6 Reasons why your resume may not achieve interviews
It is so very frustrating when your application for a 'dream job' has been rejected especially when you know that you were a perfect skills match for the role. What are the main reasons that this happens?
Your resume is not ATS compliant
Most hiring organisations (and especially Government) use some type of Applicant Tracking System to filter through the (often) hundreds of applications they receive for advertised positions.
Essentially, these are a HR system that is set up with keywords and key phrases related to a specific position and usually incorporated into the relevant Position Description and/or position advertisement.
If these are not picked up in your resume (and your application documents), your resume will automatically be rejected even though you are a perfect skills match for the position.
Equally important is the format and structure of your resume. It must be a one-column document excluding tables, text-boxes and graphical elements as ATS simply cannot interpret these and will misinterpret the information. So most downloadable templates from the web (including Microsoft Office) are not ATS compliant.
Your content does not align with the position
As per Reason 1, an ATS is scanning your document to identify the relevant keywords and key phrases that were set up for the specific position in the algorithms. Therefore, your resume needs to incorporate these under a defined ‘Areas of Expertise’ section and within your relevant experience.
ATS are easily confused, so if your first experience position listed does not relate to the advertised position, it may be rejected at that point. That is why it is important to segregate ‘relevant’ and ‘non-relevant’ experience.
Equally important is carefully reviewing each position information you are applying for and ‘tweaking’ your resume to ensure that keywords and key phrases as listed under the Role Responsibilities and/or Selection Criteria are incorporated into your resume.
Importantly, does your resume evidence that you have the essential skill set and the experience to perform the advertised position?
Your resume looks hand-made
Even if your resume does pass through an ATS, hiring organisations make decisions to interview based on the quality of the documents you submit for advertised positions.
They expect that you are serious about advancing your career and have made the investment to have your resume professionally prepared. It is, after all, one of your key documents and will ultimately determine your future career progression and your income and lifestyle.
The danger with hand-made resumes is that they often incorporate spelling errors, inconsistent formatting, have key information at the rear of the document (such as Education), don’t have a compelling introductory statement, focus on ‘soft skills’ and often have their experience listed as a direct copy from a Job Description. This is particularly so when the individual has been in the same position for a number of years and is not aware of the new technologies that influence how resumes are now processed by hiring organisations.
You have not included Referees
The days of inserting ‘Referees are available upon request’ are long gone. It is far easier for hiring organisations to differentiate applicants who have included referees from those that have not. They simply do not have the time to call every applicant with the skills match but hasn’t included referees to obtain this information.
Even if you are in a long-term position with an organisation and want to keep your job-seeking confidential from them, consider previous managers that may have moved on from the organisation. Make sure you list them as ‘former’ and include their new organisation, position title and contact information in these situations, particularly their business email contact. Referees with non-business email addresses (e.g. Gmail, Outlook etc) may be viewed sceptically by hiring organisations.
Also note that overseas referees are perfectly acceptable but do remember to include their business email contact as well as mobile/phone numbers.
Your Experience date information is obscure
Just listing ‘years’ without months sends out alarm signals to hiring organisations. For example, if you list 2019 – 2020, they do not know if you worked two years or two months (started December 2019 and left in February 2020). Your resume is a ‘living’ document and should be updated every time that you have a new position to record. You may not remember the details a couple of years down the track.
Short-term positions should also be clearly quantified, particularly internships, contract or short-term fixed roles. If you do not do this, hiring organisations may get the impression that you are a ‘job hopper’ and will be reluctant to hire you. It is an expensive process to recruit and train new personnel, so they need to be sure that you are worth the expenditure.
Hiring organisations also need to know why you have ‘gaps’ in your employment. If this is a result of maternity leave, carers leave, overseas travel, etc., make sure this information is shown.
There were stronger candidates
Unfortunately, despite getting everything right (your resume, application, matching the required skills and incorporating relevant keywords), there will be situations when another applicant with similar credentials as yourself has something which just tips them over the edge to achieve the position.
Quite often, it is because they have industry or job-specific experience, or the advertised position was open to both internal and external applicants and there already is someone sitting in the job who has applied for the position. With Government advertised positions this is often the case. But do keep in mind that Government agencies are generally seeking ‘fresh blood’ and are keen to inject new talent into their workforce.
Remember also not to be discouraged when your application has been rejected, as in most situations, it is not a reflection on your abilities; rather, that the position attracted a number of exceptional applicants.
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