We apply to so many jobs and don’t always hear back from every employer. If you’re a recent college graduate, your first thought might be that you’re not qualified enough. Sometimes (if you’re a recent college graduate, most often) that is the case. But here’s what I wish I knew back then:
There are so many other reasons you aren’t hearing back from jobs you apply for.
Maybe you already knew this. And there’s a chance that people told me this back when I was first applying to jobs. But I didn’t realize it until I had a chance to be on the other side of the application process.
I started asking recruiters and hiring managers about the reasons they might not respond to a candidate. Turns out…it’s true. There really are so many other reasons you might not have heard back from an employer. But, if you’re anything like me, it wouldn’t be enough to just hear it to believe it.
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So I’ve collaborated with a few people involved in recruitment to show you some of those other reasons you might not have heard back.
The reasons each person provides comes from experience both as an applicant and a member of HR. You’ll notice some overlapping reasons between each person, but varying explanations and advice.
Tyler – Talent Acquisition Consultant
1. Job Location
People don’t update their locations on their resume. I’ve seen it a lot where people are applying for jobs in Hawaii, but live on the East Coast, and the job is based out of Hawaii.
If you’re planning on relocating or have already relocated, indicate that in your CV or objectives on your resume.
2. Jumpy work history
A big red flag for a lot of employers is seeing someone jump around from job to job. With recent college graduates, it’s a bit different as we as recruiters know what it’s like to do internships and support yourself through college.
Be mindful while you’re working and attending school to make good choices in opportunities that are going to help you grow.
3. Applicant Tracking Systems
Technology is so advanced nowadays, that applicant tracking systems are designed to make going through a pool of applicants easier than ever for recruiters.
Pay attention to the questions you get asked when applying online. Questions like what are your salary expectations, or yes or no questions pertaining to experience, are set up so that based on your responses, the system will either move you right in front of the recruiter or into a pool to be rejected out. For example, if a role is offering a $50k salary and you say you’re asking for $80k, it’s going to put you into that separate bucket.
4. Resumes! (All in the detail)
For jobs that require great attention to detail, I come across a lot of resumes with minor mistakes. People address the wrong company in a CV, grammatical errors, etc.
Have someone else review both your resume and the job description before submitting your application.
5. Applying for multiple openings at the same company
A red flag that may stand out is when an applicant applies for almost every opening on the careers page, and the roles aren’t related in skill set. Some people do this to show their interest in wanting to work for a company their passionate about, but to a recruiter, this can reflect that maybe the candidate is indecisive on what they want, they’re only looking for a job and not a career with the company, etc.
If there’s more than one job you’re interested in, really want to work for the company, or just aren’t sure which role you’re a fit for, reach out to the recruiter, email the team, or call with questions. Most career pages have contact information for additional questions.
Ask for feedback
If given the opportunity to connect with a recruiter, even if not selected, ask them for feedback!
Katie – HR Coordinator
1. Application Tracking Systems
Companies, especially small start-ups, don’t always have an ATS. As a result, candidates can fall through the email cracks or the recruiter may entirely forget to get back to them.
2. Different priorities
Communication to candidates regarding open roles or the interview process might not always be a priority to the organization or specific department.
3. Change in the role’s responsibilities
Sometimes, hiring managers realize they need to make changes to the job description. When this happens, it’s possible that the experience you have isn’t the best fit for the updated responsibilities.
4. A re-organization
A re-organization can happen within one department or the entire company. When this happens, it can result in a department dissolving the role.
5. Changes to budgets
When this happens, it can result in no longer being able to hire for the role. And companies may not always reach out to employees with the update.
Following up with recruiters can help you stay at the top of their minds. Download the productive job-hunting cheat sheet to gain insight into how to follow up after interviews.
6. Lack of communication from hiring manager to recruiter
Hiring managers have so much going on in their own day-to-day that often times, updating recruiters may not be top-of-mind for them. As the recruiter, it’s our job to make sure we set expectations with the hiring managers from the beginning and are on top of getting their feedback as quickly as possible. But this line of communication doesn’t always work out so perfectly.
Hiring may be at an all-time high and the recruiting or HR department may not have the bandwidth or resources available to them to reach out to everyone who has applied or interviewed.
Regardless of these reasons, communication from the company to the candidates is crucial no matter how far along you are in the application or interview process. We are all human and unfortunately, some of these things happen.
Reach out to your point of contact (if you have one) at the company if you haven’t heard back on an application or interview. It’s great from a recruiter’s perspective to have candidates who show interest by following up.
Ask for feedback
Sometimes applicants may encounter a situation where they are not selected for a role and aren’t given a reason. One reason for this could be that the company chooses to not divulge specifics behind why they aren’t moving forward with a candidate because they feel it can cause further issues down the road.
If this happens, reach out from a place of self-improvement. Ask them if they can help you understand how you can do better in the future. Just make sure you are open and willing to accept the feedback. Sometimes it may not be you at all! You never know until you ask.
Jimmie – Sr. Talent Acquisition, Talent Advisor
1. Outside of a normal commute radius/needs relocation
Most jobs at the entry to mid-level do not offer relocation support, so we can’t consider someone outside our area. If they live in Mount Vernon, they’d need to make a damn good case that a move down south for a full-time job would be easy enough for them to do.
For these people, lean on the Cover Letters to explain your circumstances and show why moving closer wouldn’t be hard (family/friends who live close by, you’ve visited Seattle many times before, have a network here, etc.).
2. Salary needs too high (or ambiguous: “flexible, negotiable, etc.”)
The salary dimension is always the toughest part: you don’t want to put a number and undersell yourself or price yourself out of the job. That said, every company should have an idea of what they’re looking to pay. We base ours on market survey data from a legal/financial firm, so we’re pretty clear what the role should pay. If someone exceeds our top ceiling threshold by 10%, we can’t consider them unless the job is basically written for them. Sometimes we’ll contact the individual if they’re really strong but well outside our salary range just to be transparent, but it really depends on how much of a fit they are for the position.
Generally speaking, you want to give yourself a 10-20% pay bump from your current/last salary. New laws in Washington (Equal Pay Act) dictate that we can’t base your salary offer on your last, so you should only be listing your desired salary.
Don’t forget to download the productive job-hunting cheat sheet to gain clarity on what you need in a job.
3. Qualified, but lacking specifically relevant experience – different system, industry, certification, etc. or some other issue (choppy background)
We often see applicants who are a close match but have other considerations that make them less appealing: outside our industry, lacking specific system experience, or really choppy backgrounds with five transitions in three years.
Even though these all raise yellow flags, it can sometimes be overcome if you know someone in the company to help you make your case or you’re able to address those issues in your cover letter.
4. Applied too late in the process
We tend to move slowly in the hiring process, which has obvious pros and cons. Oftentimes, we’re waiting for the right person to come along and haven’t found them. Sometimes, though, people do apply after we’ve moved quickly on three really strong applicants. We might’ve considered that late applicant more seriously, but after investing five weeks of time into the first three, we’re not going to delay and risk losing those three.
Be sure to check how long a position has been open. Then again, there’s no easy way to know if you applied “too late” in the process. People should generally approach applications like it’s a numbers game: the more you apply, the better your chances. While competition might be fierce, sometimes something as simple as a certain software system, a professional group you belong to, or some early college job you had that can make the difference!
Are we finally on the same page?
Job hunting is tough. Go easy on yourself and know that if you don’t hear back from an employer, there are a ton of other reasons besides being unqualified. Sometimes it’s because of things out of your control. And other times it’s because of things you can control. Be sure to update your resume and application using the advice from this blog post.
And when you do hear back from an employer, use this blog post on creating interview questions that best serve your job hunt to help you prepare for the interview.