Recruiters Are Trained to Throw Away Your Application if They See This 1 Common Mistake

resume thrown in trash

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Laura Berlinsky-Schine2.3k
May 22, 2024 at 1:40AM UTC

You’ve just been rejected from yet another job. You know you’re well qualified for the role, and yet you were dismissed without as much as a screening interview. What went wrong?

Many job seekers find themselves in this position all too frequently. And there’s no easy answer as to why. 

Some candidates simply aren’t qualified for the role at hand. Or, they don’t proofread their application carefully. Perhaps they fail to do the proper research to address their cover letter to the right person. Or, the application is rife with errors and mistakes. They may have even lied.

But when it comes down to it:

The no. 1 common mistake job seekers make…

is recycling the same application for every prospective employer.

This is a multifaceted mistake. There’s your resume, of course, and it should not—cannot—list exactly the same work history and accomplishments for every single employer. If you’re applying for similar roles, you may be able to get away with minor tweaks, but in some cases, particular pieces of your resume just won’t be relevant to every person who reads your application.

Then there’s the application itself. It’s certainly a bit more difficult to copy and paste when many employers use unique systems. Still, you’d be surprised at how many job seekers think they can pull this off and minimize the effort involved. And that means, more than likely, they’re not following directions.

And there’s the cover letter. This is one application component that too many applicants rush through or overlook completely. Some reuse large portions or entire letters from previous applicants. (And, if you rush through this, you might even forget to change the name of the recipient and/or the company!) The story you tell, however, must be unique to the company in question. 

...and how to fix it.

Unfortunately, there’s no quick fix for this. You need to take care and attention to every application you submit. 

However, that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to reinvent the wheel every time you apply for a job. There are large portions of your resume that will stay the same. Some may only require minor tweaks. Your cover letter needs to be adjusted a bit more — you should ensure that you address it to the right person and play up the aspects of your work history and resume that you believe will demonstrate that you’re the best fit for the role. Still, there are portions that you may be able to recycle. You just shouldn’t have a one-size-fits-all template, unless it’s a very loose one.

And, of course, make sure you follow instructions to the letter. Attach all the correct documents and include the information the hiring manager tells you to include. Moreover, make sure to omit anything the employer explicitly states they don’t want. For example, some employers ask you not to attach a cover letter (but if it’s optional, do add one).

If you don’t tailor your application to each job and employer, then you’re being disrespectful and showing the hiring business that you don’t care enough about the position to make the effort. That’s not what you want to put forth. Taking the extra step to show your fit will demonstrate investment and motivation.

What's your no. 1 piece of resume advice? Share your answer in the comments to help other Fairygodboss'ers!

About the Career Expert:

 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 The Haven.

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