Have you ever struggled with a job hunt and asked: “Why can't I get a job?” Sometimes it's just bad luck, but often there is something you're doing wrong in your job search. Here are 10 reasons why the recruiter is rejecting you.
1. You're Underqualified
You don't need to have 100 percent of the skills and qualifications listed on a job description, but you do need to have a high percentage. Aim to apply for jobs where you fit at least 90 percent of the qualifications. (That number drops for highly specialized jobs.) If the job description asks for someone with three-five years of experience, your 2.5 years of experience may qualify you for the job if you're strong in all of the other areas. Six months of experience isn't going to cut it.
2. You're Overqualified
It can seem illogical that employers would reject you for having too much experience or too many degrees. But remember that recruiters and hiring managers are looking for people who will thrive in the job they have available.
If you have an MBA and are applying for an inbound call center job, people will assume that you'll find the job boring, so they won't hire you. If you think you would enjoy a job for which you're overqualified, make sure you acknowledge this in your cover letter and explain why you're applying for this position.
3. You're Focused on One or Two Companies
Your dream job is at the company across the street, so you apply for everything that comes up there. It's fine to apply for a few positions at the same company, but people sometimes want a job at a particular place so badly that they apply for 10, 20, or even more positions.
When your name pops up that frequently, you're actually lowering your chances of getting a job. Companies want to hire people that want a specific job. If you apply for too many positions, they assume that you just want any job and won't necessarily be happy if they hire you.
4. Your Resume Is Sloppy
In real life, a typo doesn't make a huge difference. In your resume? A typo can constitute the difference between whether you get an interview or find your application automatically rejected. Never submit a resume that you haven't run through a spell checker and a grammar checker. Always make sure that your resume was reviewed by a human with a good command of grammar rules. Your formatting is also important. Recruiters don't want to see fancy resumes, they want to see resumes that are easy to read.
5. Your Cover Letter Stinks (or Is Missing)
Not every job posting asks for a cover letter, but if it does, and you don't include it, you'll lose out on the job. If it doesn't specify, include a cover letter anyway. Make sure that your cover letter doesn't just re-hash the information in your resume—that's a waste of the employer's time.
Your cover letter should focus on why you are a great fit for the position. It should take the employer's stated needs and match them to your credentials. Remember, don't claim that you are the best person for the position—you don't know that and it makes you look foolish.
6. You Can't Explain Why You Were Fired
Lots of people lose their jobs—some through no fault of their own and some because they did something stupid. Regardless of the reason you're unemployed, you'll need to explain what happened and why (if it was something you did) it won't happen again. It's hard enough to get hired when you're unemployed, but if you simply blame your former boss for being a jerk, companies won't want to take a chance on you.
7. You Have an Unstable Job History
If you're a student or a recent grad, it's okay to have multiple short-term internships and summer jobs. Otherwise? You should work at each job for at least 18 months, and preferably three or four years. If your last job was for 14 months, you better prepare to stay at the next one for at least three years. Otherwise, your record tells recruiters that you won't stick around long enough to make training you worth the cost and time.
8. You're Trying to Change Careers
Lots of people successfully change careers, but it isn't easy. If you're trying to change career paths make sure that your resume and your cover letter detail why you're changing careers and why you're qualified for the new career path. Employers won't make the connection without your help.
9. You Have Unrealistic Salary Expectations
Lots of companies require you to list your targeted salary on your job application, along with your salary history. If you're applying for jobs that pay $30,000 a year, but you've listed your target salary as $45,000, the employer will reject you immediately. No one wants to waste time interviewing you when they know you won't want to take the job at the available salary.
Additionally, even though you are willing to take the right job at $30,000, if your last salary was $45,000, the recruiter will assume you won't want to take a big pay cut. (Massachusetts just passed legislation prohibiting companies from asking about your salary history, so this is no longer a problem in MA. Watch for additional states to follow suit.)
10. You're Annoying
Applying for a job can induce anxiety, and your application or interview is important to you, so you are tempted to call repeatedly and follow up when you don't hear from the employer. Recruiters and hiring managers don't have the time to speak to every applicant, and they especially don't have the time to talk to every applicant multiple times.
It's okay to follow up after you've had an interview, but it's not okay to follow up multiple times unless they specifically ask you to call back. It can turn the prospective employer off big time. If you're struggling to find a job, take a look at this list and see if you can eliminate a few of these problems to increase your chances of job searching success.
Suzanne Lucas is a freelance writer who spent 10 years in corporate human resources, where she hired, fired, managed the numbers, and double-checked with the lawyers.