I’ve reviewed countless resumes during various phases of the hiring process for a variety of roles in numerous organizations. One consistent challenge is filtering through the high percentage of applications destined for the reject pile.
Mind you, I don’t enjoy rejecting ANYONE!
But when there’s only one position to fill, often with narrow qualification criteria, it’s inevitable that a large majority of applicants won’t make it past a brief resume scan/skim. Some will get a closer look, and a few will end up being potential contenders for further evaluation.
While managing the full-cycle process, it’s important for me to have a reasonable understanding of the work to be performed so that I am able to identify relevant qualifications and sifting out those that don’t match up with the hiring needs. Before any hiring activity begins, I thoroughly review those expectations with those involved in reaching the final hiring decision.
Ultimately, the hiring manager determines the actual screening criteria and thus dictates which applications will be rejected. Though in most cases, the hiring manager expects someone like me to whittle the choices down to only the most viable applications based on his/her criteria and feedback.
The reasons for immediate rejection vary, but here are few tips I wish I could deliver personally to those in that category.
Take time to review the job posting to determine exactly how your knowledge, skills and abilities align
In a tight job market, it may not make sense to apply unless there is at least a 95%+ match. When the supply and demand is reversed, a 75% match might be sufficient. These are general guidelines, but the premise of qualification and role alignment will almost always be a factor to some extent.
Make sure your application materials distinctly reflect knowledge, skill and ability alignment with the employer’s preferred qualifications. Emphasize and prioritize similarities between your background and the job posting. If your qualifications are not immediately obvious to the person reviewing your information, your application will likely be instantly rejected.
Include specific details and quantifiable data when possible
Provide specific descriptions and detailed examples of the work you do and have done, including any related achievements or business results. For instance list systems, software or technology by name, not just generic terminology. If using industry acronyms or abbreviations, make sure to spell out the full wording at least once in the first mention of that item. For example: Project Management Professional (PMP) certification from Project Management Institute (PMI).
Some examples of quantifiable information include: managed $7 billion budget; expanded global operations in Europe and Asia by 42% during 3 year period; launched new athletic product line resulting in additional $17 million revenue in 2013; implemented Salesforce Customer Relationship Management (CRM) platform which reduced annual licensing costs from prior system by $18k.
A cover letter may OR may not help OR hurt
It’s extremely easy to push “apply now” and attach a resume, but customizing a brief introductory note (cover letter) along with it might just make the difference in the screener seeing potential that otherwise may have been missed. I can think of several occasions where a person’s resume was light on experience, yet they included a well-written cover letter outlining pertinent details that pushed them into the “possible” pile.
The main benefit of a cover letter is to show willingness to make an effort. It’s also an opportunity to elaborate on key attributes you’d like the employer to notice. Most professional level jobs require effective business communication skills, so a cover letter may actually serve as a work sample as well.
Make sure to highlight what you DO have, know or offer related to the employer’s job ad, rather than what you lack. Don’t add anything personal or private that could distract from your professional presentation. Keep it simple and to the point.
Unless they state otherwise, many employers are not willing or able to consider non-local applicants, or those requiring relocation, wanting remote work, or in need of any type of immigration-related sponsorship. In major metropolitan areas, applicants appearing to be outside of a reasonable commuting distance to the workplace might be automatically rejected.
If still compelled to apply for a non-local job, it might make sense to express awareness of the location and plans to travel and manage any potential logistics or commuting concerns.
Where have you been and what have you done lately?
Obviously the lingering economic downturn displaced many people that still might be struggling with unemployment or underemployment. Normally, a short gap between jobs won’t catch much attention. In some cases, numerous short-term jobs or employment date gaps might not matter much either.
However, not all employers are equally understanding – especially if they haven’t been personally impacted by any unfortunate career circumstances of their own.
While I generally don’t advise including “too much information” (TMI) about less than ideal situations, a lengthy stint outside of the workforce might be an occasion where the reason for the empty time span shouldn’t be left to the imagination. There are numerous ways to briefly and concisely show activity – even if unpaid – during a period of under- or unemployment.
The same type of “short and sweet” explanation might also make sense if your most recent work or majority of prior experience is not directly related to the position of interest.
Again, I don’t enjoy rejecting applicants. Some of the above is, or at least should be, common sense and common practice.
However, applicants routinely express frustration that they believe they are qualified for the jobs the apply for, yet rarely, if ever, get contacted.
If that happens more often than not to you or someone you know, here are a few things to keep in mind when applying for a job…
Your application must reflect relevance to the job posting.
Descriptive details may make all the difference.
Spend time to make an effort demonstrating your understanding of what matters rather than wasting time taking short-cuts.
Guest blog post written by Kelly Blokdijk. As a talent optimization advisor Kelly’s professional background “Creating a Voice for Talent” includes 10+ years experience offering exceptional human resources, organization development and recruiting support to diverse organizations. You can contact me @TalentTalks on Twitter.