9 Traits That Will Make You Unemployable

I met them at career fairs, online job application, our job searching training workshop, walk-ins, write-ins, etc.

Imagine not holding a job for more than three years. And it isn’t by choice.

So I took the liberty to connect with a few of them and to better understand why they are still unemployed. Hopefully, I could help them.

A small bunch of them are unemployed because of medical conditions such as frequent kidney dialysis treatment, past injury, bad hearing in one ear, etc.

I completely understand and empathise with the situation they are in.

However, that doesn’t represent the bulk. Here are 5 of my most memorable encounters. I sure hope you are not any of them:

5 Types of Unemployables


1. The “Full-of-themselves”


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 ironic as I was approaching a slide on “making an impression”.

He sure made an impression, albeit a terrible 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 ten different roles over the past eight 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 ten 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 could move on at any sign of “problem”.

Even though he carries an Accountancy degree, he was only aiming for entry-level clerical work.

This candidate never failed to add gloom to my 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 data entry work.

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 realised 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 those companies, 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 sure 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 sharp objects she might pull out from her bag had I persisted in my questioning.


I’m not any of them. That makes me employable!


What I have shown here are the extreme cases. There are many others which are much more insignificant but will definitely drag you behind in your job search.


1. The last skill you picked up was five 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 occurs to them to continue to upgrade themselves in getting certified in other skill sets or 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 only when rainy seasons hit.


2. None of your friends or acquaintances is 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 is at best 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.


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

The criteria for 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 during the interviews.

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


4. You are sending out resumes to every single job 

I’ve met job seekers who sent out 200 applications and counting. And this is just over the past week.

If you are dishing out resumes like you are with advice, you are just throwing darts in the dark.

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 unique and what you can bring to the table differently.

This is all about personality. If you are unsure, you can use a career test such as Sokanu to find out.



5. You keep emphasising 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 emphasise 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.


6. You’re not asking questions 


If I am interviewing a batch of clones, the one who I would remember is usually the one that will ask questions at the end of the interview.

And I’m not talking about things like “when do I start” or “how much will I be getting” kind of questions.

These are useful if you intend to last one month on 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?
  5. What’re the common pitfalls new hires in this role would stumble into?


7. 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 reasonable 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 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 because it forms part of your response, the key is to touch on it and move on quickly.

You don’t want to dwell into it forever and turn the job interview into a ranting session.


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

If you truly want to get hired, you need to tailor your CV and covering letter to the jobs you’re applying for.

Otherwise, it is no different from sending out a blank piece of paper.

Not sure how?

Use a resume analysis tool to match your resume against the content of the job you are keen on.


9. 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 good thing is all these things are not permanent. You have the power to change them and if you want different results, it makes sense to try a new approach.

Culled from Career Ladder


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