I read a number of posts on endless job searches by many job seekers. I sense the frustration. I hear you. I really do feel you. So you have applied for countless jobs and you have never been shortlisted? So what is happening to your CV?
Truth be told, to those of us on the receiving end of the 1000s of CVs per advertised position, the reasons are quite obvious. Your CV has been dumped. Dumped in email Hell. I hope that the insights provided here might help job seekers better understand the rationale behind their never ending job search story.
There are many reasons why some cvs will never get shortlisted, in no specific order, these are my top 10;
1. No Subject: Most job applications and CVs today are sent electronically. A CV sent via email should have a subject. Subject fields that are empty or show the cv as being forwarded give the impression that the candidate is ill-prepared for the recruitment process. Applicant should follow the instructions of the advertised position. If the instructions say quote the Job Reference in the subject field then do so. If there are no instructions then ensure the Job Title and Job Reference are included in the subject field. Subjects like “Fwd,” “My CV”, “Resume” are also not ideal subject options. The subject should use a unique identifier to reflect content of the email and its attachment. If you are sending your CV to someone who has requested your CV, then your name in the subject field will be helpful e.g Andrew Peter’s CV.
2. No Content: I personally do not open CV attachments that have no accompanying email. In my opinion, this is your chance to make a positive first impression. Empty email content can be interpreted as having nothing to say so, I quickly move on to those applicants who have something to say. Emails that only have the words ‘Find attached’, ‘See attached CV for your perusal’ depict little or no effort. Emails that depict a long trail of the CV being forwarded to several employers also appear unprepared. The employer must not see evidence of your active job search. In addition, copying several employers and recruiters in the same email is bad news. Use Bcc if you have to send an email to multiple people, that way they cannot see the other recipients of the email. Job seeking is a real job in itself, so each application should be taken seriously and independently.
3. Grammatical Errors: Once I receive an email application, I always scan through for grammatical errors. If the job requires good written communication skills I decide there are then not to proceed with the applicant. Grammatical errors take many forms and often begin in the body of the email, before one even gets a chance to review the CV. Examples of poor grammar are using small letters instead of capitals for starting sentences and pronouns e.g london, lagos and i. Other examples are using ‘am’ instead of ‘I’m’ and using commas with no spaces between the words e.g london,lagos,and lagoon. I sadly see a lot of these.
4. Spelling Errors: Like Grammatical errors, if the job requires strong writen communication skills, spelling errors can abort the application process. The worst must be writing in shorthand e.g hv instead of have, bizness instead of business, c instead of see. What may appear as harmless typos can be a deal breaker for some employers. Triple check your CV for spelling errors. If I had to pick a top 5 list of application errors made by job seekers, Poor Grammar and Spelling will be in the Top 3.
5. Unqualified Applications: A recruiter once said to me, ‘there should be a special place in hell reserved for clearly unqualified candidates who apply for advertised job roles’. Unqualified Applicants are the bane of every recruiter, that you can have up to 95% of unqualified applications remains every recruiter’s nightmare. The question I often ask is, why are you applying for every job? Effective job seeking is strategic in nature. It is a well thought out and articulated strategy with a guided action plan to manage its execution. Focus on only applying for jobs that you qualify for. Yes, they may not be many and they should not necessarily be. If they are too few opportunities that suit your qualifications then this may be a sure sign of your skills gap. Perhaps this is the time to invest in yourself. People with successful careers invest in themselves. There is no magic. Equip yourself by investing in yourself.
6. No Originality: If you copied the application or CV of another applicant, it is difficult to tell who is the original writer. When I start seeing similar applications with the same email, cover letter or career objective, I may not proceed with any of the similar applications. Originality is important. Recruiters and employers want to know the applicant is applying themselves and in their own words as they are already assessing the applicant’s suitability.
7. Poor Structure: If the CV format used makes it difficult to follow the applicant’s Career Objective, Qualifications, Skills and Work Experience then this shortfall will be to the applicant’s detriment. There are many good CV templates available online, find them and use them. Other key elements of a good CV structure are the order of the CV sections. Elements like Career Objective or Profile should come first. As for the rest of the CV, it really depends on your unique selling points. My advice is, put your best foot forward. If you went to good, reputable schools then put Education first. If you have worked in well known companies then you can start with that instead. If you have relevant professional qualifications then that is good to put forward if it will be an advantage to your application. Sell your best features first.
8. No Value: If your CV does not demonstrate value it will be a zero sale. Employers are looking for value and your CV may be your only chance to demonstrate that. What knowledge and skills do you possess? What goals have you achieved? What makes you stand out from the rest? Why should the employer pick you? Value can also be demonstrated via valuable work experience. What value did you bring to previous employers? Listing your job responsibilities shows us your job description not your value. Your CV should showcase value.
9. Too Much Information: If you are not applying for a modelling job and you are not a model it is safer not to put your picture in your CV. I have seen an instance where a candidate was not shortlisted based on their physical appearance, all because they scanned their passport photo to their CV. What you think are your best assets may be a recruiter’s worst. Human beings are limited by bias, so let us not provide any more information that may reinforce biases and be used to our disadvantage. Other information that may open you to unnecessary bias is your Date of Birth, Gender, State of Origin and in some cases even your Name and Address. Think first and decide which of these factors may cause you unnecessary bias. Be prepared to make choices that enhance your application.
10. No Personality: A good CV demonstrates personality. Employers are interested in who you are as well as what skills and experience you possess. Poorly written CVs can give the impression of not being diligent, paying little attention to detail, lacking creativity and even having low intelligence. Areas that can showcase personality are your interests (hobbies sounds less professional). Examples of interest areas I have come across in CVs include; surfing the net, thinking and sleeping. Yes you read right, sleeping. Despite reflecting your true areas of interest, certain terms simply sound more professional e.g rather than citing surfing the internet perhaps you can say carrying out research. There is nothing wrong with showing personality, it could work in your favour, simply aim to stand out positively from the rest.
Notwithstanding, unemployment is at an ultimate high, so a really big factor is there are too many applications per position in the first place. However, I can assure you that taking on these insights will definitely improve your chances of getting interviewed. Good luck. And if you do get lucky, please guide someone else by letting them know what worked for you.
Watch out for the next title in this series. Interview: 10 Reasons Why You Were Never Invited Back…
HR Professional and Director at Kendor Consulting