With the current state of the market, successfully landing your dream job can be quite a challenge, putting it mildly. Often, even a well-educated and highly qualified candidate has to suffer through months of unemployment and rejection before they can find a decent place to apply their skills and that would not insult their professional self-esteem.
So, you spend all these years at college to get that degree, then you browse through tons of how-to articles to put together a killer resume that perfectly reflects all your brilliant skills and your beautiful personality, and you write a stunning cover letter explaining why you are the ultimate candidate for the job. Then you google the most frequently asked questions at interviews and prepare the most comprehensive answers to them, even to the most stupid and weird ones.
But something goes wrong all the time, and eventually, you don’t even make it to the interview, because your resume gets no response whatsoever. It feels unfair. And when it happens repeatedly, it gets you disappointed and angry at your potential employers and all the unjust world alike. “Who do they think they are?” – we ask ourselves. Even if we are able to answer that question, it is of little help. It doesn’t take an Einstein to realize that this is nothing but self-pity. And everybody knows that while self-pity can be comforting, it is never productive. So, rather than wallowing in self-pity, let us try and find out just why your resume did not get the attention it deserves.
We have asked around some of the top hiring managers about what kind of resumes they overlook and why. The most common answers were as follows:
1. Subject line missing
HR managers are extremely busy people, and their mailboxes are equally busy. This is why most job listings distinctively suggest that you write a particular subject line when you email you CV. This helps the hiring manager to sort out the resumes from candidates for a particular position instantly.
Consequently, if you don’t write the proper subject line, your resume will simply go unnoticed. Moreover, even if your hiring manager is an extremely attentive person and your resume has caught their eye, – why should they pay attention to someone who either did not read the job ad with all care or simply discarded a pronounced requirement even before securing an interview?
Any qualified job requires meticulous attention to detail and following the basic guidelines. So, if a candidate fails to reveal either of these qualities already at the earliest stage of the hiring process, such a candidate is easily overshadowed by more attentive people and gets discarded.
Typos are a real menace for anyone who has to either write or look through serious amounts of text. When you write a resume, for example, you naturally focus on the meaningful content that will represent all your relevant hard and soft skills. But you only have so much attention, so one or two typos or grammatical errors can always squeeze through. Even when you run your resume through a spelling- and grammar-checking software, it is also easy to overlook one or two moments which can cause some awkwardness when another person reads your writing.
On the other hand, when the hiring manager reads through all the bulk of resumes, they get irritated at the poor writing skills revealed through spelling and grammatical mistakes. Even when you are otherwise a suitable candidate, the chances are that the hiring manager will decide in favor of the candidate with similar skills but whose resume does not have errors.
The solution is pretty obvious – have your resume and your cover letter proofread or simply looked through by as many fresh pairs of eyes as possible before you actually send it to your potential employer. This way, you can detect and take care of all those small details that may stand in your way.
3. Unreadable cover letter
By “unreadable” we don’t mean “impossible to read.” It means that your cover letter looks like it is a tedious read that a hiring manager simply doesn’t feel like reading and would rather skip to someone else’s cover letter which is more interesting.
There are many articles on the Internet about how to write a proper cover letter. The bottom line is that it has to be not more than three small easy-to-skim paragraphs. This is because that’s exactly what your hiring manager will do – skim through your cover letter before deciding if it is worth a full-scale read with all attention. And like we said, one long paragraph does not look like an appealing read.
Any candidate should understand the function and purpose of a cover letter. It is to catch the eye of the hiring manager and get them interested in your CV before they even get to it. Once you realize it, you will get a better idea of how to write a cover letter in a way that will hook your hiring manager, as opposed to boring them to death before they even begin to consider you as a candidate.
Most of the time, candidates are strongly convinced that the only function of a resume (and a cover letter, for that matter) is to summarize their skills so that the hiring manager can see how beneficial it will be for the company to hire this candidate. While it is true, it is only half the way.
The fact is that it is not always obvious from your list of skills how exactly the company can benefit from hiring you. It takes some time for the hiring manager to connect the dots and see what you will bring to the company. And time is what a hiring manager, just as any person, does not have in abundance and cannot spare. This is why they will rather give a chance to a candidate who did go into detail and explained it in the resume and the cover letter.
Obviously, this means that you will have to tailor an individual resume and cover letter for every position that you apply for. But if you still thought otherwise, no wonder that you haven’t secured an interview. A hiring manager can easily see a resume with no effort put into it, and who will want to spend time on someone who is clearly not showing even so much interest in the position?
5. Wrong format
Suppose you use Microsoft Word for working with text documents. So, you have written a great resume and a killer cover letter. You have remembered to put the necessary subject line, you have not been focusing on yourself exclusively, and you have made sure that all your writing is 100% error-free. But still something goes wrong, and you get no response.
The chances are that your hiring manager uses a different software for working with text documents, that is not so well with seemingly common *.doc and *.docx formats. So when they open your resume, it looks like crap – totally unreadable, and thus, not worthy to spend another second on it.
You can easily avoid such issue by using the file format which is sure to look the same with all the compatible software. For example, *.pdf.
Sometimes, you would find that you can only create or edit PDF files on a specific software which you must buy extra, but given the stakes, it is well worth it! If you are in a critical financial state and cannot afford to buy any extra software at all, there are free online PDF editors, you are welcome to google some of those and use them.
Finally, many hiring managers admit that they often have to decline some job applications simply because the candidate seems overqualified for the position. They say that should they hire an overqualified candidate for a given position, they expect such a person to ask for a raise eventually (which s/he will have every right to so), and the company would gladly provide, should it be possible, considering the company’s budget. More often, however, it is outside the budget, so the hiring managers are instructed to avoid the possibility of such situations.
Another reason is that when you send a clearly overqualified CV to apply for a certain position, it makes you look like someone who simply sends the same CV to all openings. This returns us to the idea that every resume you ever send should be customized. You can easily avoid being deemed overqualified for a certain position if only you spend some time on customizing your resume for this particular job and excluding the irrelevant skills and details, even when you are so proud of them that you want everybody to know.
We realize that some, if not all of these tips may seem like obvious no-brainers. However, this is exactly why they need extra attention. Such small details seem so obvious that they go without saying, and this is exactly what makes them so easy to overlook when hunting for a job.
So, be strongly advised to quit whining about the state of the economy and focus on what you can do to improve your chances of landing that dream job of yours. Even when you have sent a hundred or more resumes and never got a response, that does not make you an experienced job hunter. Rather the other way around, it indicates that you are clearly doing something wrong because the simple math is that it only takes one resume to secure you a position, and not a hundred of those.