Have you ever received that dreaded denial email and wondered, ‘What did I do wrong’? I know I have, and I’m sure that I’m not alone. It can be the most frustrating experience to not know why you didn’t get the job or what you can do to improve your chances.
I have had the chance to review dozens of resumes and do multiple interviews from the eyes of a hiring manager. This experience has given me particular insight into what managers and recruiters are looking for when they’re trying to fill a position. Here are the main reasons why I passed on the resumes I reviewed.
Their Resume Was Not Relevant to the Job
I work in the financial services industry and even within that field there may be 100 different specialties. However, a financial services professional will have skills that overlap into multiple areas of Finance.
The applicants that I have reviewed and rejected had resumes that told me all about their current jobs. However, they failed to demonstrate in their resume how the skills they have will help my team get the job done. Your resume needs to help the hiring manager picture you in their department, doing what they do. The accomplishments and skills mentioned should align with what is needed in the new job, not the old job. This is one of the biggest mistakes that applicants make. They make one generic resume and use it for ALL of the jobs they apply to.
How to Improve Your Resume
It is not uncommon during a job search for the average person to create one general resume, and then use that resume for ALL the jobs that they apply to. While it is common, it is not the most effective way to get hired.
What I recommend doing is to go ahead and create a Career Management Document. This is a repository that houses all of the jobs you have had throughout your career. You will list each job and relevant skills as well as all your responsibilities and accomplishments for those jobs.
This will obviously be a very long document, but that is ok because you will not send out this document to anybody. What you need to do is use this document to build each and every resume that you use on your job application.
- First, you need to carefully review the requirements for the job you are applying to.
- Next, determine where in your career you have used skills that qualify you for this role.
- Then, take each accomplishment where you have used these skills and add them to the resume for this job. You also should tailor each bullet more closely to the specific job. These accomplishments would be grouped with the relevant jobs like so:
Job Title – Company, Date
- Relevant Accomplishment #1
- Relevant Accomplishment #2
- Lastly, you need to include the skills relevant to the jobs you’re applying to in the skills section.
You Need to Improve Your Interview Skills
The Second reason why you didn’t get hired is your poor interview skills. Once you have made it past the Applicant Tracking System, the recruiter and the hiring manager, do not take the interview lightly. Interview skills are not easy to learn and you don’t have enough practice using them to naturally get good over time. This is the same mistake that many of the applicants I have interviewed made.
In particular, the question that many people fail is “tell me about your experience?” Other people may phrase it in a different way, like “tell me about yourself”, but it amounts to the same thing. You need to be able to give a concise walk through of your prior experience AND make it relevant to the job you’re interviewing for.
The interviewer does not need to know the intimate details of every position that you have held. Even the general details about your prior jobs need to tie in closely to the responsibilities of the new job. You should not be talking for more than 3-5 minutes, and 5 minutes is stretching it.
When you are talking, the interviewer is listening out for things that sound familiar to what their group does. They also are focusing on how well you demonstrate your knowledge of the subject. You should be practicing your delivery of this information multiple times leading up to the interview because you only have one chance to get it right.
How to Improve Your Interview Skills
The best way to get better at interviewing is practice, practice, practice. Now while you cannot simulate all the conditions of an interview, there are things that you can practice. One of those things is your “Tell me about yourself” speech.
The purpose of this speech is three-fold. One, the hiring manager wants you to give them a rundown of your experience and how you transitioned from one role to the next. Two, they are interest in knowing how closely your past experience ties to what you will be doing in the new role. Three, they are judging you for your communication skills.
- To the first point, it is very important for you to control the conversation around why you left all your previous roles. Some hiring managers may have a negative impression of you if they think you a job hopper. You need to mention how each transition drove you further in your career and was not just because of the money.
- Secondly, as you are talking about your previous roles, your past responsibilities and accomplishments should sound just like those of the new job. The hiring manager is trying to determine how well you can do the new job. Only mention the things from your past that make you sound like a perfect fit for the new job.
- Thirdly, when you are speaking uninterrupted for more than a couple minutes, people really get a chance to determine your communication skills. Most positions will require you to verbally communicate to other teammates and business partners. The hiring manager wants to hear how competently you communicate your story to determine if you have the communication skills for the job.
Now that you know what they will be looking for, take the time to write out this speech. Practice it over and over until you can recite it without it sounding rehearsed.
The Competition for the Job
In any job search, there are things you can prepare for and things you cannot. One of the things that we cannot prepare for is who applies for a given job. There are many cases where you did not get the job simply because somebody more qualified than you also applied to that job. It is as simple as that.
We tend to beat ourselves up when we are not hired for a role, as if we did something wrong. As long as you put in the time to prepare and practice there is nothing you should blame yourself for. I have had as many as three candidates who have all done everything well, but we have to choose only one. My team has always given feedback to the recruiters so the candidates know they have done well, but the result is still the same. But no matter how many caveats accompany a no, it is still a no, and that can be devastating to a job seeker.
How to Beat Out the Competition
So, I know I just said that you cannot prepare for the competition, and that is true in most cases. However, there are a couple times where preparation is possible.
The first way has to do with timing. If you apply for a job within 3 days of the position being posted, your chances of being selected for an interview increase by 75%. You will be one of the first resumes the recruiter will see and they will put you on the yes pile before it gets too crowded.
The next way to give yourself a leg up in the competition is networking. Out of any tip that I have mentioned, networking remains the most effective way to get a new job. But this is definitely playing the long game. And the odds of you knowing someone who has the influence over the hiring manager in the job that you want are very slim. Either way, remaining in contact with old co-workers and taking the time to meet people in your industry is always a good idea. You never know when those connections will benefit you.
During your job search, make sure that you are not guilty of the first two examples. Also, keep in mind that whenever you get a no, it does not mean that you have done something poorly. There are always things that are out of our control, focus on what you can control.