Job Hunting: Here’s Why It’s So Hard, And How To Succeed.

Job hunting is tough. If you haven’t already heard, Australia’s jobs growth is the strongest it’s been in the last 29 years with full-time employment increasing to equate to 68% of total employment and unemployment dropping to one of its lowest points at 5.6%.

Great news, yes? Not for millennials. In June, Australia’s youth unemployment rate sat at 13.3% which puts Australia 18th out of the 35 OECD countries, behind the United States, Germany, Norway and even the Czech Republic.

Our high youth unemployment rate isn’t anything new, so why is it still a national problem? It’s because there’s this negative perception young Aussies are bludgers. This means all initiatives to address unemployment have been focused on reducing the current levels of youth welfare dependence as opposed to actually fixing the real problem.

So, what’s the real problem?

Our research shows it’s the transition from education to the workforce, with 79% of young Australians saying their schools or universities failed to prepare them to enter the workforce.

Making matters worse is the fact entry-level jobs are diminishing and we’ve lost over 226,000 youth full time jobs since September 2008, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. It’s not going to get better either, with youth full-time employment hitting an all time low in December 2016 and only 27,000 full-time positions for young Aussies being created since.

There’s little to no help offered to young Australians throughout their education to point them on the right career path. In high school they’re told to go to University and get a degree, with little or no thought about whether that leads them down the right vocational path.

Then they come out of university, with debt, only to be met with part-time work and underemployment – both of which are at their highest levels ever – without any guidance on how to enter the jobs market.

If you’re job hunting, the future probably looks pretty bleak. But don’t let the data get you down – put your best foot forward to launch your dream career.

How to beat the career odds when they aren’t in your favour

Scoring that job you’ve been striving for is possible when you’re armed with the right skills. Here are six tips on how to sell yourself to land the job you are looking for:

#1 Understand the key selection criteria

You’ve heard this all before, but matching your experience against the key selection criteria is essential. Look at these in detail and reflect on your own experiences in work, study and life to show you meet the criteria – even if it might not seem obvious at first. This is particularly important when you don’t have much practical work experience, as you can draw on hobbies, sports interests, study, volunteering etc. to show you meet the criteria.

#2 Customise your resume and application letter

The biggest mistake most job seekers make is creating one resume and one application letter, which they use for all the roles they apply for. The employer wants to see you are suitable for their role. So, customise your resume to ensure you match your skills to their key selection criteria. Using keywords from their advertisement or website will help your resume stand out.

The same applies for the application letter, which should include a short summary of how your application is relevant to their business needs. Show what you can do for them. You should assume they may not read your resume. As such, make sure your application letter make them want to read it.

#3 Use your networks to uncover the hidden jobs market

Most jobs are not advertised, with companies relying on friends and professional networks to find employees. So, make sure you let your networks know you are looking for a role, and tap into the networks of your friends and family.

#4 Rehearse

Don’t leave anything to chance. Think about the questions you might be asked at a job interview and write them down. Now, practice answering them. This will keep them top of mind, so you remember to share the information during the interview. This is important as it will help the hiring manager understand how your skills match the job requirements.

#5 Show how your background and experience adds value to the company

When answering questions in an interview, show the employer your features (a characteristic or skill you have) and benefits (the value of that characteristic or skill to the employer). Most people make the mistake of only talking about their features during a job interview but you need to spell out the benefits as well.

#6 Follow Up

This will show the employer you are keen on the role and help you stand out by reminding them why you are the best candidate, particularly if they have interviewed several people after you.

If you follow these simple tips, it will go some way in helping you secure a career you want, even against the mounting odds.

Steve Shepherd has spent 28 years working in HR and recruitment services businesses across Australia, New Zealand and Asia. One of his proudest achievements has been developing and launching Randstad’s Shaping Young Futures Program, which helps young jobseekers develop practical skills and secure employment. He is a Life Member and former President and Board Chairman of the Recruitment and Consulting Services Association of Australia and New Zealand (RCSA), and a Member of the Australian Futures Foundation.