By Gerald Walsh ©
How many times has this happened to you? You apply for a job with optimism and excitement believing you meet all the requirements. Then you wait and wait for that call to schedule an interview. But it never comes.
Why weren’t you picked—even for an interview?
There might be reasons completely beyond your control. Perhaps you were a good match but there were even stronger candidates. Perhaps the company decided to promote an internal candidate. Or perhaps circumstances have changed, and they have delayed hiring.
But ruling out those possibilities, what things might you have done that eliminated you from consideration?
1. You didn’t give enough information. Unless you have no experience at all (or are so well known that everyone knows who you are) a one-page resume is not enough. Two or even three pages may be what is needed to properly explain your background.
You didn’t follow instructions. In our executive searches, I often ask candidates to write a cover letter explaining how their background and experience can help our client achieve its mission. Most people simply regurgitate their education and skills but few link these to our client’s needs. That tells me they don’t follow instructions or are too lazy to research what our client’s needs are.
2. You have unexplained gaps in your employment history. These may be for legitimate reasons like maternity or education leaves. But don’t expect the employer to play detective and figure this out. There’s a good chance they will just decide to take a pass. Be sure to insert the reasons for the gap in your chronology.
3. You have spelling or grammatical errors. This leads employers to conclude you lack attention to detail. Before sending, ask a friend or colleague to edit your material. Or try editing from a printed copy which is often easier than editing on a computer screen.
4. You have a dubious online presence. Employers are checking social media sites to gain more insight into what you’re like as a person. Make sure all your digital dirt is cleaned up.
5. You follow up incessantly by email or telephone. Your eagerness will come across as annoying and the hiring manager might conclude this is how you will behave on the job. Be patient and have reasonable expectations about when the employer will get back to you.
6. Your resume is poorly designed. Pay attention to layout, typeface, font, line spacing and margins. And always save your resume as a PDF so the format doesn’t change when sending.
7. Your relevant experience is buried in your resume and hard to find. Employers will stop reading after five or six bullets. Make sure your most relevant experience is at the top. And eliminate statements that start with “Responsible for …” Hiring managers are more interested in your accomplishments and how you have added value to past employers.
8. You appear to be (or are) a job hopper. Employers take a cautious approach when someone has changed jobs often. They wonder if you are not a good performer or fear that you get bored easily and move on to new challenges. If any of these job changes were for valid reasons such as merger, sale of the business, or large-scale layoffs, or were simply contract positions, be sure to state these reasons.
9. You don’t live in the area. For most positions, it’s easier for an employer to hire someone who lives locally. That’s why you should leave your address off your resume.
10. You didn’t use key words and got screened out by an automated system. By the way, the same problem occurs if an inexperienced human is doing the initial review of resumes. He or she may not understand the role well and overlook qualified candidates. Take care to use actual (or similar) language to what is being used in the posting.
11. You submit a canned cover letter where it is obvious you are cutting and pasting. Do research and find something interesting about the company that you can mention. If you’re not willing to invest time in your application, why should the employer invest time in meeting you?
Question: What things are you doing that may be contributing to this problem?