Are You Unconsciously Incompetent In Your Job Search?


Recently, I was the keynote speaker for a large job search conference where there were roughly 1000 participants who had been trying to find a job for 6 months to a year or longer.

Very few job seekers in the entire conference were conducting an effective job search, and many had lost hope in terms of finding a new job.

The theme of the job search conference was JOB SEARCH HOPE. My opening remarks were along the path that HOPE comes from conducting an effective job search. A lack of HOPE stems from not knowing what to do next in your job search.

I proposed to the attendees that there are hundreds of job search activities that everyone should be working on daily and weekly in their job search. Unfortunately, many of the participants were stuck with one or two activities, such as calling on a couple of network contacts or answering job board ads. Many had put their proverbial “job search in one basket”. Have you made this mistake?

Why didn’t they know about all the other job search activities that could be doing – activities that would overflow their daily capacity and generate an abundance of job leads and referrals.

I call this the job search unconsciously incompetent syndrome.

If you’re a fan of Steven Covey, you’ll recall he puts forth a 2×2 matrix in “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”. In this 2×2 matrix, Covey puts Consciousness-Unconsciousness on one axis and Competency-Incompetency on the other.

One of the intersections is the Unconsciously Incompetent – translated to a job search – it means the job seeker is not aware that they are incompetent – they don’t know what else is available, possible, or useful. How can this be?

The job seeker has not taken the time to:

  • Research best practices in job search
  • Read job search blogs from well-known experts
  • Purchase job search books from outstanding authors
  • Download FREE materials from job search publishers

I’m confused.

Maybe you could help me.

Why wouldn’t you devote every opportunity possible to exploring how to conduct a better job search?

Most job seekers are still conducting their job search as if it’s the last recession 5-10-20 years ago.

Why do most job seekers believe they can “go it alone”, they don’t no stinking help from someone else, or “no one can teach them new tricks”?

I am shocked to my core, that most job seekers are unconsciously incompetent in their job search – in spite of extraordinary material available that is either dirt cheap or FREE. Much of this material could help the vast majority of job seekers to cut their job search time by 10%, 25%, or perhaps even, 50%.

I’m looking for your comments to help me understand this dysfunctional syndrome of ineffective job search.

I’ll close with this thought – until you make the committed effort to “master” a job search through learning what it takes to conduct an effective job search – you’ll be stuck between luck and wishful thinking.

Barry Deutsch

PS – Start to improve your job search right NOW by downloading our FREE self-assessment to determine the effectiveness of your job search. Within 4-5 minutes, you’ll have a deep understanding of where the holes, problems, and opportunities lie in your job search.

About the Author

Barry Deutsch is a founding Partner of IMPACT Hiring Solutions, co-author of "You're NOT the Person I Hired", and "This is NOT the Position I Accepted". Barry is an award-winning international speaker, retained executive recruiter, and expert on hiring and retaining top talent, and executive job search.


  • By Donna Svei aka AvidCareerist, November 2, 2010 @ 6:49 am

    Hi Barry,

    What a terrific post. Thank you for writing it.

    Resistance, in this case to conscious competence, often has its roots in our emotions. Fear is often the emotion associated with a job search. It can be any one of the four fatal fears: fear of failure, fear of rejection, fear of emotional discomfort, fear of being wrong, or fear of something else. Perhaps the fear of ending up in an awful job.

    But Barry, you’re right, there is great knowledge and advice available just for the cost of the time to read it that can support a job seeker in successfully navigating job search 2010 to a satisfying landing.

    I hope your readers take this post to heart and share it widely because living in fear is no way to live.


  • By Ty Abernethy, November 3, 2010 @ 6:29 am

    Great post Barry. As a fellow recruiter, I see most people handling their job search in this way. Most people just think the answer is connecting with lots of recruiters and applying online to lots of jobs.

  • By Jim R, November 8, 2010 @ 1:49 pm

    Why don’t people use these materials? Let’s give just one example from your offer:

    “When you respond to an ad or any posting, cut and paste the job posting requirements to the bottom of your resume in 2 point font. Then change the font color to white. This way it will not show up when printing, but the key words the person is screening on will be on your resume. You will get past the dreaded key word screen virtually every time.”

    If you’re sending a paper resume, this won’t work at all. If you’re applying online most systems only allow text, not Rich Text, so either the keywords get displayed as garbage, or they don’t get picked up at all. And even if it also allows an upload of a .doc file, the search feature doesn’t read it. It reads what you’ve entered in the text version.

    That’s why people don’t use this stuff. It’s old, tired and pretty much useless information.

  • bradremillard

    By bradremillard, November 11, 2010 @ 8:39 pm

    Jim this makes no sense to me. Common sense indicates it won’t work all the time. Common sense indicates it won’t work when mailing a resume. I give the readers the benefit of the doubt. I figure they have common sense and know when it is appropriate.

  • By Mark Olson, November 10, 2011 @ 9:05 am

    Thanks Barry for the insight.

  • By William, November 15, 2011 @ 9:27 am

    It is not that complicated. If they are like me the long-term job seekers has been doing everything (or almost) you have suggested for quite some time without success. It is natural that after a long period of failure one would find internal resistance to doing the same thing over and over again if it has not worked.
    I confess that I am ‘stuck’ with just using my network and sending out job applications. However, my friends and colleagues are at a loss as to why I am still without a full-time job. It would be nice if I received meaningful feedback from those who have interviewed me but have not hired me. However, such individuals NEVER do this. So it is almost impossible to learn from these experiences. I have even paid about 8000 with an executive job placement service (with a national reputation) to have a job search strategy devised for me. This did not yield even a single interview. At two other times I paid for resumes to be written and got just one (phone) interview.
    There is a limit to how much rejection one can take, especially when it is clear that the people looking at your materials do not even read what you have written. I could continue but I am sure you get the point. I am also aware of how my attitude has been affected by all of this and I do my best to work on that. But that is also a natural response.

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