So you’ve drafted a cover letter, put together your resume and have applied to several jobs, with no returned calls or emails for a proper first interview. If you’re wondering what the issue might be, use this checklist (followed by some more information below) to make sure you’re giving yourself the best possible odds to showcase yourself in person!
- You’ve not followed the employer’s directions
- Your cover letter or resume has errors or formatting issues
- Your cover letter or resume is too cookie-cutter
- You don’t use enough (or any) keywords
- You’re either under or over qualified
- Your online persona is scaring them off
- You might not be the problem
1) You’ve not followed the employer’s directions
No two open positions are identical, and the same can be said for how companies want to receive applications. Some will require a cover letter, while some won’t; A few will ask you to directly email your resume, but others want you to upload it to their system. The important thing here is to follow their instructions exactly.
Remember, without hearing your voice or meeting you face-to-face, your first introduction to a potential employer should always be as mistake-free as possible. If you’re unable to abide by their requests — even during the follow-up process, when they may ask “Allow 30 days for us to review your credentials” or “No phone calls, please” — why should they think it will be any different once you’re hired?
There are plenty of ways to stand out during the job hunt, going off-script when it comes to directions is not one of them.
2) Your cover letter or resume has errors or formatting issues
Related to the first step, know that errors on your own documents can go far beyond spelling or grammar. If you format your resume in a certain fashion, it may not be coming over to the recruiter in the same way, due to whatever system or applications they use on their end.
Here’s an easy tip: Resumes in a PDF format are extremely helpful because it’s an unchangeable document, no matter the method in which the recipient is viewing it. So, your specific font, graphics, or spacing will look exactly as you intended, and your resume won’t potentially look like hieroglyphics to others.
3) Your cover letter or resume is too cookie-cutter
Sending out one email after another can be time-consuming while on the job hunt, so it’s understandable that there would be certain verbiage you’d like to keep the same most of the time.
But keep in mind that a hiring manager hears or reads a lot of the same words every day: Phrases such as “I’m a team player” or “I saw your ad on (insert job website here).” Truly, employers don’t expect you to be absolutely thrilled about a bulleted job description they post.
What would impress them, however, is showing any research you put into their company before you send your credentials. Point out specific things you notice about what they do or their company culture instead of simply mentioning the open position or how you found their ad.
Tip: Our resume template collection features over 500 resume templates for you to check out. Take a look and help yourself stand out!
4) You don’t use enough (or any) keywords
As mentioned above, when a hiring manager sees too much of the same language day in and day out, it’s key to make yourself unique. You can do this by using three different types of keywords:
Skill Keywords: These indicate action instead of just doing a job. Words like “built,” “designed,” “organized,” “supervised” and the like are always worth using. Another good tip is indicating how you used a skill in a previous position, not just having the skill. So instead of “Running accounts payable is something I’m able to bring to your company,” why not “I handled daily A/P processes, managed vendor supply relations and oversaw the processing of purchase orders and payroll for over 200 employees;” See the difference?
Results Oriented Keywords: While your cover letter should spotlight your personal qualities and experience, it should also show off your accomplishments. Results oriented keywords are great when coupled with statistics or hard numbers you can provide, such as “I increased team efficiency by 37%.” Other terms to consider using are “initiated,” “implemented,” “created” or “generated.”
Recognition Keywords: Partner your talents with accomplishments and what do you get? Hopefully, recognition! Using keywords that emphasize any and all awards/rewards from previous employers show that you’ve excelled in your field. This can be an Employee of the Month certificate, a raise or bonus that didn’t come with a scheduled review (though refrain from sharing the dollar amount) or other types of achievements. If none come to mind, your previous employer can’t and shouldn’t be blamed for not singling you out, but words like “promoted,” “selected,” “credited” or “earned” are useful.
5) You’re either under or over qualified
While companies have been known to make acceptions about education or certification requirements if they find the right candidate, it’s crucial to realize when you’re not in the ballpark (or equally if they’re not in yours). Even in the most desperate of times, don’t waste energy applying to positions that are below your pay grade or well beyond your experience level.
Employers simultaneously will not have the capacity to teach you the processes you should already know, nor the patience for someone who’ll be bored early on in the hiring process. Never just skim the job posting; read over their requirements multiple times if you need to in order to know if you’re in sync with who they’re seeking.
6) Your online persona is scaring them off
Even if you have your social media settings set to private, companies can still Google you and they want to know how you share your life on the web. Often, however you’re coming off online is making your first impression with a company, along with your cover letter and resume.
It’s great to have fun photos or engage in dialogue with others online, but keep it clean and don’t give off the impression that you’re somehow a hiring risk. Be careful what you share and how you’re coming across.
7) You might not be the problem
The final thing to keep in mind is that while your employment is the first thing on your mind, it won’t be for a business. Yes, they have the ad up, but you don’t know their day-in/day-out responsibilities, their timeframe or who else they’re considering. If you haven’t heard back, it could be due to any number of internal irons in the fire.
No matter the reason, if you choose to follow-up, do so with a proper amount of time between your original message and the second one (a matter of weeks, at minimum) and go back to step one — following directions — when doing so. Be respectful of their time, because they have many people, not just you, to consider.
Find Your Next Job
If you’ve been taking on your job hunt by yourself, you may want to look into working with a local staffing agency. Our team of (awesome) recruiters is here to help great candidates find great jobs, from professional roles to industrial positions.