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Professional Coaching

Why The Quick “No”?

By January 19, 2019January 21st, 2019No Comments

You’ve applied and received a rejected letter. Now, all you want to know is why.

Today, I’m reviewing nearly 100 applications for a senior leadership position and thought you might appreciate knowing how hiring teams think as they go through each application one-by-one.

#1. We Start With Your Experience

We can’t help it. Even when we like something you’ve written as an objective or summary statement, our eyes naturally gravitate to your experience almost immediately because we’re curious to know whether your most recent experience relates to what we’re looking for in the right person for the role.

If you’re pursuing a shift in your career, include a statement at the top of your resume or next to your most recent experience which explains how your experience adds unique and essential value to the role that you’re pursuing. You can use this as an opportunity to stand apart from your competition, but if you just list your experience and it doesn’t relate to the role you’re pursuing in an extremely logical way, the reader will likely think that you’ve applied to this position by mistake and reject you.

#2. We Look At Longevity

Your history of tenure provides instant assumptions for the reader of your resume. Most recruiters will not rule you out for one or two short stints, but if they’re hiring for someone that is expected to be in a role for years to come, you may be quickly eliminated if you move from job to job every 6-18 months.

If you have a gap in your resume or several short-term placements, I highly encourage you to include your reason and what you did during the time you weren’t working. If your “gap” is for just a few months, you don’t need to add this detail. But if your gap is 6 months or longer, the reader or your resume will draw their own conclusions, which may not be an accurate reflection of you. So, why not state your case. If you’ve had short stints due to layoffs or a company going under, you might want to be clear about the type of opportunity you’re pursuing next and then look for companies that are most likely to give you the stability you’re looking for going forward.

#3. We Care About Your Location

If the address on your resume is in another town over a 45-minute commute away or is in a different state, you will likely not receive top consideration. This is true even if you “plan to move” or are “open to relocation” or “are happy to commute an hour each way”.

If you already have plans to move to the town/city where the job is posted, why not say, “moving to (town where the job is) on July 1st, 2019”, or include a similar statement that clearly shows your intentions? If you say “willing to relocate anywhere”, you are immediately considered high risk. Your hiring team has most likely had a really bad experience with relocation at some point in their history, so they will be shy to hire you and relocate you to their location if you have no personal connection to the area. This is not to say it can’t happen. It’s simply to point out that relocations are risky unless you have a very strong and compelling reason to make the move. If you do have a good reason, make it known on your resume.

#4. We May Or May Not Look At Your Cover Letter

Most cover letters don’t say one word about the company you want to work, let alone share how your experience relates to what the hiring team is looking for in the right person for the role.

Job descriptions usually give you a pretty good idea of what an employer is looking for. Most applicants tell me that they put their story as to why they’re interested in a specific opportunity in their cover letter, so they’ll often keep their resume the same for every position and just change the contents of their cover letter for each opportunity. You should be aware that some recruiters never look at cover letters, so having a little explanation of what you want and why within your resume is essential. That said, if you do take the time to craft a cover letter (which is much appreciate for folks like me who read every one), make sure you talk about the company you’re applying for a position with and why you want to work for them, along with what value you bring to the team. Tell us your unique story and know that a generic resume + generic cover letter is obvious to the reader and makes it look like you don’t really care much about this specific opportunity since you’ve sent the exact same materials to everyone.

#5. We Want To Know About Your Current Employer | What They Do & Who They Serve

If we’re feeling good about everything you’ve shared thus far, we’ll take a closer look at the company you worked for to see how it relates to our organization.

For companies that aren’t well known, it’s helpful to include a description of what the company does. For example, “JotForm, form creation and survey software”.

When reviewing candidates with the extended hiring team, you’ll find that the hiring manager or CEO is often Googling the company you worked for to try to figure out what they specialize in to see if it’s relatable. If it is, they can see how you likely already have a solid understanding of their business or industry, which will minimize the amount of time it will take to bring you up to speed.

The 5 reasons listed above all kick in once your resume is read, but you should also be aware that employers and recruiters can set parameters on job boards and in applicant tracking systems to rule people out if they don’t meet certain criteria. For example, if they ask for 5 years of management experience and you list 4, you may receive an instant rejection. It’s not personal at all and your resume wasn’t even read. You simply didn’t meet their minimum required criteria so you’ve been automatically ruled out. With employers receiving hundreds of applications per job post, you may be able to see why they set up these automated benchmarks to narrow the list of candidates to those who meet certain minimums.

I recognize that this can be hard because you haven’t had an opportunity to plead your case as to why you’re a good fit. When this occurs for an opportunity that you truly believe that you’re qualified for, I highly recommend that you find other ways to become noticed within the organization. For a comprehensive list of ideas, you may want to check out The Top Candidate Playbook.

At The Top Candidate, we work with professionals to help you connect with opportunities where you’re able to do work you love with people you enjoy, making valuable contributions to the success of your team each and every day. We pride ourselves on working with people who are exceptionally talented, proven top contributors whose references boast about with pride. Our personal branding and professional coaching programs are designed to give you a distinct edge as you pursue new opportunities. And when the time comes to build your all-star team, we can help you attract and retain the top talent that will propel your business to the heights you’ve only imagined. Learn more at

Why The Quick “No” © The Top Candidate 2019