Updated: Dec 18, 2021
So you've read the job posting, meet the qualifications, and have taken the time to go through the application process. One week goes by, then two, then three and you still don't hear back. Compound 10,20, even 50 applications without so much as a peep? The first question that will probably come to mind is "What am I doing wrong?".
Luckily, you're not alone and many folks go through this. In this article, I'm going to point out a few possible reasons why you may not be receiving any callbacks, which can be very frustrating! So without further ado, let's dive in.
It's not targeting the job
This is the most common reason and one I encounter on a regular basis with clients. It involves using one resume to apply to multiple unrelated jobs - such as using a sales resume to apply for account executive, business development, and marketing roles. This "spray and pray" approach as I like to call it has a terrible track record and is the first thing I suspect when someone tells me that they haven't had any interviews in six months.
It's important that your resume contain enough keywords from the job posting to be enough of a match. Not just any keywords will do either; you need to match up to the skills and experiences requested by the employer.
What to do instead
Ensure you read the posting carefully and incorporate keywords into your resume. Applying to a sales role that requires experience with CRM? Make sure it's mentioned on your resume. Interested in a finance role that requires knowledge reading financial statements? Outline past experiences where you've done that on your resume.
If you're interested in multiple roles, I would suggest creating one resume for each role. Make sure you read the job descriptions carefully and ensure key requirements are incorporated into your resume.
You're using too much jargon
First, let's define jargon. The standard definition includes terms that are used by a particular group or profession and are not as likely to be understood by an outside audience.
For example, if you're a software engineer, jargon would consist of terms like front-end development, integrated development environment, or RESTful API. Focusing too much on jargon without connecting it to business value can negatively impact how your resume is perceived on the other end. It shows that you lack big-picture thinking and can exclude you from higher level managerial roles.
Another example: Say you're a software developer that has worked exclusively with healthcare companies and are interested in a role in the gaming industry. Leaning too heavily on jargon from your old roles may be interpreted by recruiters at gaming companies that you either don't understand the role, or don't have the right kind of development experience. In either case, they may assume that you may not perform well in a gaming environment.
What to do instead
Put yourself in the recruiter's shoes and think about the type of role they're hiring for. What skills and experiences are they seeking? What do they want to see in a candidate? Focus on aligning your skills to that perspective.
Don't simply discuss your past experiences in isolation - try to cater them to the target role.
You're not selling yourself
This is an area that a lot of people struggle with - how do you showcase your accomplishments without coming off as arrogant? Underselling yourself out of a desire to appear modest or out of fear of bragging can have the unwanted effect of making you appear inexperienced or un-impactful. Talking about accomplishments you've made in a matter of fact way is not bragging, it's confidence.
What to do instead
Whether it's a project you finished on time, a new client you landed, or a new process you implemented that saved the company money, ensure it's highlighted on your resume. This tells the prospective employer that you're someone that can help them make an impact to their bottom line!
Your resume looks unprofessional
If you're a high school student applying to their first role, this isn't a dealbreaker as employers will adjust their expectations. However, if you're post-college, then making basic mistakes in grammar and spelling can really bring you down (especially if there are a few) and reflect poorly on your attention to detail and professionalism.
What to do
Re-read your resume out loud to yourself, or have someone proofread it for you. I generally recommend stepping away from your resume for a day or two before reviewing, as this will ensure you catch small mistakes that could hurt your chances of success.
About the Author
James Cooper is a Certified Professional Resume Writer and has been in the recruiting, career coaching, and writing business for almost 14 years. He began his career recruiting for AECOM, a Canadian engineering firm, and he's gone on to work with and help professionals land roles at top Fortune 500 companies.
Have questions about resume writing? Reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org.