Job Search

Experts Explain Why The Job Market Is Pure Chaos Right Now

Source: @anastasia-shuraeva | Pexels
Source: @anastasia-shuraeva | Pexels

I was told all my life that I needed to go to college to land a good job with benefits and a 401(k) to boot. Yet, the adults in my life failed to tell me that landing a job feels practically impossible sometimes. We live in a competitive world, and it seems like no amount of experience or qualifications will ever be enough. Time and again, we put ourselves out there, apply for jobs we’re well suited for, and don’t hear a single thing back. With the current state of the job market being more chaotic than ever, I know I’m not the only one feeling this way.

Needless to say, this got me thinking: What’s really going on with the job market right now? Why is it so hard to land an interview? Why are passionate and career-driven people getting turned down for jobs that they are more than qualified for? And why are there so many people looking for jobs right now in the first place? We tapped experts to get to the bottom of it all. Keep reading for their answers, plus their advice for what you can do to make your search a little bit easier.


Julia Haber

As a serial entrepreneur and the cofounder and CEO of Home From College, Julia Haber is dedicated to helping young individuals level the professional playing field by providing them with a place to harness their skills and passions to build better resumes that land them jobs.

Why is it so hard to find a job right now?

It doesn’t matter who I talk to—whether it’s a recent college graduate or someone with over a decade of experience—they all say the same thing: Finding a job feels akin to finding a needle in a haystack. This might come as a shock since 303,000 jobs were added to the market in March, but according to USA Today, while this created a grand total of 12 million open positions, there were only 5.7 million new hires. Similarly, the unemployment rate rose from 3.7 percent to a two-year high of 3.9 percent last month. According to Julia Haber, the cofounder and CEO of Home From College, this number suggests that the job market is cooling and companies are slowing down the hiring process. Here’s why:

There is economic uncertainty

According to the consumer price index (the monthly inflation rate for goods and services), March 2024 saw a 3.5 percent uptick in prices compared to the previous year. To pour salt in the wound, interest rates are also unlikely to fall this year as well. These things alone would be enough to give anyone pause over bringing in new people, and it’s a whole different story when they’re coupled together.

Unsurprisingly, this has created a lot of economic uncertainty—which can be detrimental for job seekers. Since the cost of living is higher, employers must keep up with the demand and increase employee compensation. This puts a strain on their business. Many companies have stopped recruiting altogether because they simply don’t have the funds to bring in someone new.

Many companies have stopped recruiting altogether because they simply don’t have the funds to bring in someone new.

Layoffs are affecting massive industries

Mass layoffs have left many highly qualified candidates on the job market at the same time, specifically in tech and creative fields. Case in point? 74,000 tech workers have been laid off across 255 companies as of late. Meanwhile, the media sector (think: The Wall Street Journal, Vice, Forbes, Time, Sports Illustrated, and more) laid off hundreds in January and could lose an estimated 10,000 workers in total this year. And in other industries, like retail, major companies like Amazon and Macy’s are cutting back, with Macy’s alone set to close five department stores and slash 2,300 jobs—3.5 percent of their total workforce.


Mary Kate Dischler

Dischler started her career as a marketing and campus recruiting intern before graduating and joining Northwestern Mutual Chicago, Rosemont in 2023. Now, as Talent Selection Leader, she introduces career changers to an opportunity where their ambition and drive meet impact and purpose. Her vision is to build a diverse and inclusive team in which women are empowered to thrive and lead.

These experienced candidates are now seeking work at the same time as entry-level candidates, making competition fierce in tech and creative industries. And with that, some candidates are even looking to new industries that align with their skills in different ways to find jobs. This has made other industries (even the ones not experiencing massive layoffs) feel saturated, too.

Remote work has shifted the employment landscape

Although more companies are returning to on-site work or opting for a hybrid model, remote work changed the employment landscape forever. This a double-edged sword. On the one hand, job seekers now have more opportunities to explore candidates outside a general area, but on the other hand, more candidates are being considered for the same positions, according to Mary Kate Dischler, a Recruiter and Talent Selection Leader at Northwestern Mutual. Jobs that previously had applicant pools of 25 now have hundreds of candidates vying for them.

Employers are more selective

After witnessing The Great Resignation transition into The Great Reshuffle (the phenomenon that describes employees leaving their jobs to pursue more fulfilling and flexible roles), it’s unsurprising that hirers are more selective with prospective candidates than ever. Hiring someone new is an investment, and companies want to make sure it’s worthwhile. Fisher said that employers are now focused on retaining workers rather than bringing more in because of this.

What’s more, in juxtaposition to the narratives of the past, quitting isn’t trendy anymore. Now, the Big Stay is happening, and more people are choosing to stay in their roles. This not only means that job turnover is decreasing, but the number of open roles is dwindling as well. Needless to say, the competition is fierce right now.

Make your job search your “job”

Job searching can be a daunting and tedious process, but alas, it must be done. This is why Catherine Fisher, LinkedIn Career Expert and the Author of the Career Companion, recommends treating it the same way you would a regular 9-to-5 job. So, set aside designated windows—whether it’s two hours every morning, Monday through Friday, every other day, or twice a week—to search for open roles and apply. This will not only streamline the process but also allow you to focus on the roles that pique your interest. Plus, it will prevent you from submitting applications that don’t accurately reflect your background and skill set. Keep track of which jobs you apply for and take your job search as seriously as you would an actual job.


Susan Levine

Susan Levine is the Founder and CEO of Career Group Companies, a recruiting firm certified National Women Owned Business by the WBENC. Since 1981, Career Group Companies has set a higher standard for recruiting using a high-touch approach and is consistently voted one of America’s Best Recruiting Firms.

Re-evaluate your search method and criteria

Whether you’ve been applying to jobs for over a year or you just recently got laid off, it’s time to rethink the way you approach your job search. It’s not as easy as it used to be, so you need to think outside the box and look where other people might not think to look for opportunities. This might mean finding contacts and making connections over social media, looking for ads in the paper, joining Facebook groups or Reddit groups relevant to your job and industry, and filtering open positions by company rather than position. Doing this will expand your prospects, make you feel more optimistic about job searching, and help you find jobs that not as many people are discovering and applying for.

Similarly, I know so many of us are WFH stans and would prefer the flexibility of a remote role, but the reality is that strictly searching for WFH jobs can seriously dwindle your prospects. Not to mention, the applicant pools are much larger for those jobs since anyone can apply no matter their location. Since businesses are transitioning back to on-site or implementing hybrid work models, being open to either of these will make you more competitive in today’s job market, according to Susan Levine, the Founder and CEO of Career Group Companies. Plus, some companies are more likely to hire in-office employees over remote, depending on the job.

Continuously personalize your resume and cover letter

With an ever-evolving job market, updating your resume and cover letter to accurately reflect your skills and experience is non-negotiable. However, no matter how updated they are, if you’re always recycling the same resume and cover letter for each application you submit, you’re doing yourself a disservice.

Take the extra time during your job search to create versions that resonate with each job you’re applying for, as recommended by Haber and Dischler. This means highlighting anything and everything within your qualifications that mirrors the job description. “Many companies search for certain keywords in resumes, so having the relevant terms and personalizing your application can help you stand out,” Haber explained. This is especially important now that some companies are using AI to filter their search. For example, if the job description requires that you’re proficient in Adobe Photoshop, ensure you include those exact words. Otherwise, your application might get ignored altogether.


Catherine Fisher

Catherine Fisher, Global Marketing and Communications Leader, LinkedIn Career Expert, and author of the Career Companion Newsletter, leads integrated data and consumer communications in her role at LinkedIn. She is passionate about building and leading cross-functional teams that deliver business impact and providing people with the opportunity to continue to learn and grow in their career.

Skills are taking precedence over pedigree, with 73 percent of recruiting professionals surveyed by LinkedIn saying that hiring based on skills is a top priority of theirs. Essentially, this means that candidates are being evaluated for jobs based on skills first and foremost rather than education and experience. So while you should include relevant experience, education, interests, and even hobbies to add depth to your application, leaning into your skills and how you will bring them to the table for the specific role you’re applying for is key. While yes, this takes extra time, don’t skip personalizing all of your qualifications. They can make all the difference in how you look versus another candidate to a hiring manager.

Actively network online and in person

There are very few things people unanimously agree on, but Dischler, Haber, and Fisher agree that leveraging your professional network is key during a job search. Networking is one of the most underrated ways to expand your horizons, so no matter where you are in your job search, continue building yours. This means staying active on recruiting websites like LinkedIn and Indeed, keeping in touch with professional contacts and former colleagues, talking to friends and family about your job search, and attending industry events.

“It can often feel deflating when you’re struggling to find a job, and many of us don’t feel comfortable sharing that with others. But know that it’s OK to ask for help,” Fisher said. People are usually excited and want to help, so tapping into your network for support can be invaluable during this time. Plus, asking for help will make you feel less alone in your search because chances are, there will be someone with a similar experience to yours and you’ll be able to relate to and learn from them.

Pick up a freelancing gig or side hustle

Freelance jobs and side hustles are a great way to earn money while looking for full-time work. Plus, they can help you gain the relevant experience and skills you need for your industry and career, which we know is a major win right now. Luckily, in opposition to full-time roles, there’s no shortage of opportunities when it comes to this type of work.

If you’re looking for freelancer work, try searching networks that align with your skills. For example, creative freelance roles like writing, graphic design, and social media management are plentiful on sites like Upwork or Fiverr. Similarly, freelance sites like Freelancer or Flexjobs offer jobs varying from accounting to software development, project management, data entry, and more. If you’re looking for a side hustle, this could be as simple as becoming a barista at your favorite local coffee shop, walking dogs, or teaching fitness classes. Or, you can start a longer-term project like a blog, Etsy shop, or online course creation. You never know—these opportunities all have the potential to produce a full-time income and become your career if you put enough passion and hard work into them.

Take the time to reevaluate your career

Let me ask you a hard question: Are you sure the job you’re searching for is right for you? Do you even like it in the first place? So many of us get stuck in the same industry or the same type of work because that’s all we’ve ever known or it’s what we went to school for. But guess what? You can make a major career change literally any time you want to.

Take this time to evaluate your current career path and decide if it’s something you’re passionate about in the first place. Ask yourself: Where do I want to be in five years, personally and professionally? How can I grow doing what I’m doing now? Is there anything else that interests me?

If you determine that where you’re at now is where you’re meant to be, great! If not, don’t be afraid to make a change. Drischel recommends considering how your unique skill set might align in another industry or type of role, and from there, casting a wider net in your search. Just because your background is in one field doesn’t mean it’s not valuable in another. Don’t be afraid to make a huge pivot and seek out new opportunities. You never know what could happen!