Finding a new job is no picnic, especially when you send out a hundred resumes and only hear back from a handful. While it might seem like it's all a numbers game, there could be reasons why you didn't get the interview and were over-looked. After all, there are usually a number of equally talented, ambitious applicants vying for the same job, so small details could lead the employer to make snap judgements.
When there's a stack of resumes as big as a September issue on a person's desk, they need to whittle that down in a quick and easy way. And that includes cutting people because of tiny, seemingly arbitrary reasons. Take it from me — I once saw a boss crumple a resume because the email took longer than two seconds to find. See what I mean? Cut throat.
So to help throw you higher in the running and avoid being shown the door on a technicality, let's go over possible reasons why applicants get passed over and aren't invited to an interview, along with tips on how to fix those blunders. Let's make this finding-my-dream-job task easier, shall we? Below are 11 reason why you didn't get the interview, and tips on how to fix them.
1. You Didn't Brand Yourself
The employer already figures you have the necessary skills or else you wouldn't be applying. But how do you set yourself from the rest of the applicants? If your resume boasts too many generic points, then you could be easily cut from the top. Janet Wise, a strategic Talent and Career Strategist at Wise Advantages, explains in an email to Bustle, "In both my experience in Talent Acquisition and in my private career strategy sessions – interviewees must know themselves, their values and their strengths and be able to translate that into a brand." So in other words, what have you been consistently recognized for? What comes naturally to you on the job, and what do you enjoy doing the most? Make each point on your resume link back to your brand.
2. Your Cover Letter Was "Meh"
I know we hate writing cover letters, but if you went with something generic and unenthusiastic then that could be part of the reason why you didn't get called in. The good news is that it could be short and sweet and easy to write — just make sure it hits all your high notes. Vicki Salemi, Career Expert for Monster, offers in an email to Bustle, "Think of it as your elevator pitch — succinctly state why you will be a valuable asset to the company and highlight your unique achievements and spot on skill sets that directly relate to the job you’re pursuing Your goal is for the hiring manager/recruiter reviewing the cover letter to feel like it’s an absolute no brainer, and that they need you to interview asap!"
3. You Made Housekeeping Errors
When you have hundreds or resumes to choose between, something as simple as spelling or grammatical errors can immediately put you out of the running. It indicates that you don't care as much as the other candidates! Salemi points out, "Considering that you’re competing against countless other resumes in the system, as soon as a recruiter finds a typo or grammatical error, it’s cringe worthy and could certainly be game over. Use spellcheck (repeatedly) and ask a friend to review your resume." It's better to be safe than sorry.
4. You Didn't Use Any Of Their Keywords
Say you're applying for a marketing position that's all about writing copy, handling social media campaigns, and growing an audience...but in your resume and cover letter you focus on experiences that have to do with event planning and bringing in new clients. Is it impressive? Sure. But does it feel like the perfect fit? Nope. Wise offers, "Today’s job applicants need to be savvy enough to align their strengths to each of the jobs they are applying for. That means mirroring – using the key terms and phrases that hiring manager is looking for in a candidate and creating a aligned, customized resume and cover letter." Take the keywords in their job listing and pepper them throughout your resume, making you feel like a strong candidate and great choice.
5. You've Applied To More Than One Role
If you found a company that's hiring for multiple positions, you might think that it's enthusiastic to apply for more than one role. But in reality, that can hurt your chances instead. Angelina Darrisaw, an international business and career coach, explains to Bustle over email, "Depending on the size of the company, the same HR team may be reviewing many, if not all of the applications. If you apply to several roles, you might think you are showing that you just want to get in, but it can read to an HR person that you don't know what you want or where you best add value. This can hurt your chances of ever getting an interview." Instead, pick the one that appeals to you the most and stick with that one only.
6. You Don't Seem Like A Problem Solver
It can be hard to show a company all that you have to offer in a couple of concise bullet points, but a great way to stick out is to highlight skills and past achievements that could help improve the company's problem points. Wise offers, "Uncover what issues and challenges that industry is facing and determine what you bring to the table aligns to those challenges." Back to the example of the marketing position — did your research uncover they have little followers, poor engagement, canned copy? Highlight the skills that prove you can fix that.
7. You Didn't Brag!
Don't feel like listing your achievements and flaunting any impressive figures or successful projects is like tooting your own horn. If anything, not bragging might be hurting you. Wise points out, "If ever there was a place and time to brag — it’s in your resume, pre-call screenings, and cover letters." Don't fall into the trap of sharing accomplishments only at the interview — you need to convince them to give you the interview, remember?
8. You Don't Sound Like You'll Fit Into The Company Culture
Not only are employers looking for a certain skill set, but they're also looking for a certain personality. Because of that, make your resume hint that you'll fit right in in terms of ambitions and values. Darrisaw advises, "Research the company culture and values. How can you articulate in your cover letter and resume that you would be a good fit? It may take some rearranging." And how do you do that? Use the cover letter as an opportunity to show you're tailor-made for the company. Darrisaw explains, "Look at it as an opportunity to communicate why you. It's ok to be a bit personal and show your interests and passions. Don't overthink it or be overly formal in the approach."
9. Your Social Media Isn't Impressive
While having an Instagram post of you doing a keg stand at the beach might hurt your chances, so does having professional accounts that are lackluster. Remember, your resume isn't being poured over. A lot of "cut" decisions are being made in snap judgements, so make sure your social media backs you up as an expert. Wise suggests, "If you have professional recommendations or a work product, video, or blog, be sure to illuminate your expertise or passion by adding that to your Linked In and other public profiles." Constantly brand yourself in the best light!
10. Your Resume Wasn't Skimmable
It might sound unfair, but recruiters spend an obscenely short amount of time looking at your resume. So when they get a paper that's cramped, hard to follow, and text heavy? To the bottom of the pile it goes. Lifestyle writer Kat Booagard from lifestyle site The Everygirl pointed out, "You need your resume to be attention grabbing, but also easy to skim. As a rule of thumb, keep the '30 Second Test' in mind. This rule states that recruiters generally spend 30 seconds or less glancing over your resume." Keep that in mind the next time you edit your resume.
11. You Were Too Vague
You don't want your resume to read like you just copy pasted the job description off the company website, right? Make your resume more impressive by getting super specific with what you accomplished. Boogaard advised, "You don’t want it to read like a job description filled with only soft skills and vague, generic terms. Instead, your resume should include specific accomplishments, statistics, and facts about your individual qualifications." Use numbers, percentages, and real examples to prove your worth.
So the next time you're ready to send your resume out there, keep these tips in mind. You might just get a lot more callbacks!
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