Why am I not getting the interview?

I get it. Searching for a job can be frustrating. You toil away on application after application, just to receive an automated email saying “you aren’t qualified” or “we already filled the position.” As a senior in talent acquisition, I go through what seems like thousands of resumes and applications a day and what I see leads me to believe that it’s very possible that job seekers just don’t know some of the basics needed to be considered for an interview.

Unfortunately, we  rely on outdated techniques which can cause the job search to become very frustrating and discouraging. Therefore, I’ve decided to give you the real reason(s) you may not be making it to the interview.

Transparency Disclaimer: I have struggled to put this piece together. There is a very thin line between constructive feedback and harshness. My wish is that the following pieces of advice are received in the matter in which they are intended. Now with that out of the way, let’s jump right in.

1. It’s not what you know, it’s who you know:

If I had a dollar every time someone said this, you could probably consider me the Powerball winner. Yes this phrase is overused, but there’s probably a reason why so many people reference it. If you believe this statement to be true, why not fully invest in getting to know people? I am not talking about connecting with every recruiter on LinkedIn or relying on your connections to get you in the door. I am advocating for developing meaningful professional relationships. Identify someone in a desired role and ask them how they got there. Seek advice and guidance. Odds are they can share some helpful tips with you and they could potentially become a great mentor.

In the next few sections, I will go over some common mistakes that job seekers make and why they never make it to the interview.

2. Format:

I am a Pinterest geek. I always come across these resume tips for making your resume stand out. While very pretty and inviting, often times, they are useless if they lack substance. Spend less time on using pretty colors and complex formats and more time on content and substance. (There is an exception to the rule if you are applying for a graphic design or artistic role when it may be a good idea to showcase your skills. If this is not you, the aforementioned applies.)

3. Educational Background:

This tip is simple; only include your most recent completed degrees, certificates, etc. If you have a Bachelor’s degree and you are listing your high school diploma, middle school graduation (it happens) and etc., this can allude to a number of discriminatory things such as age, experience or maturity level. Just leave it off and include the most recent.

The degrees that have nothing to do with the job. This is a little controversial because some folks will tell me that they don’t want an employer to think they have no post-secondary education. But let’s look at it this way, if you went to school for dental assisting but applying for an accounting position, this experience is not relevant to the job in which you are applying which would still not increase your chances of getting an interview. It would also make it hard for a hiring manager to see how your experience relates.

4. Bullet Points:

    1. Organized files             
    2. Balanced daily
    3. Supervised 10 people

This is simply just not going to work. An employer needs to be able to immediately connect the dots on how your experience relates. The above tells us nothing. Also, it is not the employers’ responsibility to drag this experience out of you. We need your resume to clearly tell us why you applied for a job.              

Bullet Points Continued….. Bullet points should not include personal characteristics like the following

    • Approachable
    • Funny
    • Outgoing

These are items that an interviewer would identify once they interview you. However, these types of bullet points won’t get you there.

5. Not reading the job description:

Listen, this is an easy one. Just read the job description, go back, read your resume. Do the skills and requirements match? No? Well….. I’ll let you take it from there. This leads me to my next point.


6. Applying for every job:  

Trust me; employers know the importance of folks getting employed. We need you actually. However, applying to every job won’t make you stand out to an employer in a good way. It would seem that you are all over the place hoping that someone gives you a chance. Decide the career path you want to pursue and stick to that. If you are always applying to every job, an employer will never know what to seriously consider you for.

7. Interchangeable Jobs

If you’re employed through a staffing agency or have been in the past, combine past experiences into one description. There’s no need to list various involvements separately, unless they differ in roles. This can be very misleading.

8. Keeping a record of the jobs applied to:  

You received a response, finally! But there’s a problem, you can’t remember the position you applied for. I know that you have heard the phrase “applying for a job is a job itself”. This is true. It is a huge turnoff when a job seeker says “What job is this? What position did I apply for? I’ve applied for so many positions; I don’t even remember applying to this job”. Employers understand that they are not the only employer you are job seeking with, however, it’s unprofessional and shows a lack of interest when you don’t remember the job you applied for. Just keep a record.

9. The Importance of Email, Phone and Voicemail

As an active job seeker, you should make sure you’re reachable and actively following up. Be sure your voicemail is activated and professionally appropriate, constantly monitoring your email and returning phone calls. Employers will send assessments, questions or more information regarding a position. These items are time sensitive so make sure you respond promptly, even if it’s thanks but no thanks.

10. One size does not fit all:

There is no one size fits all resume. Many professionals will admit to having multiple resumes. These resumes have the same information but may highlight different skills based on the position that you are applying for. Don’t spend 10 minutes putting your resume together and think an employer is going to spend 45 minutes trying to figure out why you applied for this job. Do your due diligence. This is the first representation of yourself that an employer has. Make the first impression a great one!

Cari Hawthorne