Career Top 6 Pain Points When Applying for a Job

How to conquer jobseekers’ biggest annoyances during the hiring process.

By Catherine Collins Illustration by Errata Carmona
PUBLISHED 01/11/2023 | 10 MINUTES

Lack of salary transparency. Long interview processes. Getting turned down for being overqualified after several interviews. These are just some of the top pain points candidates experience when applying for jobs. 

Here, career experts, financial planners and coaches reveal how to overcome them all.

1. Getting Turned Down Due to Lack of Experience

No. 1 on the pain-point list is when a potential employer declines to hire you because they say you don’t have enough experience—despite already reviewing your résumé and expressing interest. According to a recent study by job search platform Adzuna, 29% of jobseekers cited this as their biggest complaint. 

Recruiters or hiring managers might show interest and request an interview (even if they don’t think you’re completely qualified for the position) because they don’t want to make a decision solely based on your résumé. In-person—or on-camera—sessions can give potential employers a more holistic sense of who you are. So while it’s irritating to be turned down further in the hiring process, it’s actually a good thing. 

Use an interview, follow-up questions or an assigned test as an opportunity to show your strengths and why you, in fact, are qualified for a position. Because, let’s be honest, you don’t want someone to pass over your résumé simply because you are missing an important keyword.  

So, if you make it past the résumé phase, “frame your experience using terms and skills mentioned in the job description,” says Carla Santamaria, career coach and founder of The First Gen Coach

Key Takeaway: View a potential employer’s interest as an opportunity—not a drawn-out inconvenience. If you don’t have enough experience for the job, explain how you’ll gain the skills you need or talk about how you’re a fast learner and will add value to the team in other ways.

2. Lack of Salary Transparency 

The Adzuna survey revealed that 28% of people say that unlisted salaries, or a lack of clarity around salary (such as very large ranges), is their other biggest frustration during the job application process. 

Indeed, according to Adzuna, the United States is among the worst countries for salary transparency, with less than 3% of job ads including salary information. This is bad for employers, too. More than half of jobseekers decline job offers after finding out the salary, 33% say they wouldn’t do an interview without knowing the salary first and 28% think not revealing the salary up front makes the company look untrustworthy. 

Although many states are currently passing legislation to improve pay transparency, Stefanie O’Connell Rodriguez, a personal finance expert and host of the Money Confidential podcast, suggests using tools like Glassdoor and Payscale to research salary averages for the position you’re applying for. 

Furthermore, don’t be afraid to ask the hiring manager or someone in HR for a salary estimate or to reach out to former employees at the company to discuss pay expectations. Lastly, O’Connell Rodriguez adds, it’s in your power to negotiate. 

Research shows that most people significantly underestimate what others earn in similar jobs, which, in turn, holds them back from negotiating and asking for more,” she says. 

Key Takeaway: Although companies should be more transparent about pay, doing your own research, asking the right questions and advocating for yourself is the best way to demystify salary.

3. Long Interview Process

When you’re ready to take the leap into a new job, it can be frustrating to wade through weeks, or even months, of interviews first. 

If it’s a job you really want, it’s probably worth the wait. But if you’re unsure about the position or know that it’s highly competitive, it’s a good idea to apply to other jobs on the side.

That way, if you ultimately don’t get the offer, you’ll have some other opportunities lined up. Also, if you get multiple offers, you’ll have more negotiation power and can even use another offer as a nudge to speed up your dream employer in making their decision.  

Plus: You can always start out by asking a potential employer how long the interview process typically takes—and prepare accordingly. 

Key Takeaway: Sometimes lengthy interview processes are worth it, but always have other options in your back pocket. 

4. Getting Turned Down for Being Overqualified

Similar to not getting a job because you’re underqualified, not getting a job because you’re overqualified can be hard to swallow. 

Santamaria explains that being turned down for “being overqualified” is more about a company worrying you’ll leave. “Turnover costs companies a lot of money,” she says. “So when a company says, ‘You’re overqualified,’ what they really mean is, ‘We’re scared you’re a flight risk, and it’s going to cost us money to do another job search for your replacement.’”

For this reason, be clear about your long-term career plans and why you really want this role, even if it’s slightly beneath you.

Key Takeaway: Being overqualified is really an issue of employee retention, not experience. So be sure to ease any concerns during the hiring process.

5. Constantly Updating Your Résumé

Lorraine Lyman, an executive career coach, explains that updating your résumé for each position is an important part of the job-hunting process, even though it may seem tedious. 

But that doesn’t mean you need to completely reinvent the wheel for each application. Most of your résumé can stay as-is, but you’ll want to make sure your title, work experience, skills and keywords reflect what is stated in the job posting. 

Let’s say you’re applying for a job at a restaurant as a server. Your résumé already highlights your hard skills (such as menu memorization, setting tables and following allergy guidelines), but the new job you’re applying for specifically mentions soft skills (like communication and adaptability). So, add a line about your interpersonal talents as well. 

Key Takeaway: Updating your résumé every time you apply for a job takes time, but it’s time well spent. It’s a chance to show a potential employer you’ve actually read the job description and are well suited for the role. 

6. Learning the Employer Was Not Transparent About the Role/Company

There’s nothing worse than finding out a company is not what it appears to be. To avoid being unpleasantly surprised, it’s important to do research ahead of time.

“When considering a new position, opportunity, team and/or organization, do your homework and get your questions answered,” says Sarah Shiozawa, a certified leadership coach. She says it’s especially important to understand the workplace culture—is it collaborative or 

competitive? Supportive or more in line with hustle culture?—as well as what the employer’s expectations are of you and what your day-to-day life would look like. 

That way, Shiozawa says, you’ll “notice any red flags early on and will save yourself time and money in your job search.”

“Trust your gut,” adds certified life coach—and former lawyer and certified financial planner— Natalie Bacon. “If it doesn’t feel right for you, it’s best to move on.”

Key Takeaway: Don’t just take a potential employer’s word—do your own research, ask questions about the role and talk to other employees (former or current) at the company to get a second, third and fourth opinion. 

Millie content is licensed from Dotdash Meredith, publisher of Millie, Real Simple, InStyle, Investopedia, The Balance and more.

Catherine Collins is an author, financial writer, and digital entrepreneur based in Detroit. She’s the co-founder of Mom’s Got, and author of the book Mom’s Got Money: A millennial mom’s guide to managing money like a boss.


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