Resume Help/Job Market


Hi Dr. Converse,

Thanks for taking my question.  I've been job searching for almost a year but it is getting increasingly frustrating.  It seems like employers just don't want to hire, no matter what.  I'd give up looking if I wasn't fairly desperate but I guess I would like to know what your take on the job situation is and if you think it will improve soon.

Thanks for your help.

Hi Norm,

I understand your frustration; it is shared by millions of people across the US right now.  Many employers have vacancies they would like to fill but are not doing so for a couple of reasons.  

First, some employers are finding it difficult to match the job they have with qualified individuals who are looking.  This is another way of saying that there is a "skills gap" in the economy where certain jobs, that were available in 2007, are not going to return.  The market has changed.  Some job seekers whose skills match those 2007 jobs may find that they will need to re-train to match themselves to jobs that are available now.  

Secondly, employers are scared to death.  Many of them have openings ( in some cases, a large number of them) but they are reluctant to hire because they are not firmly convinced that the recent economic improvements are here to stay.  But the number one reason they are scared is that they are terrified that, if they hire someone, that person may not work out; that person may not be the one to solve their staffing needs long-term.  They are looking for what is now described as the "purple squirrel."  That very rare individual who fits their current and future plans perfectly and who brings skills and qualifications to the job that make sense on the bottom line.

You don't say what kind of job you are seeking, but to help you here it probably doesn't matter.  Believe it or not, the purple squirrel phenomenon can actually be good news for the applicant who is willing to go the extra mile to demonstrate that they are that rare individual.

Here is the problem - and this problem has existed long before the 2007 recession hit.  Most job applicants were (and are) either sloppy and lazy or completely clueless about how important their job application package was (and is) to their job chances.  In preparation for writing my second book on this topic I found that employers across the US and Canada were receiving, on average, defective application packages in about 92% of the cases. In other words, only about eight percent of applicants sent apps that were accurate, professional, credible, and highly organized.  That will make a lot of people nervous about hiring anyone.

But here is the good news: anyone who is willing to work hard to make their application package as perfect as it can be will go a long way toward being in that eight percent of people who look really good to an employer in need.  Make no mistake - jobs are being filled every day across North America.  But the odds are always against you.  The average number of applicants for any job opening is near 300.  Applicants who survive those odds are those who take great care in preparing their targeted cover letter, their resume, the application itself and any other documents that are required.  Every single detail must be attended to.  Consistency of style in your documents is important as is the attention you pay to how you describe your skills AND how you match those skills to the employer needs in the narratives you provide.  

The space here is too limited to tell you everything you must do, but you are free to write me at the email below and I will be happy to review your documents at no charge.  Then we can begin to get specific about what things you can do to be the purple squirrel.

I look forward to hearing from you; best wishes,

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Ralph D. Converse, Ph.D.


I can answer questions about general job searches, resume construction, crafting an effective cover letter, and how to prepare for, and conduct, a winning interview. My speciality is the field of education, but I also have extensive background in business and administration. I know what works and what doesn't work and I can make your application package stand out from the rest ... because that is what you have to do.


I have interviewed for, and held, dozens of jobs in a career going back more than 42 years. I have taught at all educational levels including middle school, high school, community college, and university. In more than 42 years of experience on both sides of the job-search process, I have interviewed hundreds of applicants and have reviewed literally tens of thousands of job application packages. I am the author of 12 Mistakes That Got Your Job Application Rejected ... And How To Fix Them! I conduct workshops for job seekers in a variety of locations every year.

Music Educator's Journal, Teaching Music, Music and American Culture (forthcoming, 2013), Last Teacher Standing: The Job is Yours Now! and 12 Mistakes That Got Your Job Application Rejected ... And How To Fix Them!

B.A. New Mexico State University; M.Mus. Southern Illinois University; Ph.D. University of California and University of North Texas

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