Job Search

You’ve spotted a brilliant-looking job online. Great location, great salary, interesting role. All aflutter, you upload your CV, hit send, and sit back, dreaming of the interview you know you’ll get (and ace), almost tasting that offer letter brimming with a massive salary hike.

A week goes by. Two weeks. Three weeks. A month. You never hear back.

Unfortunately, this is all too common for jobseekers, so here are six reasons why you never heard back.

1. Ugly CV

My colleague wrote a great article about formatting your CV for maximum impact. CV writing is a skill that’s difficult to master; that’s why CV writing services exist. Your CV is a marketing document to sell yourself. A clear, well formatted CV helps: if it isn’t easy to read, it won’t get read. If you struggle writing it, it’s worth paying a professional – a minor outlay (around £70/$120) that could result in a huge pay-off.

2. Skills to pay the bills

You know you can do the job with two hands tied behind your back, suspended upside down in a water tank. I don’t, unless you tell me. Make no assumptions. You know you’re a Software Engineer with 5 years experience of PHP development on a LAMP stack, but if you don’t tell me explicitly, I don’t know.

As a Technical Recruiter, I’ve seen far too many CVs where the candidate never mentions what technologies they use. My preference is to speak to candidates where I can immediately see that they are a strong match for the role. I probably will pick up the phone for a chat to a candidate who hasn’t listed their skills, but it won’t be my top priority when I have 3 great CVs that I am chasing instead.

3. Attenion [sic] to detail

Almost every candidate puts ‘attention to detail’ in their CV. Yet those same CVs contain spelling and grammar mistakes and other errors. “Mistakes on CVs” is often listed as the number 1 reason hiring managers reject an application. Using a recruiter helps because they proof-read and edit your CV, but mistakes also frustrate us. On a related note, applying to a job that isn’t relevant fails to show attention to detail.

You’ve seen the job title (e.g. Project Manager) and hit apply without properly reading the advert. Unfortunately, you’re a construction Project Manager applying to an IT Project Manager position leading Agile digital projects – not gonna happen. Read the advert carefully to ensure that the role is suitable for you. If it isn’t, you’re unlikely to hear back.

4. (Ir)relevant

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a job seeker in possession of a desire for a new role, must demonstrate transferable experience. Rewrite your CV for every application and tailor it to precisely what is asked for. Is that experience relevant to the job you want? If not, ditch it.

Your CV doesn’t need every detail about your entire life and work history, just what will get you an interview. I recently had a candidate looking for a Junior iOS Developer role. He graduated a year ago and has worked in a department store for the last year in the computer department. His CV was two pages long, all irrelevant to his stated career goal – his experience was in sales and customer service, not development.

At the end, I found two lines about personal iOS development, with a link to his App Store profile. I looked and saw 4 high quality apps. Most recruiters give up after 30 seconds if they see nothing relevant.

5. That’s not what my sources tell me

This is the 21st century. People have Facebook , Twitter, LinkedIn accounts. You will be researched. Any discrepancies between your online presence and CV will ring major alarm bells. I recently saw a candidate with significant differences between the dates on his CV and the dates on his LinkedIn profile.

You should never lie on an application as it is easy to get found out. Furthermore, if you put reference details on your CV, don’t be surprised if people call them – any problems with references, your chances of an interview are ruined. Only give references on request, and let your referee know to expect a call.

6. You’re just not quite right

Your CV’s OK, your skills are OK, your experience is OK… You’re just not quite right. There’s no exciting feeling looking at your CV that you’ll be my next placement, so your application goes nowhere. This isn’t your fault; it’s the gut feeling of the hiring manager or recruiter. It isn’t fair on you, but with fifty CVs awaiting review, yours is put down, forgotten.

In an ideal world, every candidate would get a detailed reason why their application isn’t progressed. Unfortunately, that’s never happening – we’re all too busy. A recent advert received over 100 responses; 10 were worth speaking to. To call all the other 90 candidates who applied would have taken all week, and I wouldn’t have done any work on the dozen other roles needing coverage. However, if you ensure your application is well-formatted, relevant, and shows strong correlation to the role applied for, you’ll get a call back!

Related: Top 5 Interview Howlers of All Time.

Image: Shutterstock


About Andrew Fairley

Andrew Fairley has recently completed an MA in Management with The York Management School, focusing on strategy, innovation, HR, and organisational behaviour, and has just begun a PhD investigating the UK internet startup industry. Prior to this, he spent 2 years as a Recruitment Consultant, working with clients from SMEs to blue-chips, sourcing IT staff.  You can find him on Twitter or LinkedIn.

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