“I applied for a job last Friday that had only just been posted that day,” a Fairygodboss community member wrote on the feed. “My qualifications are a pretty perfect match. Today, I got a rejection email. I was extra careful filling out the online job application because I applied to this company a little over a year ago for another job I'd be a great match for and the same thing happened. I don't get it. I've never worked here and don't know anyone who has but it feels like I'm somehow on a Do Not Hire list.”
Getting rejected from jobs you feel well-qualified for is certainly frustrating, and unfortunately not that uncommon. Why do you keep getting nos — and what can you do about it?
“Don’t jump to any conclusions,” Eloisa Jacinto wrote. “There are a host of reasons why a candidate gets rejected, e.g. culture-fit, internal hirings or somebody more qualified was considered, etc.”
“Try not to take it personally!” Jocelyn Lyons agreed. “I know that’s easier said than done, but it may have nothing to do with you. Lots of companies have internal candidates these days and are simply required by law (I think) to post publicly.”
It’s not uncommon for companies to have an internal candidate in mind and are simply required to post the position as a practice. As annoying as it is, it’s important to bear this in mind and recognize that this has nothing to do with your qualifications.
Or, perhaps there’s another mismatch between you and the employer — one that has nothing to do with how qualified you are for the job.
“It could have been something as simple as a salary mismatch if you list current salary,” another Fairygodboss community member suggested. “I had multiple applicants recently who already made more money than I was budgeted to offer. The range was pretty broad, but my budget was only to the midpoint.”
Today, many employers use applicant tracking software (ATS) to review applications and flag candidates that are deemed a fit. If your application doesn’t contain the specific titles, keywords or qualifications, you could be filtered out automatically, before a human sees it.
“IMO, if you are being rejected this quickly it is because the company uses an automated resume evaluation that is set at a very high filter,” Kristie White wrote. “So, the real problem is figuring out how to get around that filter. For example, it could be that it requires a college degree, a specific location, 10 years of experience, etc. Anything that doesn't add up will reject you. Getting around that automation can be hard and the best way to do that is to talk to the hiring manager.”
Then there’s the possibility that you’re not as qualified for the role as you think you are.
“You may have the titles, but someone else is in a similar company or uses the same systems and tools so they are even better qualified,” wrote Bonnie Dilber.
Before you submit any application, have someone — a trusted friend or colleague, for example — to look it over.
“I would get someone to check over your applications,” a Fairygodboss community suggested. “There might be things that are not obvious to you. Agencies can be a good source of advice and guidance. Are you giving examples of how you’ve completed the tasks on the job profile?”
Since ATS plays a huge role in whether you’re even considered for the role, always have the software in mind.
“It's ALL about keywords,” Angella wrote. “Match your resume to the keywords in the job posting to get through the ATS.”
“You can download the software for free (google "ATS Free"), paste the job description and it will show you the relevant keywords that the employer is seeking,” Anne Renehan added. “Then, be sure that your resume includes those keywords. Most employers use the software to screen the initial batch of candidates. If your resume is missing the keywords, you are automatically screened out. I had a similar experience, used ATS to make very minor tweaks to my resume and voila, I got an interview.”
In this day and age, connections are everything. This will allow you to get your foot in the door.
“Here is something to consider,” Annetta Moses wrote. “Perhaps the company received other applications and picked another qualified individual. And perhaps that individual knew someone at the company who hand-delivered a resume to the hiring manager. If there is a company you want to work at, you should be building connections at that company. This way when a job is posted, your connection at the company can hand deliver your resume to a hiring manager.”
“I would suggest if this is a company you are really interested in, that it would be important for you to do some networking to get you connected with the right people so when opportunities arise you are placing yourself in the right position,” Melanie Wexler agreed.
This doesn’t have to be your best work friend or a former boss, either — as C Allen suggested, “Find someone with the same role at that company on LinkedIn and make nice.”
“Did you follow up your online application with an email to the recruiter and hiring manager?” asked Jennifer Taylor. “Personal touches like that set people apart.”
“Have you called the HR department of the company? Or even the hiring manager?” Lisa Marie wondered. “Since some automated systems can reject applications, it doesn't hurt to reach out to a human. Connections can make the difference.”
It’s frustrating to be rejected again and again, but there are steps you can take to ensure you’re presenting yourself well — and land that interview.
This article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of Fairygodboss.
Laura Berlinsky-Schine is a freelance writer and editor based in Brooklyn with her demigod/lab mix Hercules. She specializes in education, technology and career development. She also writes satire and humor, which has appeared in Slackjaw, Points in Case, Little Old Lady Comedy, Jane Austen’s Wastebasket, and Funny-ish. View her work and get in touch at: www.lauraberlinskyschine.com.