You find a job opening, send in your resume or upload it into a web form, and wait for the recruiter to call you for an interview. And you wait, and wait, and wait -- never getting more than an initial generic email that reads, “Thank you for your interest in our company. We will be in touch soon.” But they never call.
No one likes to feel rejected or passed over. It’s hard not to take it personally when you do all the right things (fill out the forms, apply for a job you’re qualified for, include your resume, and proofread your cover letter,) and you don’t hear back from the employer about next steps. Whether you are applying for your first post-military job or have been in the civilian job market for some time, the process of trying to get the attention of employers can feel like an uphill battle.
Some reasons employers might not be calling you include:
Too many resumes, not enough time. Recruiters are required to sift through, screen and review large numbers of resumes for each open position. They forward on only the ones that meet the most criteria provided for the open position. Similarly, hiring managers are focused on evaluating resumes, cover letters and recommendations for appropriateness for the job. Then, the hiring manager must consider cultural fit in the company before recommending the candidate for an interview or further consideration. All of this takes a lot of time, and time is one thing employers have little of.
What makes the process even more frustrating, according to employers, is that many applicants are not qualified for the position they are applying for, slowing down the process for everyone else.
- Easiest to fill gets the attention. Like all busy professionals, recruiters and hiring managers look for the easiest candidates to move forward. If a resume is hard to understand, ambiguous, or too long, it makes the job of the screener more challenging. They will be more attracted to candidates who make it easy for them to make a “yes” decision.
- Competing priorities or re-prioritization. The one job you spotted and responded to is the most important job to you, but not necessarily to the hiring team. Business needs might change, requiring the recruiter to change focus, or for the hiring manager to reprioritize recruiting efforts. This isn’t your fault, but it’s the nature of business.
- You came across as pushy. Did your cover letter make assumptions about your qualifications or fit for the job (i.e. “As you will see from my resume, I’m the perfect person to fill this job!”) Are you emailing the recruiter every day asking about the status of your application? Have you been stalking the hiring manager on social media? No one likes to be pushed, especially employers. Employers don’t mind follow up, but they resent pushiness. Read more about this here.
Non-specific resume or cover letter. Many candidates use one resume and cover letter for every job they apply for. This “generic” pitch is not appealing to employers.
As a senior executive in a successful sales organization told me, “We look to hire people who want this job, not just any job.” Your resume and cover letter should clearly spell out why you are a good fit for the job and company. By including specific examples of how your background relates to the work being hired for (even a military background can be made relevant) and using job-specific keywords in your resume, you make the work of the recruiter and hiring manager easier.
While it’s challenging not to see a lack of response as personal rejection, remind yourself that you are looking for one job right now. As NPA Worldwide reminds candidates, “It is important for you to not take it personally if a recruiter does not send you a response by email or telephone. Think of it like you did when you were dating. If someone is interested in dating you, you will be contacted. If not, it is best for you to move on.”