5 reasons why your job applications are unsuccessful

Here are 5 reasons why your resume is constantly passed over by recruiters and tips on what you can do differently to land your next dream job.

Person filling job application. Photo credit @Cytonnphotography

I have recently been involved in a few hiring processes both globally at my full-time role and locally in my small business (side hustle). I’ve also helped (or at least tried to help) friends and colleagues take that next step in their careers. I’m not a recruitment expert/HR practitioner but I have noticed a few trends that I felt might be helpful to one or two job seekers. Disclaimer: I am totally unfamiliar with shortlisting software so this post will not address getting past software such as ATS.

First, I’d like to remind job seekers that recruiters have a range of applicants to review. You are not the only one. Sad, but true. The recruiter is not a miner: their job is not to find the diamonds in the rough. Think of them as a jewellery shopper: their job is to select the “prettiest looking thing”. It is your job to present yourself in the best way possible so that you can stand out from the pack and land that interview.

Having only just landed a role a few months ago (yes, I’ve been a job seeker too), I thought I would share 5 things that I have seen across the board that make qualified applicants fail to stand out among recruiters and ultimately miss out on the job of their dreams.

Vague applications

I have rarely met an employer who is looking to hire a generalist. Recruiters are often looking to fill specific roles with people who have specific skillsets. You may be a gifted individual who is very good at 50 different things. While this is admirable, you are under no obligation to share everything that you can do/have done in every job application that you submit. Tailor your CV to the job advertised. Most job ads have a “qualifications” section. Read this carefully and tailor your CV to match the qualifications specified in the job ad. This will make you stand out to the recruiting team as a good match for the role they are looking to fill.

Not following application instructions

This may sound obvious, but you will be surprised how many people cannot follow simple instructions. “Attach your CV here”; send an email with the title “XYZ”; send in your application by this date. Sounds rather simple, yet job seekers will go ahead and email their CV separately, or submit applications past the deadline, or invent their own email subject. Please, follow instructions. Not following instructions will usually disqualify you instantly.

Inaccurate or untrue information on your CV

I recently saw a candidate’s application that was very impressive. We even shortlisted them for an interview. However, as we conducted background checks and due diligence, we found out that their most recent job as listed in their CV wasn’t very accurate. We spoke to friends who worked in the same company the candidate had listed and it turned out that the applicant, in fact, did not work there. Endeavour to be honest in your application.

Being too brief in your application

I have encountered many job seekers who are just too brief in their applications (I used to be like this too by the way). Please remember that the recruiter does not know you. The only information they have is what you provide them in the application. Include as much detail as possible, especially if it helps to make your case as to why you would be a good fit for the role. One-liners and single sentences will not help you here. Go the extra mile to help yourself to stand out.

Lack of confidence

Unemployment can really take a toll on someone’s confidence. I encourage you to find a way to get into the right frame of mind as you apply for a job. Seek help from friends or family members who can review your application and help you inject language that lifts the confidence of your application before you submit it. If you don’t believe in yourself, it will be challenging for you to get others to believe in you.

Bonus: Quoting expected salary

Don’t include your current and expected salary in your CV. You may either quote too high and disqualify yourself or quote too low and leave money on the table. Let the hiring team bring up the salary conversation, and always, always negotiate. Salary negotiation is obviously a topic for another day.

Let me know if any of these tips helped you and if you know someone who’s on the job search, share this post with them. It might help them too.

Communications professional in the development space