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6 Reasons you're not getting shortlisted. Insights from a Career Coach.

Updated: Oct 10, 2022

You’re in the market for a new job. Your CV is updated and you have found a job advertised that seems to be the perfect fit.

You excitedly submit your application and wait to hear back.

Weeks go by and you still haven't heard anything about your application and reasonably assume it's a rejection.

The worst thing is that this isn’t the first time this has happened and you’re now starting to get disheartened. So, what's going on?

Some possible reasons why your application isn't progressing for a role that seems a great fit include:

1. The advertised job doesn’t exist

It’s not unusual for employment agencies to post generic job adverts online when they are looking to source candidates for their database, and this means that there may not be an actual job behind it. Alternatively, sometimes a provisional brief has been received from a client and the agency would like to boost the number of suitable candidates it has available for the role. Placing adverts online is relatively cheap and low risk for them so even if the job later gets pulled, they have not lost out.

2. The advert has been live for a while

Most job adverts these days appear online, with providers such as LinkedIn running (and re-running) job adverts for a specified period. Online adverts reach many people and attract a huge quantity of CV submissions. It could be that when you applied, the job had already been live for a couple of weeks (this isn’t always evident from the ‘date posted’), meaning a substantial number of applications have already been received and the recruiter has already identified a shortlist of suitable candidates.

3. The job has been put on hold

Things can change within organisations and a job that may have been a top priority a few weeks ago can swiftly be put on hold for many reasons, such as a pending organisational change, a change in requirements, a hiring freeze, or simply due to budgetary constraints in the business area. Unfortunately, whereas organisations are quick to go to market when they’re looking to fill a role, they’re not always as efficient when it comes to pulling it. And this sadly means your application can disappear into the ether.

4. You’re not tweaking your CV

When applying for a job, it’s important to recognise that a job with the same title in one organisation can be very different from one in another. It’s important to remember when applying for a job, to modify your CV to highlight the core attributes highlighted in the job advert or description. Include similar language where appropriate and don’t assume that employer will know you possess a particular skill if it’s not explicitly outlined on your CV.

5. Your CV is unclear or too wordy

Your CV is a marketing tool, not an autobiography. It’s important therefore that you keep it clear and punchy. Spelling mistakes and typos will usually get you an automatic rejection. Use appropriate headings and make it easy to read. Keep the language positive and don’t go too far back in time – a prospective employer is usually only interested in the past 10-15 years of your work experience.

6. You have unexplained gaps in your employment history or many short stints

Employers look to mitigate risk when recruiting. Where an employer observes many gaps or short periods of employment on a CV, it will often cause them to be suspicious. One option is to create your CV in a functional format, which means any dates of employment appear further down the CV. Alternatively, where there is a genuine reason for the pattern, it’s worth using the cover letter to explain and hopefully reassure the prospective employer that you’re a quality employee looking for a stable role.

Sian Morgan is an experienced Career Coach and senior HR professional. To find out more about how working with a career coach can boost your job application success, get in touch or book a free initial consultation at .

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