new reasons, candidates at all levels are frustrated. What can they do?

The same message keeps coming back: Thanks for your interest, but we are moving forward with other candidates at this time. Calls from recruiters—there used to be a few each week!—have dried up. Outreach to LinkedIn connections and other contacts often receives no response.

The mounting challenges of finding a job are causing many to give up the search altogether. According to the most recent data from the US government, 1.6 million people wanted a job and were available for work in December—but did not apply for one. Moreover, that same month there were also 346,000 “discouraged workers,” which the government defines as people who believe there are no jobs available for them.

Those are the official numbers. Anecdotally, the situation is even worse. “I hear from clients daily about the frustration of the job-search process,” says Stacey Perkins, a Korn Ferry Advance career coach. Part of the challenge is simple math: The number of job seekers has swelled due to layoffs across industries in 2023, while the number of open jobs has steadily declined, from 10.8 million last January to 8.8 million in November. Perkins says the result has been an increase in the average number of applicants per role from around 200 to 500-plus. 

Some experts say artificial-intelligence tools may also be playing a role. On the one hand, AI makes it easier than ever before to apply for jobs, with candidates able to tailor résumés and cover letters to specific roles with just a few prompts. On the other hand, experts say, the barrage of AI-aided applications means qualified candidates are more likely to get lost. “You cannot just throw résumés at a job posting and expect to get hired as you might have been able to in the past,” says Perkins.

Even if candidates are souring on the job-search process, they haven’t stopped looking, says Deepali Vyas, global leader of the Applied Intelligence practice at Korn Ferry. LinkedIn’s latest Workforce Confidence Index survey found that more than 40% of workers across several US industries—including consumer services, professional services, financial services, logistics and supply chain, and technology—say they will seek a new position this year.

In order to stand out to recruiters and hiring managers, Vyas says, candidates need to have a strategy beyond what’s on their résumé. She tells the story of a recent candidate who had to leave his data-analyst job to manage his family’s deli. Vyas says she never would have considered him for the placement she was trying to fill had she known nothing more about him than what appeared on his résumé. “But he told a story about what managing the deli taught him about operating a business and articulated an idea of how that could apply to the role,” she says. That helped him eventually land the position.

Other ways to stand out, experts observe, include providing links to relevant work samples, highlighting three “lightning facts”—business outcomes or achievements for which you were responsible—and heading off the dreaded words, “You’re overqualified,” with a cogent explanation of why you fit with the firm and why you want to work there. For her part, Korn Ferry Advance career coach Alyson Federico says the difficulty of finding a job today makes networking even more important, especially in a remote and hybrid world. “Networking has become—more than ever before—the grease that keeps the job-search engine going,” she says. 


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