I was unemployed for five months in 2016, meaning I spent 85% of my time job searching for almost half the year. I would spend hours searching, more hours crafting resumes and cover letters, and even more hours attempting to nail the whole interview process.
In addition to searching, I’ve been on the opposite side of the job search, too, as a former hiring manager. I’ve created job listings, and I’ve weeded through hundreds of resumes and cover letters, deciding who to bring in for an interview and, eventually, who to hire. For one of the most indecisive people on the planet (me), this is never an easy thing to do.
Basically, for everyone, the job search can seem like IRL hell. But if you become an expert, it really isn’t that bad. To keep you from being clueless and wasting time applying to a bunch of jobs, here are some reasons your applications might not be getting a response.
1. You didn’t use the subject line that the job listing said to use when applying, if you’re applying by email.
Job listings often say right in the listing to put “_____” in the subject line. WHY would you put anything else there? This says one of two things to a hiring manager: 1. “I didn’t read the job listing all the way” or 2. “I do what I want.” Neither are good when you’re trying to get hired.
2. You had a typo somewhere (anywhere) in your application.
I’ve seen typos in the body of emails. I’ve seen grammar errors in cover letters. I’ve seen company names misspelled in the subject line. I’ve seen it all. In fact, I’ve even seen myself make mistakes like these after applying to jobs or pitching articles. It’s never a good feeling, and because I’ve experienced it myself as a hiring manager, I understand. But when there’s hundreds of people to choose from, a hiring manager can’t let any sympathetic feelings get in the way.
3. You didn’t write a cover letter.
Unless the job listing says, “PLEASE DO NOT SEND A COVER LETTER. WE WILL NOT ACCEPT APPLICATIONS WITH COVER LETTERS,” write a cover letter. Even if the application doesn’t have a place for it — or if LinkedIn says you can just apply with a resume — find a way to upload a cover letter. If you can only send one attachment, put your resume and cover letter in the same attachment. Write a cover letter as your body of an email. Attach it as an extra document. Go the extra mile. Everyone else is.
4. Your cover letter is one, long paragraph.
Just like the internet prefers listicles, hiring managers prefer cover letters broken up into short paragraphs. When a bunch of text is clumped together, it can be daunting to someone who is extremely busy with minimal time to actually go through and read your application. Shorter paragraphs make it easier to skim, and TBH, that’s all most people are going to do before deciding if your letter is worth the full read or not.
5. You didn’t write anything about the company other than the name of the company.
Or you didn’t write the company name at all — which is just not okay. Cookie cutter cover letters where it appears you copy and pasted the company name into it are NOT okay. Why do you want to work at this company? What is it about this actual job that intrigues you? Talk less about yourself, and more about how you will benefit the company. Sometimes it’s a matter of phrasing what you already have differently. It will make all the difference. Seriously.
6. You attached your resume as a Word doc and the formatting got all messed up.
This can happen on other people’s computers, even if your resume looks fine on yours. If possible, always save and send as a PDF. Same with a cover letter.
7. Your resume formatting just sucks to begin with.
While artistic and over-the-top resumes are nice to look at (still not sure about people who put their pictures on resumes tho), I’ll still look at a black-text, artless resume that looks nice and organized. If your resume looks like it was created in 1999, though, please find a format in word or somewhere else online and #upgrade. It can make all the difference.
8. You’re not listing all of your skills, or tailoring your resume to each individual job you apply for.
This one is important for big companies that receive thousands of applications. They scan resumes through software that only pick out ones that have specific keywords they’re looking for. Put all the necessary skills you can think of and add to job descriptions anything you think may be relevant. In fact, try to format your resume differently for whatever type of job you’re applying to. Move things around. It takes a bit of time, but can make ALL the difference.
9. You’re applying to jobs you’re too qualified for.
Getting hired for a job you’re overqualified for would mean they would have to pay you more, and a company is most likely not going to add to its budget to hire you. Applying to jobs you’re overqualified for also makes it seem like you’re just applying to anything and everything (which isn’t great) and that you don’t have much ambition/drive and you don’t really believe in yourself. At least, that what it seems like in my opinion.
10. You follow up too quickly — and too often.
Following up is good, yes. It shows interest and hunger for the job. But give it at least two weeks before you reach back out. Give it time for the hiring manager to actually receive and go through applications, then reach out. Remember — hiring managers can’t respond to everyone that applies for their open positions, especially when receiving hundreds (or more) resumes. Following up more than once without receiving anything from the company is annoying, and could land you on a “do not hire” list.
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