12 Reasons Why Hiring Managers See You as Unemployable

During the last 21 months since we started TheJobSearchCoach, some of our coaches, (me included) have talked to over 300 job hunters about their job hunting or careers. Many of these job hunters express their worries – for reasons we all understand – as they are stressing out about finding new or better employment.

During these conversations we’ve noticed 12 red flags that signal (please notice I did not use the word “excuses”) and repeatedly highlight why recruiters and hiring managers may perceive you, as unemployable.

#1 You appear unconfident

Here is a typical statement that often pops up during initial meetings. “I am far more qualified than my friends and more experienced, but they get job offers: Why?”  they ask, slightly ashamed and with little or no eye contact and often with slumped shoulders.

Any type of hiring professional I know of has always been hesitant to hire those who FAIL TO EXUDE CONFIDENCE. HR Managers and recruiters, in particular, tend to be measured by their ability to hire leaders and difference-makers. Job hunters who fail to show sincere self-assurance and the desire to compete/perform at a high level are writing themselves off.

The most employable individuals are those who remain optimistic and confident in their abilities and see unemployment as an opportunity to recalibrate. I try to explain this to those who are struggling, as to me this is perfectly rational. There’s never really any basis for perceiving yourself as unemployable, especially if you’ve been a reasonably successful employee for some time.

#2 You’re asking a lot of closed questions 

I often meet jobseekers who shoot themselves in the foot by being too downbeat. This is typified by the asking of closed questions like, “I don’t suppose you’ve got any new job leads coming your way?”, or “I guess nothing is happening at your end?”. Seriously guys…

You need to be upbeat and energetic. You shouldn’t be asking negative questions which make you seem and feel needy. Maybe share those with your confidants, but not with a career professional.

#3 You’re invisible

I often ask those who stress their experience when they last got a call from a headhunter or recruiter. When was the last time someone gave you feedback on your resume or your profile on LinkedIn? (and I’m not talking about incessant ‘endorsements’) When did you last speak at a conference or attend a networking event? If the answer is never or a long while ago, then the chances are that you are invisible to would-be employers.

#4 You get distracted easily

There are many studies which have made the connection between ADD/ADHD and entrepreneurship. There is even a LinkedIn group called “The ADD/ADHD Entrepreneur” for these entrepreneurs to connect online.

Signs you have ADD/ADHD (or at lean that way) include being distracted easily, starting several projects without finishing them, and being a hands-on learner. Does that sound familiar? If so, don’t expect to last as a typical company man or woman. I remember an interview with a client who asked me to coach him for jobs where he does not have to manage projects through. His words were “I am a strategist, I like to theorise.”

#5 You are smart – without experience

“I’m just out of university, but employers expect me to have all this experience. But if no one will hire me, how do I get the experience.”


With no internships or volunteer positions on your resume, and without the development of soft skills through campus activities, clubs or fraternities, of course many recruiters are going to pass you over. No one cares about your academic excellence if you can’t face the hard facts. In many fields, your job seeking competition with a much lower GPA – the confident networkers with significant hands-on experience and abundant soft skills – will kick your butt in the real world.

It’s that easy guys. There is No Excuse for No Experience.

#6 You are a White Board Tiger

Have you downloaded the latest visualiser app for your mobile because you like to draw ideas? Do you often find yourself jumping to the white board to try to describe a situation visually? An inclination towards visual thinking is another sign you should avoid getting a job where you have to lobby for your ideas in writing. (see point 2)

#7 You’re blaming all sorts of things 

If you’ve lost your job, it’s ok to go through a period of blaming other people or things. But, the danger is that you become stuck in this phase and that you regularly mention your frustrations to potential new employers and networking contacts. No one wants to employ someone full of anger and frustration for a former employer or boss.

Learn to minimise the length and depth of the blaming period without glossing over it. I suggest that you stop obsessing about what went wrong. Move on!

#8 You just don’t get it – easy never works

I have heard this many times – “I’ve submitted 200 applications on seek.com and haven’t received a single invitation for an interview”. I’ve been hearing this same story over and over again for almost two years now… WHY DO WE STILL THINK this approach is an effective job search strategy?

Here’s my theory on this pop up sentence:

  1. Online job boards are easy
  2. Networking (especially for introverts) and research are just too hard
  3. Human nature dictates that we try “easy” first – no matter how ineffective and mind-bogglingly silly the end result

Just ask the hundreds of thousands of Australian unemployed or underemployed friends: easy doesn’t work.

#9 You’re sandbagging  

Just because you’re busy all day, you may think you’re moving towards a new job. But what you are really doing is wasting time. Sitting at home all day, scanning online job sites and waiting for the phone to ring is a waste of time. What you really need to do is sell yourself or you will waste your time on a lot of activity which will get you nowhere.

I regularly hear stories from job hunters who, following job loss or a discombobulating life event, attempt to regain control by obsessively controlling minor aspects of their lives, like diet or exercise. I know … this will keep you busy and it can be important, but it will bring you no closer to finding a new job.

#10 You’re not listening

Some of my most memorable job hunter client episodes were those who loved talking about themselves. They like describing in detail their latest idea or plan, which is great if you’re in the mood to be entertained. The problem is this: if you try to enter into the discussion, their eyes start to drift, and it’s clear they are just waiting for a lull in the conversation so they can start talking again. It’s so natural that you probably don’t even know you’re doing it. So ask a friend you trust or your partner who will give it to you straight.

If you tend to be distracted when other people are talking, avoid going to work for someone who not only will want to talk, but who also will expect – even insist – that you listen.


“I don’t know what I’m doing wrong. I just can’t get a job offer.”

I DO know what you are doing wrong… you are not making enough – or any – effort to learn what you’re doing wrong!

Every draft of a wholly customised cover letter and resume, every application, every phone/Skype interview and every single face-to-face meeting is another CHANCE TO LEARN WHAT WORKED VERY WELL, what part of the process you can improve a bit, and perhaps what went horribly wrong.

Self-analyse your job search strengths and weaknesses. Discuss the process with a coach or mentor. Ask for feedback from the hiring managers or recruiters you meet during your job search and while networking (I know some are reluctant to give feedback, but you won’t know until you have tried).

Another form of not learning is when you haven’t learned anything new for years.

Just because you’ve got a job, you can still be drifting and en route to unemployment. If you haven’t learned anything new in the past three years, it’s usually a sign that you’re becoming less employable. This is 2015. We are in the age of technology. Learning new technology is especially important. Not understanding or using social media or online and mobile tools is no excuse. Get with it – or search forever.

Finally …

#12  You make it into the shortlist but you never get the job 

Repeatedly being shortlisted is another bad signal. This too is an indication that you’re neither aligned nor connected.

If you’re shortlisted a few times, but you don’t get the job, it’s usually an indication that you’re not aligned to what the market wants in terms of leadership capabilities or that you’re not interviewing well. That’s all I have to say on that point guys. If candidates are focusing on what they want from a job, rather than what they can bring to an employer, then they are not aligned. You’re not aligned when you’re talking more about yourself than the challenges and issues faced by the person in front of you.

Employability is about finding a role where you can make a difference. Let go of your preoccupation with your own experiences, skills and track record, and instead focus and address the issues faced by the person you’re interviewing with. Smarten up and remember to hunt wisely.


Share this post if you know a job hunter who might be in Danger of becoming Un-employable