5 Reasons You Did Not Hear Back After Applying for a Job

by Sharon Elber

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You have applied to a few jobs and have not heard back. How should you interpret this? This article will describe the top 5 reasons that you are not getting contacted after applying for a job – a few of which may surprise you.

#1: The Company Is Most Interested in Hiring from Within

This practice is much more common than many people realize. It may come as a surprise to learn that some companies will run a job advertisement and collect external resumes even when they already have an internal hire in mind.

There are several reasons why this is sometimes the case. In union jobs, for example, there are often measures in place to hire internally when qualified candidates are available. In other cases, it is often company policy to externally advertise every job opening even in cases when an internal candidate is a strong fit and likely to move into the job. Finally, it may also satisfy liability requirements to show due diligence in hiring efforts in terms of compliance with federal regulations in some industries.

In these cases, going through the process of advertising a position has advantages for employers, although it may be annoying for job seekers. It allows hiring managers to “see what is out there” to get a sense for how competitive a specific job is and help adjust wages accordingly. It also gives them an idea of the kinds of skillsets that are in demand or in ready supply in the job marketplace.

If you are in the job search, you can bet that at least some of the applications you don’t hear back from fall into this category rather than saying anything negative about your application materials or qualifications.

#2: High Competition for a Single Job Opening

In some cases, hiring managers have to sort through hundreds of job applications for a single job. In this highly competitive situation, there may be 100 candidates with a similar set of qualifications and experience as you – they can’t all make the interview phase.

In cases like this, having a professionally designed resume that has been tailored to the specific job you are applying for can make a huge difference in terms of getting noticed. However, it is important to also realize that sometimes this will just come down to some unknowable factors and even luck to some extent.

It isn’t always about your failings. A certain number of your unanswered applications will come down to just getting missed in a crowded job search.

#3: You Got Passed Over by the ATS

Now here is something you actually have control over. Automated Tracking Systems (ATS) are computer programs that large employers often use to sort the original round of applications into relevancy. Often only those deemed most relevant will get a close look from human eyes, especially in cases where hundreds of candidates have applied.

Understanding how these programs work can give you a major advantage. Just like internet search engines, these programs look for specific keywords and where they fall in the resume in order to decide if an applicant is a good fit for the job.

How do you know what keywords to use to ensure that your resume or application gets noticed? Start with the job ad itself. Match the use of key requirements (such as special certifications, degrees, specific machinery or software, for example) exactly as they appear in the job ad. If you have required and/or preferred qualifications, be sure they make the top of your resume in the exact wording used in the ad.

Then, do a little research for common keywords used in your field or industry, or even for your specific job title. Use keywords in a way that still make sense for a human reader. After all, final hiring decisions are still made by people!

#4: Mistakes, Poor Resume Writing, or Incongruencies

If you have applied to more than 5 jobs and still haven’t heard anything back, it is definitely worth getting a second pair of eyes, and maybe more, on your resume. If you have some contacts in your industry that have participated in the hiring process, now is the time to ask them to take a close look at your application materials to be sure you are putting your best foot forward.

Asking for some perspective on your resume is an opportunity to network with people in your field. Rather than approaching it as something to dread, approach it as a chance to reconnect with an old colleague or even establish a new connection with someone who just may be aware of another opportunity that could be right up your alley.

Another way to go is to use professionally designed resume templates specific to your field. These can go a long way towards helping you structure your resume in a way that allows you to be sure your most relevant qualifications are front and center so that you can get noticed in the job search.

#5: You Are Just Not Qualified

Finally, although it is not the most common reason we don’t hear back from employers, there is also a chance that you are applying for jobs that you are just not qualified for. You may need to broaden your search, or narrow it down, in order to find the sweet spot where you get a higher response rate on your applications.

Follow Up on Every Application

If you are not hearing back from employers after applying for jobs, it may not have anything to do with you at all. Then again, it might be that you need to work on your resume to better showcase your qualifications, fix errors, or better target ATS systems.

Even when you do not hear back, it is important to follow up with employers if you have not heard back within a week of submitting the application. A simple email will suffice. Communicate your enthusiasm for the specific position and ask directly when you might expect to hear back about when a decision on interviews has been made.

Keep in mind that it is not uncommon for even a follow up to be ignored. Part of this has to do with the time and energy involved in a job search. Or, it may have to do with company policy which is designed to avoid liability from discrimination lawsuits by limiting the amount of information given out to candidates that did not get the job, or even an interview.

Try not to take it personally. Remind yourself that it is more normal than not to hear nothing from employers after you apply for a job, and make sure to stay motivated. Get feedback on your application materials to be sure you are putting your best food forward, and remember that to some extent, getting a job is about persistence in the job search process.

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