Three Common Job Search Problems

  • Article by: KEVIN DONLIN , Star Tribune Sales and Marketing
  • Updated: April 14, 2008 - 7:21 AM

Finding a job is like building a bridge. There's a fair amount of research and resources involved. Kevin Donlin gives advice on how to network and use valuable tools to move past the most difficult job seeker obstacles.

Recently, I surveyed 159 job seekers by email, asking them this question: "What is the biggest problem in your job search right now?"

The responses were intriguing and I had a hard time boiling the problems down to a manageable number to answer here.

But I did.

So, here are three of the most common job search problems – as chosen by you, my readers – with my proposed answers.

Read on to see if your problem is solved here …

Problem #1: How can I make contact with someone at a company where I'd like to work? I want to send my resume to a live person when applying for jobs.

Solution: When responding to a job posting, do whatever it takes to find out who the hiring authority is. Then, try to make contact with that person through your network.

If your network of contacts doesn't reach that far yet, build a bridge! Start with your personal network first, and web-based tools second.

Remember: Computers don't hire. People do. So any information about an employer you can gather from the people you know (or the people they know) can help. Go through your email address book for names, or use Web tools like and to connect with more people.

Another Web resource worth a look is The site aims to help you bypass gatekeepers by contacting decision makers directly, and it boasts more than 7 million contact names from more than 400,000 companies. offers a free trial membership.

Problem #2: How can I find unadvertised job leads? I want to get beyond recruiters and HR gatekeepers to find someone who cares.

Solution: Spend time talking to people who already care about you. Start with your family.

Right now, the job you want exists somewhere in the mind of an employer. It may be advertised, or unadvertised, but it's there.

Your task is to get into the minds of as many people as possible, until you connect with the right mind – the right employer. That's how you get hired. And that's what networking is all about.

Now. If you're at all average, you probably think you've told "everyone" in your family about your job search. But have you, really? Have you:

  1. Written down the name of every single relative you have, aged 18 to 108?
  2. Shown that list to your family to make sure you didn't forget anyone?
  3. Called or emailed everyone on that list to tell them exactly what type of job you seek, the company you'd like to work for and the city you want to work in?
  4. Asked each relative for the names of at least 3 people they know who might know of potential employment leads?
  5. Thanked everyone you spoke to for their time?
  6. Repeated this process every 30 days until hired?

What about relatives who live in other states or cities? Should you spend contact them for job leads? Yes! Because, you have friends across the country, right? Your relatives do, too. All it takes is one contact at one company and you'll be hired.

So stop making excuses and start making phone calls to relatives. And forget about pride here. Pride won't pay your mortgage.

In the end, you can't depend on a recruiter, the government or the Internet to help you – they don't care about you. They don't even know you exist. But your family does. Start talking to them about your job search today.

Problem #3: How can I find good answers to the most common interview questions?

Solution: Try The Interview Center at – the direct URL is There you'll find tips for answering dozens of the most common questions, as well as virtual interview modules that let you practice online.

However … once you know what you want to say, there's no substitute for practicing with another person. Because there's more to interviewing than words. You also communicate by your tone of voice, vocabulary, posture, wardrobe, the food stuck in your teeth, etc. So you absolutely must get feedback on these areas from people you trust. And mock interviews are the way to do it.

You need to practice live interviews for the same reason airline pilots practice making emergency landings in a flight simulator – to build "muscle memory" so that your mind and body will react correctly in real life. Whether it's piloting your career or a 747, you can't afford to take chances.

Now, go out and make your own luck!

Kevin Donlin is creator of Since 1996, he has provided job-search help to more than 11,000 people. Kevin has been interviewed by USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, CBS Radio and others. His free report, The Simple Job Search Manifesto, is found at
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