Why Won’t Anyone Hire Me? I’m a Software Engineer!

Software engineers are in high demand. So why can’t you quickly secure a new job?

Phil from 4 day week
6 min readJun 12, 2021

As technology accelerates, so too does software. Being able to create software can put any professional in high demand. You can find engineering jobs online. Sometimes job offers arrive based on resume keywords alone. So when you start job-searching in earnest, why the heck can’t you land a position? This is a problem that is surprisingly normal in the high-demand tech industry. Often, skilled professionals get frustrated with the slow and unreliable process after resumes are submitted and interviews begin.

Maybe you’re hoping to hear back from that one dream job, and they just won’t call with an update. Or maybe you’ve got two or three jobs on the line and none are resolving into a role you could start working in. You may have even been given the gentle let-down on a job or two, which can be really frustrating. When you just can’t seem to get hired, what is going wrong? Why won’t anyone hire you?

The answer could be any number of causes that we’ll break down for your examination.

1. The Hiring Process is Slow

If you’re just not hearing back from an employer, the most likely answer is that the hiring process is slow. The traditional hiring process requires multi-level reviews and approvals. This is especially true for large companies that hire continuously, but not quickly. Often, hiring is done in large batches, so contracts aren’t signed until enough candidates are hired to onboard as a class.

There might be some decision-making delay. The approval might be sitting on some senior executive’s desk waiting for their twice-monthly perusal. It might be delayed in a background check approval stack. Or there might be an internal debate on changing the role. Bureaucracy is often to blame when hiring never seems to materialize.

When you can’t get an interview scheduled and especially when you don’t hear back after interviewing, it’s safe to blame the slow wheels of paperwork processing.

2. Ghost Listings

Can’t get any response to a job application? You may have applied for a ghost listing.

When a company is hiring, they list the role over several job boards. Their recruiters also spread the job listing around. When the role is hired, however, few come back to clean up the listed jobs. This results in a common ‘ghost listing’ phenomena where you can find listings for jobs that are no longer open.

Recruiters and businesses will also sometimes leave listings open as ‘catch-all’. They collect resumes for later use without any specific job opening ready to hire. Resumes can be used as a form of currency in the hiring industry and, therefore, ghost listings serve a purpose. But for professionals looking for a role right now, they’re just a waste of time.

The best defence against ghost listings is to investigate each company’s on-site list of openings. This list is the most-likely (but not always) to be current and represent the actual job openings available for each company.

3. Unrealistic Expectations

Having your expectations too high or too low can shake your application. This can apply to many aspects of your resume or interview. The most common example is asking for too much (or too little) money. But your improperly ranged expectations could also relate to your expected schedule, amount of insurance, or path to promotion.

Companies are looking for people whose expectations match their pre-established range. They don’t want someone to be disappointed with what they find, this spawns resentment. They also don’t want anyone who’s too inexperienced or flawed to pitch at market value. Expectations outside the employer’s range can indicate prima-donna syndrome, deception, or just inexperience in apt bidding.

Do your research and make sure your expectations match the industry-standard and what is known of each employer.

4. Not Enough On-Paper Experience

In the tech industry, experience comes in many forms. Some came directly through college and computer science degrees. Some made their own programs in free time. Some branched out to run their own tech startups and then returned to the workforce. Some have been helping friends and building skills off-the-books for years.

On the other hand, engineer roles tend to require a great deal of reliability. Employers want employment dates and callable references in your work history. On-paper experience is a must.

First, don’t leave out any previous available employers. Even your non-tech managers can lend credibility. Second, learn to re-state your unofficial experience in a more official light. List dates, tasks you performed in the role, and the goals you reached.

5. Aligning Your Attitude to the Company Culture

First and foremost, attitude is impactful when hiring. Managers are looking for people who bring enthusiasm for the work and a generally positive influence on the team. No one likes an emotional lead weight in the office. So hiring managers prefer people who are energetic and eager to do the work.

In addition, each company has an internal culture that defines how coworkers interact. Some company cultures are playful, with pranks and jokes over cubicle walls all day long. Some are relaxed and have a radio playing in the shared space. Some teams are intense, some are cold, some are a warm community. A good hiring manager is looking for new candidates who fit the internal company culture.

If your attitude during interviews (and in email conversations!) doesn’t line up, then you may be less competitive than you realize.

6. Overselling Your Experience & Underselling Your Skills

The two classic resume mistakes are overselling your experience and underselling your skills.

Many people are taught at a young age to “fluff” their resume with non-experience. Always use verifiable roles and dates. You can represent independent and freelance experience, but do so accurately. If there was an employment gap, don’t fudge the numbers. Add a timeline notation with a miniature explanation for the gap. ex; “Aug 2002 — Feb 2004: Medical Hiatus”

Underselling your skills can also be a mistake. Create a section of your resume for a complete bullet-point or two-column list of your technical skills. Categorize as tech you know well, have some experience with, or have worked with briefly. Include the interesting and small tech tasks in your previous roles. You never know what exact mix a new employer is looking for.

8. Recruiter Mishandling

Recruiters are often paid a commission for each stack of resumes they deliver to a hiring business. They don’t get paid unless the resumes fit the job requirements close enough. This leads some free recruiters to occasionally (alarmingly often) use cheap tricks to bulk out their resume stacks.

One of those tricks is the ghost listing we talked about earlier, leaving a bait listing to collect resumes without a job ready to hire. The second is re-writing resumes, changing details and adding “skill keywords” without the professional’sk knowledge. This can cause resumes to be rejected for inaccuracy even when you did nothing wrong. Recruiters may also store your resume for later use if their stack is already full.

Be careful working with and around recruiters. Watch out for any listing that does not mention the company name and can’t be double-checked.

9. Roles Listed as a Formality Only

Finally, there are jobs that aren’t really open to the public. Sometimes, a role opens up but the company already knows who they want to hire. This might be an internal hire or a poached top-talent star. However, protocol requires that they open the role to applicants for the sake of on-paper fairness. Unfortunately, these formality-only listings just serve to waste the time of everyone except the chosen favourite who applies as part of the ritual.

So Why Can’t You Get Hired as a Software Engineer?

Getting hired is a more complex process than applying, interviewing, and being approved. Some jobs seem like a lock-in until the final delay. Some won’t schedule your interview for weeks or months. This is more normal than most people realize, especially in higher-level roles like software engineers. The trouble with your job search could be anything from your resume details to the slow wheels of bureaucracy. However, you can hone your get-hired strategy.

This article was original posted on 4 day week — Software engineering jobs with a better work life balance 🎉