Career Tips / Blog

Unemployability: 9 Traits That Will Make You Unemployable

Unemployability: 9 Traits That Will Make You Unemployable
Spread the love

In my former job as a recruiter, I had many opportunities to come across a number of candidates who are perpetually unemployed. I met them over career fairs, online job application, our job searching training workshop, walk-ins, write-ins, etc. Imagine not holding a job for more than 3 years and it isn’t by choice!

So I took the liberty to connect with a few of them, to better understand why they are still unemployed in hope that I could give them a helping hand. Now there are a small bunch of them that are unemployed because of medical condition such as frequent kidney dialysis treatment, past injury, bad hearing in one ear, etc. I perfectly understand and empathize with the situation they are in.

However that doesn’t form the bulk of them. Here are 5 of the more memorable ones that I came across. I sure hope you are not any of them:

5 Types of Unemployable

  1. The “Full-of-Themselves”: This is one common group and I have quite a few examples. There is a candidate who kept interrupting my speech during a job searching workshop, citing his inventiveness of a few ideas I was sharing. It was interesting that I was approaching a slide on “making an impression”. He sure made an impression, albeit a very bad one.
  2. Mr Perfect: I got to know this other candidate via a referral. He was carrying a bit of “full-of-themselves” in him, citing the legislation he helped create, the minister he queued up next to at their secondary school canteen. When I looked at his resume, he had 10 different roles over the past 8 years. Some are not even listed. He has a unique “It’s not me, it’s them” reason over why he left each one of them. I like to apply the dating analogy – if 10 different girlfriends cannot stand you, the problem probably isn’t on them.
  3. The Depressor: This guy was constantly sighing over the phone. He only wanted contract and temp job so he can move on at any sign of “problem” and was always aiming for entry-level clerical work even though he possesses an Accounting degree. This candidate never failed to add gloom to my day.  Nobody likes to hear sad stories the entire day. If you need an avenue to vent, try a helpline, not a recruiter’s DID.
  4. The IT Un-savvy: We hired a temp to help us with very basic data entry work and back then I had a very helpful colleague who arrives earliest and helped everyone turn on their computer. On one day that he didn’t come in, my new temp was sitting at her workstation in front of an empty screen. It was then that we realized that she does not know how to turn on the computer! In the age of push-mail and social media, no one can afford to be a dinosaur unless you are Warren Buffett.
  5. The Hot-Tempered

I interviewed a lady with quite a spotty track record so I checked with her on her reasons for leaving her past jobs. The first two was because the company had closed down. Given that I never heard of them, I took that answer at face value. But the latest one happens to be a premium club that is in the prime district in Singapore which I happened to pass by a few days before. She told me she left the club because it closed down. Now I’m very certain it is still around so I probed again. Immediately her face turned red and with a raised voice, “Excuse me! I said closed down!”. I jumped and almost wet my pants. My mind drifted to the kind of sharp objects she might pull out from her bag if I persisted in my questioning.


What I have shown here are the extreme cases. There are many others which are much more insignificant but will equally not aid in you getting your next job.

  1. The last skill you picked up was 5 years ago

Many displaced employees during recession usually carry this trait. I’d seen this, especially over the Global Financial Crisis in 2008/2009. Many were having the highest qualification of a GCE ‘O’ Levels for more than 15 to 25 years. It never occurred to them to continue to upgrade themselves in getting certified in other skill-sets or simply upgrade to a Diploma or Degree.

Learning can be a lengthy process so you gotta start even when things are comfortable. It is too late if you are forced into it when rainy seasons hit.

  1. None of your friends or acquaintances are helping 

And that’s if you have any. I know a guy who has only a table full of his invitees to his wedding dinner and every single one of them are at most business associates.

In the information-overloaded world that we live in today, it isn’t about what you know but who you know. Just like learning, building relationships take time but it starts with you. If you are obnoxious nobody will want to hang out with you, let alone help you.

  1. You make it to the interview but never to the job

The criteria to getting onto the shortlist is very much a paper exercise. At that stage, all the recruiters get to see is your resume. Something which you could outsource to a top-notched resume writer to do for you. But the next stage is entirely up to you. How you talk to the receptionist who welcomes you to the questions you may (or may not) ask the interviewers.

It takes a lifetime of emotional quotient and many etiquette training to impress and stand out. If you have none of them now, you might want to get started right away.

  1. You are sending out resumes to every single job 

I’ve met with job seekers who had sent out 200 applications and counting and this is just over the past week. If you are dishing out resumes like you are with pieces of advice, you probably do not know what your positioning and unique selling point is. I can understand the shock-and-awe tactics but that isn’t workable if you have 200 battles to fight in simultaneously.

Be true to yourself and discover what you are good at technically. Blend that with what makes you special and what you can bring to the table differently from another fellow who was your classmate and pursued the same function. This is pure personality screening. If you are unsure, you can use a career test such as Sokanu to find out.

  1. You keep emphasizing on what you want, not what you can give

A classic problem that continues to plague many job seekers. It’s not about yourself. Remember who is going to pay your salary here. You need to emphasize on what you can bring to the table that makes you worthy of the salary you wish to get.

Too often people are just so absorbed with their own experience, skills and track record than the issues faced by the person they’re having a dialogue with.

  1. You’re not asking questions 

If I am interviewing a batch of clones, the one whom I would remember is usually the one that will ask questions at the end of the interview and I’m not talking about questions on “when do I start” or “how much will I be getting” kind of questions.

These are useful if you intend to last one month in the job. To ensure you will be there for long, you need to ask questions such as:

  1. How would you describe the corporate culture?
  2. What’s the management style of the person this role would be reporting to?
  3. What do you look for in an ideal team member?
  4. What’s expected of this individual that fills the job position?
  5. What’s the common pitfalls new hires in this role would stumble into?
  6. You’re always blaming

Resume didn’t get picked? The recruiter must be blind. Didn’t clear the interview? Are these people even trained to conduct interview?! It is perfectly normal to go through a phase of blaming other people or things when you lost your job. The danger is becoming stuck in this mode and it became so magnified that your potential new employers are also able to pick that up. No one will want to employ you if you are full of scorn for a former employer or boss.

If you have to do because it forms part of your response, the key is to quickly touch on it and move on. You don’t want to dwell into it forever and turn the job interview into a ranting session.

  1. You’re sending out the same resume for every job 

If you want to truly want to get hired, you need tailor your CV and covering letter to the jobs you’re applying for. You are just going through the motion if you don’t do this, and consequentially turn off the recruiters along the way.

Whenever you apply for a role, you need to tailor your CV so that you’re highlighting the key skills you have which match the requirements for the position.

Unsure of what you have or don’t have? Use a resume analysis tool to match your resume against the content of the job you are keen in.

  1. You’re invisible

When did you last get a call from a headhunter? When did someone last look at your profile on LinkedIn? Have you last spoken at a conference or attended any networking event? If the answer is never, the chances are that you are invisible to would-be employers.

The watch is still ticking while you sulk in your bed about the situation you are in and sulking isn’t productive. Go out there and meet/ speak with people instead.

You never know what you might walk away with.

Contributed by Adrian Tan

Agolo Uzorka
the authorAgolo Uzorka

Leave a Reply