Why was my job application rejected?

Why was I rejected for this job? This is a big question and you can get rejected at any stage of the job hunting process but this is going to take this from the Why was I straight up rejected at application? point of view.
I’m an external/third party/agency recruiter so I do only see a part of the job market but I do talk to a lot of people, all of the time about their experiences job hunting or hiring so I think I know a bit about the wider industry.

The reasons could be summarised as:

  • Your CV isn’t doing you justice
  • You have applied to the wrong job for your skills
  • The market is saturated with applicants for this job
  • The job advert is rubbish

Your CV doesn’t show your skills at their best.

There’s a huge number of blogs, articles, and entire books out there on how to write a CV. One of them is right here on the nineDots website. You can pay people large sums of money to rewrite your CV for you. (I don’t recommend it, I’ll look at your CV for free).
It’s important for your CV to do justice to your skills and experience. I’m not going to go into the minute details here but the main tip is to write out your work experience in terms of achievements and completed projects in each role.
I see so many CV’s where there’s just a list of duties per job.

A software developer could put ”wrote code, created unit tests” on their CV and there would be no difference between me and literally the worst developer in the world.
What will set someone worth speaking to apart better than them is what they have achieved in their career – writing something like
Developed a scalable Rest API using Service Fabric Architecture in C# and .Net Core which consults and updates a SQL Database that supports an average of five thousand requests per second per instance.
You have a specific project and a measured deliverable that shows why this developer is better than other developers. If they just wrote “Created C# APIs”, you miss out on all the awesome.

You are straight up applying to the completely wrong job.

There’s definitely truth in the advice to “throw your hat into the ring if the job says 3 years experience and you have 2 years” or “apply for that junior role even if you’ve just graduated!”
There is a limit though. In the past few months, I’ve seen the following:

  • A person with 4 years of pro-gaming experience and 0 technical experience applied to an API Automation role,
  • A person with experience mostly in selling vegetables at farmers markets applied to a very senior DevOps role
  • A Geophysics Engineer applied to a Network Security role.

We’re not the only company receiving applications from these people and it’s likely that the volume of positive responses they’re getting is very low.
I really do understand what it’s like to be searching for a job when the market is limited for your skills – in a previous life, I was trying to find a new career path with a degree in Museum Studies. It’s hard when you see very few jobs for the skills and education you have so you start applying to anything that you think is even a vague fit.

The market is heavily oversubscribed

There is this whole thing going on right now with Data Science roles.
I started in recruitment around 7 years ago – at that time, Data Science was the FUTURE. All the tech articles were saying there would be tens of thousands of jobs over the next 10 years in Europe in Data Science. We would all be Data Scientists. I would have to train my cat in R just to keep up. (prrR, amirite?)
Anyway, basically everyone and their cousin did degrees in Data Science and now … the market is flooded. In the meantime, algorithms have been created to handle a portion of the work which previously required humans and other use cases for data science just didn’t materialise.

There’s a few other sectors where the number of candidates vastly outnumber the number of jobs so companies can pick and choose a little bit. You might have all the skills and experience but there’s just someone who is better. Someone who happens to have a bit of background knowledge helpful for this particular company – this is where tailoring your CV can come in very handy.
If you have worked on projects relevant to the role you’re applying for – add them to your CV. People can’t know what you don’t tell them!

The job advert is rubbish

Look, the advert might just be terrible. I’ve definitely worked on roles for clients where the spec says Tech A, B, C but actually Tech D was extremely critically important and is nowhere to be found on the job description.
Often the advert is based on the job description and the job description is based on something written years ago and just rehashed every time they need to rehire. Hiring is hard and usually, something tacked onto the rest of the hiring managers’ extremely long and stressful day.
It’s not ideal but it happens.

The hiring manager doesn’t realise that they need Tech D until they’re looking at a bunch of CV’s and go “Wait! Why do none of these people know Clojure?!”
There’s absolutely no way to tell from just looking at the advert but if you really want to dig deep – scope out the company page. Look at other people who work there on LinkedIn. What technologies do they know? Maybe you can spot a commonality that you can bring up in your CV or cover note.

The recruiter is rubbish

Sometimes, the people in charge of hiring are rubbish. I like to think I’m pretty good at my job but I’ve definitely rejected people who have emailed me back to say “actually, I do have skills/work permit/etc”. I misread their CV, read it too fast because I’m trying to get through my applications quickly.
There can be a lack of understanding of technologies if the recruiter is new to the sector so they might not know all the lingo yet.
I am 400% not telling you to argue with the recruiter (we hate that) but if you do feel that your rejection was way out of line – bearing in mind the points above, I don’t think there’s any harm in emailing back to ask for some additional feedback. Odds are, your rejection email was pretty vague. “Thanks for applying but no thanks”.
They might have made a mistake or have missed something on your CV.
I’ve also definitely had people indignantly email me to say “actually, I do have experience in X” and … it’s literally not on their CV anywhere so please do be polite and cover your bases first!

So, what can you do?
Well, you can do something if the issue is your CV or you’re targeting the wrong jobs. If the market is oversubscribed; you’ll need to heavily tailor your applications, get out and network, write convincing and targeting cover letters. If the advert or the recruiter are rubbish, you might have to do a bit of additional research on the company to find out if there’s additional requirements or to chase up the recruiter.

Job hunting is frustrating and exhausting but honestly, no one in the process is trying to aggravate. We all just want to get the best person into the job.

If you’d like someone to look over your CV or some advice about the jobs you’ve been applying for – feel free to reach out on rose@ninedots.io. If you’re the person having to send a lot of rejection emails – maybe your advert needs tweaking and I’d love to help you with that too – so get in touch!

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