Job seekers often wonder why they never hear anything back after they hit ‘send’ on the email with a resume attached or on the on-line job application.
Sometimes you might have a preliminary email exchange with a recruiter and then never hear from them again. It’s a depressing experience, and one that also casts a shadow on the hiring company’s reputation. So why does it happen? Is it you, is it them, or is it just something every candidate must prepare for in the hiring process?
There’s no question job seekers face an uphill climb and competition for jobs is high. Many recruiters (including myself!) complain that as much as 50 percent of people applying for a given job simply aren’t qualified. So how do you break through?
Here are my 8 reasons you’re not hearing back after applying for a job (and what to do about it).
1. You really aren’t qualified. If a job description specifies a software developer with 3-5 years of experience and you’re a recent graduate with one internship, it’s unlikely you’ll get a call. Avoid disappointment – don’t apply for jobs for which you lack qualifications. Most job descriptions are written with very specific requirements. In my recruitment job, on a daily basis I am amazed at the amount of people applying for jobs for which they have no relevant experience – I have finance people applying for senior business development roles or graduates applying for a Director level roles! It is a waste of their time and my time as employers are looking for a very close match to their requirements.
2. You haven’t keyword-optimized your resume or application. Job descriptions are salted with keywords specific to the skills or attributes the company seeks in applicants. A close read of the job description is a necessity, as is keyword-optimizing your resume and cover letter, if you’re using one, or email. If the job description lists words in a certain order, e.g. a list of programming languages required, use the same order in your resume.
3. Your resume isn’t formatted properly. You might think distinctive formatting will set your resume/CV apart, but automated programs don’t care if a document is pretty. Help a machine out. Be consistent in formatting – consider using separate lines for former employer, job title, and years worked. I’d recommend using a simple Word version of your resume, as all the fancy formatting gets lost in recruiting databases.
4. Your resume is substantially different from your online profile. I’ve had a number of Hiring Managers who decided not to interview candidates as their LinkedIn profile looked different to their resume. Jobs worked, employers, years on the job and other details should match on both your resume and Linked In profile.
5. The company received 200 resumes for one job posting, and yours was 199th in. Looking for a job is a job. Do your research – know which companies you want to work for, organizations where you sense culture fit. Every morning scour the job postings and jump on anything for which you’re qualified (and in which you’re interested.) Being early with your resume or application does matter. Check back often in the first few days to make sure the listing hasn’t changed. Often a company will post a job and halfway through the process change the description. Or you will apply by the time the company is already at a final interview stage for this role, in which case you have most likely missed out.
6. You didn’t reach out. Sending tons of unsolicited resumes and cover letters isn’t going to make you look like an attractive candidate, but rather a nuisance. I’ve recently seen the same candidate apply for 17 positions within the company – none of which he was really qualified for…Before you send over your application materials, reach out first. Try engaging with the hiring manager – or even an existing employee – on their public social media networks first. Starting a conversation can help you to find common ground, and it will show your interest lies in the company – not just any open position.
7. Your online brand stinks. With many companies using social profiles to research candidates, you can’t afford to leave your online presence unattended. Run a Google search of your name to ensure all results are favorable, and tailor your public profiles to reflect your career goals. Make sure your LinkedIn profile is up to date, and engage with professionals in your desired industry on Twitter by sharing relevant industry news and insights. Hiring managers use online profiles to see whether you present yourself professionally, and it can help them to determine if you’d be a good fit with their company culture. Don’t skip this step!
8. You didn’t read a job spec properly. Too many job seekers apply for positions without really knowing anything about the company or what the position entails. If you can’t demonstrate a working knowledge of the company and position from the get-go, hiring managers will write you off.
So what can you do to get noticed?
Determine exactly what skills are needed for the job, and carefully review your past experience to make relevant connections. Search for keywords in the description that also apply to your experience and include them in your application materials. Remember, there’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all resume or cover letter, you have to tailor each document to each individual employer.
You’re much more likely to land a job at your ideal company if you’ve reached out to existing employees. Forge a connection with an existing employee by reaching out to them on Twitter or LinkedIn to express your interest in what they do and ask any questions.
Consider proposing meeting up for coffee or an informational interview to get all the insight you need and really cement the connection. Bring a copy of your resume and follow up with a thank-you afterwards. Your new connection could be just what you need to get a recommendation that could land you the job.
Research interesting companies on social media. Find out who the recruiters are and follow them. Many will tweet new postings, so watch their streams and jump on anything for which you are qualified. And if they tweet news saying the company’s had a great quarter, retweet the news with a positive comment.
Consider starting a blog in your area of interest or expertise. It’s a social world; time to build a trail of breadcrumbs leading to you. Include the blog, and links to any especially relevant posts, in your emails to recruiters with whom you’re working
Get professional help with your resume. Either a resume writer or an interview coach can help you increase your odds of getting through the talent management software. If you can’t afford this step, read the top career blogs for advice.
If at all possible, don’t wait until you’re out of work to find your next job. I realize for many people this isn’t possible or might even be offensive, but your chances of finding the next job are best when you’re still employed.
Network. Old advice, but still true. Be visible, be upbeat, be informed about industry trends and news in your area of expertise.
Finding a job is tough, no question. I’ve talked to other recruiters who say they only respond to 30 percent of applicants. The odds are good you’ll be in the 60+ percent who hears nothing a lot of the time. Don’t take it personally – it’s not a rejection of you, it’s a reflection of the times. If you don’t hear back, know you’re not alone.
Instead of feeling discouraged when you don’t hear back from a hiring manager, use the opportunity to assess your experience and determine where you might have gone wrong. Regularly evaluating your performance – and taking steps to properly prepare for next time – can mean the difference between landing that interview and not hearing back.