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14 signs that you’re becoming unemployable

hiring outlook, recruitment outlook, buy side, asset managers, asset management, private equity, PE, hedge funds, mutual funds, ETFs

Employability is the new thing. Who cares if you lose your job, if you have your pay cut, if you’re disconcerted by the arrival of a new boss, or if your employer decides to relocate to the middle of nowhere? None of this need make any difference, as long as you’re sufficiently employable that you can find a new job somewhere else.

By the same token, being unemployable is bad. It doesn’t happen overnight. It can even creep up on you while you’re still working. These are the signs that the scourge of unemployability is coming to you.

1. You have’t learned anything new for years

Just because you’ve got a nice, secure, lucrative job, you can still be atrophying and en route to eternal unemployment. “If you haven’t learned anything new in the past three years, it’s usually a sign that becoming less employable,” says Ellen Miller, an ex-MD at Lehman Brothers and head of careers for leadership programmes at London Business School.

Learning new technology is especially important, says Miller. For example, if your external and internal pitches are still text-heavy and lack graphics and animations, that’s a bad sign.

2. You’re being brushed away with polite rebuffs 

If you approach headhunters or recruiters, and they respond with a polite formality that goes no further, it’s a sign that you’re not “aligned to their needs,” says Richard Chiumento, director at human resource consulting firm Rialto. “You’re not connected to their agendas,” he adds.

3. You make it onto the short list but you never the get job 

Repeatedly being shortlisted is another bad sign, says Chiumento. This too is an indication that you’re neither aligned nor connected.

“If you’re shortlisted two or three times, but you don’t get the job, it’s usually an indication that you’re not aligned to what the market wants in terms of leadership capabilities,” says Chiumento. The key thing today is being digitally savvy and understanding how to develop a digital strategy, he adds. Plenty of established leaders fall at this hurdle.

4. You’re sending out hundreds of CVs for jobs you’re unsuited to 

“Every weekend, I receive two hundred to three hundred CVs,” one London-based financial services recruiter told us. “Of those, I can only use around four of five. A lot of people are just wasting their time applying for jobs they don’t match at all.”

By sending out too many CVs for too many jobs, the danger is that you will become blacklisted. “I can turn on my computer and find 15 applications for different jobs from the same person,” said the recruiter. “In that situation, I will usually ignore them all.”

5. Clients are ignoring your calls 

“The real problem is when clients don’t respond to your calls and emails,” said one senior equity researcher. “That’s always a bad sign.”

Whether you’re in work – or out of work – you need to keep up with your clients, especially if you work in sales. “Stay close to clients,” said headhunter Oliver Rolfe. “If you’re a salesperson and you keep in touch with your clients, you can be out of the market for up to two years and still get back in.”

6. You’re focusing on what you want from a job, rather than what you can bring to an employer

This is a classic problem, says Chiumento: “You’re not aligned when you’re talking more about yourself than the challenges and issues faced by the person in front of you.”

Employability is about finding a role where you can make a difference. “A lot of people are more absorbed with their own experience, skills and track record than the issues faced by the person they’re having a dialogue with,” Chiumento adds.

7. You’re asking a lot of closed questions 

Jobseekers often shoot themselves in the foot by being too downbeat. This is typified by the asking of closed questions like, “I don’t suppose you’ve got any new jobs coming through?”, or “Anything happening at your end?”

“You need to be upbeat and energetic,” advises a finance careers counsellor, speaking on condition of anonymity. “You shouldn't be asking negative questions which make you feel needy Share on twitter.”

8. You’re blaming all sorts of things 

If you’ve lost your job, you will always go through a period of blaming other people or things. This is perfectly normal. However, the danger is that you become stuck in this phase and that you express your resentment to potential new employers. No one will want to employ you if you are full of vitriol for a former employer or boss.

“The art is to minimize the length and depth of the blaming period without glossing over it,” said the careers counsellor. “You don’t want to obsess about what went wrong.”

9. You’re sending out the same CV for every job 

If you want to get hired, you need tailor your CV and covering letter to the jobs you’re applying for. If you don’t do this, you won’t get far, says Jeremy I’Anson, career coach at xlSys Consulting. “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,” I’Anson says.

10. You’re refusing to acknowledge the new compensation reality 

Unless you have the good luck to be an associate of the kind every bank wants to hire, you’re unlikely to get a guaranteed bonus in your new role. Nor will you get much of a salary uplift. If you’re in London you might get the promise of some ‘role related pay’ – but this will be contingent on regulatory approval in 2015. Nowadays, few people in finance move for a big pay rise. They move because they’re ‘excited by the potential of their new role.’

11. You’re hanging on in a job which gives you no pleasure and doesn’t pay

It used to be the case that bankers swapped jobs every two years, usually for far more money. This was never a great idea and it doesn’t happen nearly as much now as it once did. However, this doesn’t mean that staying in one role for a long time is advisable either.

“If you’re moving forward, if you’re happy and if you’re getting paid, stay in the job,” said Rolfe. “If you haven’t got any of those things, you’ll stagnate.”

12. You’re invisible

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

13. You’re engaged in displacement activities 

Just because you’re busy you may think you’re moving towards re-employment. However, one careers counsellor says too many people convince themselves they’re looking for work when they’re simply wasting time. “There's nothing worse than sitting at home, scanning job boards, and waiting for the phone to ring Share on twitter,” he said. “You need to sell yourself, or you will waste your time on a lot of activity which will get you nowhere.”

Following job loss or a discombobulating life event, psychologist Oliver James said a group of people will always attempt to regain control by obsessively controlling minor elements of their lives, like diet or exercise. This will keep you busy, but it will bring you no closer to finding a new job.

14. You’re seriously disorientated 

If you’ve lost your job, the worst thing that can happen is that you can become “seriously disorientated” said James.

“There is a group of people who will start sleeping in until lunchtime, who will become depressed, or who will respond with substance abuse,” he told us. “These are the people who are in most danger of rendering themselves unemployable.”

The most healthy individuals are those who remain optimistic and see unemployment as an opportunity to recalibrate, said James. For ex-bankers, this is perfectly rational he added: “There’s never really any basis for perceiving yourself as unemployable, especially if you’ve been a reasonably successful banker for some time.”

Comments (35)

  1. this is a pointless article full of painfully obvious points – sarah butcher you are a cretin – what have you got to offer apart from this garbage?

  2. I get emails and phone calls from recruiters all the time. I choose to ignore all of them because I know these people have shit for brains. Their advice is useless, their skills are obsolete, their business is dead. They are the most unemployable individuals all over the planet.

  3. Thank you for your article & information dissemination Sarah.

    To “roger”: If the article’s articulations were “painfully obvious points”, you would be busier than you are… and you certainly wouldn’t have had the time nor the inclination to be calling anyone (even the person you daily see in the mirror) a cretin.

  4. This has to be one of the most negative websites in existence. How do you know you’re not a real journalist? When you write articles like this.

  5. Commentators don’t have to be rude.

  6. Nice to see the recruiter in point 1 has understood the concept of transferrable skills. This muppet is symptomatic of the horrendous service that 99% of recruitment agencies offer candidates. What right has he got to disregard applications just because someone has spent time to apply for a number of roles? It’s not about quality service for recruitment agencies; it’s all about churn and the lowest level of human contact possible. Computers read the cvs and then belch out standard rejection letters and no human eye or hand is involved at any stage. That’s probably why I get constant emails addressing me by the name of the first project on my achievements list. And now, this nom-de-travaille, has been circulated throughout the agency via the database resulting in a totally ficticious character, with my cv, being contacted about roles by every recruiter on the network. And then when you do actually track them down with dogs and request some details on why you haven’t been successful in gaining an interview you get told that individual applications can’t be discussed. Or worse… you are told you don’t have enough experience… when you have been in the industry for as long as the industry has existed and 3 times longer than the employer has been in business. And when you chase this crap up the line a ‘senior manager’ will tell you that you are ‘over-qualified’ and really have too much experience or they divulge a ‘key skill’, that nobody thought important enough to put in the original ad. I used to think that estate agents were the lowest form of life but recruitment has plumbed new depths. They are the new ‘barrow-boys’, and as cretinous as they are, they hold the ultimate power in how our futures may or may nor proceed. Some form of quality practice and standards needs to be forced into this industry.

  7. Concerto69 you forgot cultural fit – the last card in the deck.

  8. Very distasteful article. Poor journalism.

  9. Whilst I disagree with some elements of the article the guy is only trying to help. I was made redundant a couple of months ago and the response from head-hunters or recruiters hasn’t been at all good. Cancelled meetings, now follow up post interviews the list is endless. Totally agree with the point about staying close to one’s clients in the transitional period. What we all need o avoid is automated response systems so my advice is don’t rely on email or any other avoidable forms of communication. In much the same way as Bloomberg IB has become the broker’s email I favour that old fashioned thing on your desk with buttons called a phone. Get them live, sell yourself before you know it you’ll hae interviews and ultimately your new role. It’s too easy to be ignored or think you’re being ignored using email.

    As I say old fashioned maybe, but it works.

  10. It looks like this article is kind of therapeutical as I can see a lot of people ranting, and ranting might be good to quickly move on with life. On the Head Hunters: some are good and some are not. I have met some really good ones, people that, having never worked in the undustry, could still tell if some candidate was good or not. That is an admirable skill. Most head hunters are in fact employment agencies and use crude techniques to screen candidates but the fact of the matter is: employers want, and often find, people with the relevant experience that are easy to sell to their bosses. Call it a corporate governance problem, call it “your are too junior to be cherry picked”, the substance does not change. Now I bet that most of the commentators in this forum a not CEOs, CFOs and other very senior figures that really need to be “head hunted”. So carry on with your lives, if your are not happy when you wake up in the morning, ask yourselves: “what am I going to do about it?”. Maybe ranting for a while could help, why not?

  11. It is no secret that recruiters are idiots but the biggest idiots are the decision-makers who give them mandates. Or maybe they get kickback from recruiters, something that would not be available if banks did the hiring themselves? The City = corruption. I am sure there is a reason why banks use these totally useless recruiters.

  12. most, not all, met some professional ppl in agencies, but majority turns out to be full of meritocratity and cutting corners using scanning computers, its like using STP without checking if machine is doing the work ok – so that’s why we have what we have, alleged crisis, but only Bernie M. got jailed, the rest took cash in and live merry life. So now that ppl are agents in agencies… if I would see that there’re 5 application from one person I’d would read whole cv first to see what experience it is, and see what offers I have in hand, then delete. it simply shows that ppl in agencies are like brainless trades who were selling CDOs without thinking, except what % of compensation will be payed as a bonus, that’s why the agencies will be also soon out of business, cos ppl will learn who are pros and who are morons, and will not even bother to send application cos they will knew from experience that its a time-waster for ppl who run this business by accident not by a call, with small difference, no tax-payers bailouts when your buss will go spiraling down the drain, your’re too little people for goverment

  13. Can any of you tell who are the serious agencies, recruiters that not only look their paycheck and commission. If there is any..

  14. When I was looking for work, I noticed tons of jobs going at various recruiters. Tons and tons! Do some research and apply direct.

  15. keep on hiring philosophy, English literature and other sociology BS lunatics for the position.

    D@#$te wants to know “have you studied mathematics at high school?”
    my friend said: yes, and then in the list identified precisely “algebra” (duno why but after 6th grade in USSR math used to become algebra and geometry)
    a call from a D@#$@#te recruiter: we asked about math, you said you’ve studied algebra. So you have not studied math at school. Is that right?! :)

  16. A lot of animosity aimed at recruiters here. There are a few bad apples out there and they can damage your career, no doubt about that – but some of us can actually help and provide decent advice. You just have to find the ones who know what they are talking about. Don’t go for a brand name – go for a person you trust. You hold accountability for your own career at the end of the day – so you hold responsibility for who you choose to work with.

    Point 1 is perfectly valid. I know 3 or 4 people who apply for everything from Junior Monitoring to CIO level roles. No skills are that transferable.

    And give Sarah a break. She’s just pointing out some painful truths. If they ring true then maybe it’s time to change something.

  17. A lot of animosity aimed at recruiters here. There are a few bad apples out there and they can damage your career, no doubt about that – but some of us can actually help and provide decent advice. You just have to find the ones who know what they are talking about. Don’t go for a brand name – go for a person you trust. You hold accountability for your own career at the end of the day – so you hold responsibility for who you choose to work with.

    Point 1 is perfectly valid. I know 3 or 4 people who apply for everything from Junior Monitoring to CIO level roles. No skills are that transferable.

    And give Sarah a break. She’s just pointing out some painful truths. If they ring true then maybe it’s time to change something.

  18. Point 10. You’re seriously disorientated –
    This point certainly refers to heavy drugs users. I score 90% on this test (missed only on the last point) and I am still employed. :)
    Just joking… only I do not agree at all with pint 6. (You’re refusing to acknowledge the new compensation reality): why if one is a great producer shall be sucked by this perverse spiral in banking and pay for the salary of who does nothing all day??? I’d rather say, if you cannot get want you deserve, go to open your small HF boutique or your broker house!!!! If you cannot or you do not want to take the risk… I am sorry, then you should be happy with fixed salary and no bonus at all.

  19. You miss the biggest one of all – age. When your resume lists 30 years of experience, you rarely get a second look.

  20. One of the ways to know a good recruiter is to check their LinkedIn statuses for candidate recommendations. I have over 30 and about 20 of them are from satisfied candidates placed across different levels and except for 2 I requested because they are high profile candidates and their endorsement would help my online credibility, the rest were voluntary.

    I agree that some recruiters are not true professionals, but many are… just look a little harder for them and when you think you have found a couple, interview them too…

    Recruiter/candidate relationship is a 2-way process.

  21. Well I created my own CV from hell by quitting my job earlier this year to join a rock band…. now I think I’m pretty much unemployable

  22. Sarah – great article. Common sense can be thought provoking sometimes….

    Now off to do some text heavy slides :-0

  23. Sometimes when I read articles like this I ask myself: Is that useful? NO obviously. It is just depressing and doesn’t help anyone to achieve anything.

  24. I use to work in the financial industry and got all my jobs through recruitment consultants. Once i was blacklisted by a company as i asked for more money whilst i was in the job. They refused to give me another job. Luckily i had my own property company which I started from scratch as a result of the city so i don’t depend on people who can cut someones career at their whim.
    I am definitely unemployable, according to Sarah Butcher, but there again i am a millionaire property developer.
    This is a narrow minded unhelpful article that serves NO purpose!

  25. Why is this article being recycled?…. Poor article and damn right lazy.

  26. An “easy reading” article but something that may hit home and be useful to some.

    As for the recruiter bashing I love it and just wish more people would act on it. I am a recruiter and agree with most of what people saying. All I ask is that if you get poor service, vote with your feet and go elsewhere. The shouting and moaning is one thing but if you (i.e. job seekers and indeed job hirers) return to the same watering hole all you do is feed the bad practice. We are a small set up and continue to fight against the larger dinosaur recruiters – please help us.
    p.s. jobseekers beware the so called high end executive search firms. They have less knowledge and do less work, its just the packaging is more shiny. #itsallaboutperception

  27. Been through all the steps listed above now stuck on number 14 – Was so desperate to get a job for so many years it was all that mattered; now have accepted that I am the one with the problem and I am the reason it hasn’t happened yet. You can’t make people like you or want to have you around, let alone validating your sense of self worth by getting someone else to pick you out of that massive list; to have one person say “You’re good enough, I’ll give you a chance.” I even went and did some formal training a couple of years ago, it cost a lot of money and they actually told me I was unemployable. That’s pretty much when I gave up for good, not worth the humiliation, embarrassment and constant rejection. I’d love to be able to provide for my family and help contribute but instead I rarely leave the house anymore. To be told you’re unemployable was heartbreaking and devastating, all those silly hopes and dreams out the window coupled with constant self-loathing, I wouldn’t want me around either lol

  28. I now work for myself. I wasted so much time through agencies. I’d love to get back to the situation where you could apply direct to a company. But they don’t want to know. So I don’t want to know them. I work for myself, employ no one and have no intention of working for another company again.

    Make my own way Reply
  29. Blah, Blah, Blah, and….. B;ah.

    Yes, this is the most common tirade everyone is used to hear. It translates into a very well known refrain. The following is it.


    If a lady has been raped, well…. then she MUST have done something to deserve it.
    If someone has been fired, well… then s/he MUST have done something to deserve it.
    One needs not look any further. Whenever someone tries to use your skills, qualities, words, and or adverse situations against you, then you know they are blaiming the victim.

    Good Luck.

  30. To Sarah, the butcher of the human spirit. What a cruel, wicked article that serves no purpose other than to humiliate, painfully hurt and shame people who are really trying out there. Shame on you in your ivory tower with a job, which I hope will not be so stable after I have finished with writing this article. You bluntly refuse to offer any hope to the hundreds of thousands of people who are trying every day to make ends meet. Shame on you. I used to run a software company and I have done over a billion dollars in business. I have more than 23 years’ experience in the software industry. I left one of the worlds top jobs due to sexual harassment. I took a year break as I was so disheartened by the process that HR took, that I felt compelled to resign. I needed some time off. I found that after having a top job, no one wanted to employ me after a career break. I sent out over 200 resume since December to January. I did everything as a desperate person would do to find employment. I have resorted to sleeping in to lunchtime, yes, not because I am lazy but because I am WORRIED SICK of losing my house and not being able to support my retired mother who is an artist. Shame on you to put me and all of the hundreds of thousands of people into this label and bucket of how you put it – shame. It is one eyed, close minded people like you that cause people to give up on life. It is VERY easy to condemn people and be smart about their circumstances when you yourself have never been in any situation like it. Shame on this publication and your non-constructive, cruel article. If you need a job and are reading this, please DO NOT GIVE UP. Keep trying. There are LOTS of people trying. If you are a recruiter reading this PLEASE DO NOT JUDGE PEOPLE AS BEING UNEMPLOYABLE – try to help them get a job, they are the people who need it most.

  31. adrianpowellowens@rocketmail.com

    I read a great number of these comments – having been made redundant in the last month and having left with referecnes (good ones) and having been outsourced after 11.5 yrs. I found it really sad to read that some people like myself were really at the end of the line. I would ask any employer out in the world to read peoples CVs – we are not all machines, I will say I am an IT Professional at this point and a sir Manager, never had a degree but worked my way to the top – using nothing more than my brain and willingness to be helpful and good at what i did , alone with a few cock- ups like all of us humans. But what really upset me was to read about a man who cannot support his family simply because someone will not give him a chance, what kind of a world do we live in when this is the case – he stays in at home and feels like he does not want to wake up – if this is how we are as a world then the terrorists etc, have already won. Its cruel and disgusting that it has come to this – i myself am shit scared being 50 as to what the future holds – I myself have a young child and wife who need my support – but who really cares – from what I have read no one at all it would appear.. so when the hammer hits and i also have to explain to my child who until this point in life has had a good quality of life, how do you think i am going to feel – but more importantly will she understand “NO” if I like the chap in the article are to be believed we would be better of dead is that what people would like. We need to move forwards get past age and wealth – its very sad to see and very, very upsetting.

  32. Sarah it is evident from this article you have only looked at point which validate your arguments. I disagree with this article because people who actively seek employment and have had a previous record of being a good employee, are not actually unemployable. And whilst I render most of the article obsolete, I do have two points listed below which you wrote about are completely dismissive of other ways businesses operate.

    Point 4- From experience I have been advised by recruiters not to hesitate applying for more jobs as they won’t always have time to go through every CV stored on their system. As someone who has worked in recruitment, one applicant applied many times and they were always considered until a better matching position became available and they were hired. Of course there are drawbacks such as increased risk of giving false hope and the more candidates in the pool, the less chance they have, but everyone has a fair shot even if the competition is higher.

    Point 9- Tailoring CV’s: While I see that tailoring has some use for jobs, especially if you are applying for two or more contrasting professions; CV’s are never entirely accurate at projecting an applicant and would say that not a great deal of time (but adequate time given of course) is spent analysing because if the person is going to be suitable for the role, meeting and interviewing the person has to support the documented skills. The CV is the smaller step, where as interviews require more preparation. Yes a CV is the key, and should be given a great deal of attention as it will be the first impression, but note that any employer who just hires based on the CV should be carefully observed before considering taking any offers for the long term.

    The other points should be rendered obsolete because you are using outdated and inaccurate sources, i.e you are using a lot of banking and finance based examples and secondly there Here are a few obvious points which render a person becoming unemployable. But the good news is that any flaws can be worked on.

    – Laziness and lack of work ethic
    – Track record of undermining professional relationships with colleagues and management
    – Poor attitude at interviews and/or in current role
    – Incompetence, as it indicates an employee is in the wrong profession,needing guidance
    – Misguided and needs some pointers

    To the commentors which disagreed with this article, thank you. It will save other readers from believing such nonsense people like Sarah put out on the internet.

  33. 1. Employers are lazy so they farm out the unpleasant HR function -recruiting.
    2. Recruiters 99% are no different than a used car salesman, oilsnake salesman.
    3. Employees need to remember they are a commodity for the recruiters, they do not care about them. They will go with the most sxy candidate that they can sell. Period
    4. At my company we stopped using recruiters. Period. If a manager cannot do his own hiring he should not hire. Period.
    5. I recommend find a job not byway a recruiter. Most good jobs go to networks. Recruiters are only then engaged to avoid conflicts of interest.

  34. I been umemployed since February 1st, of 2017 and have tried to search for work several times but never get any responses and try to give it my best behavior and try my best not bring up what got me fired previously (even though Im aware those will hurt my chances of getting employment but I cant lie) and the program who got me 3 jobs are sick of me becuase of how many times i got fired & my irrational behavior towards them for not finding me anything, I’m reaching a point in time where im not only unemployed nut unemployable & possibly undependable what could I do to change that so i could at least increase my chances of getting employment despite everything thats happened?

  35. Wow, this article is one of the most moronic things I read in a while…Sorry Sarah Butcher, but you are quite a pathetic being.

    This article isSthit Reply

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