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Your Resumes Ignored? Here's Why, and How to Recover

By Susan P. Joyce

Job Search Problem: Why Submitting a Resume Isn't Enough, and What You Can Do About It

Many job seekers have described to me that submitting a resume in today’s job market is mostly a banging-their-head-against-a-brick-wall, extremely frustrating waste of time.

You search for the right jobs and submit your resumes as quickly as possible.

But you never hear from the employer.

I think this could be why you receive no response...

Employers match applications with job requirements, and 80% of employers Google job seekers before considering them for a job!

The most effective way around this process is to be referred by a current employee. Most employers have an employee referral program, which rewards employees for referring successful applicants and are the best track to a new job.

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Why Employers Ignore Applicants

Even today, many employers typically receive too many resumes and applications for the jobs they post. Interviewing job candidates is very expensive for an employer to do (second only to the cost of hiring the wrong candidate), so candidates are screened to save time and money.

For most employers, the resume-submission-to-interview-invitation process typically runs through these 4 steps:

Step 1: Resumes are received, and screened into two groups (“may be qualified” and “not qualified”). This is usually done with an automated system (applicant tracking system or "ATS"), but may be done by a human in very small employers. The "right" keywords for the job are necessary to get past this step.

Step 2: A human opens a browser and typically screens the “may be qualified” applications, using Google, into three groups (“more likely” and “less likely” and “no”) based on what is discovered -- or NOT discovered -- about the applicant. "Social proof" is required to pass this step in the process.

Step 3: Then, a person examines the experience and qualifications of the “more likely” candidates, separating the "well-qualified" from the "not qualified." Initial screening interviews (via video or phone) may be conducted to further refine the group of "well-qualified" candidates.

Step 4: Invitations to an in-person, telephone, or video interview are extended, and the real dance begins.

When nothing, or nothing good, is found about you online, you end up in the “less likely” or “no” groups.

Employers hope to find something good and solid that agrees with, and reinforces, the claims on the resume -- a LinkedIn Profile is perfect for this. Without that "social proof," you aren’t invited in for an interview. Opportunity over.

What Should Job Seekers Do in Response?

The good news is that job seekers can influence what is found in this process.

In addition, your participation will not only help you survive the Googling, it will also increase your “market value,” the size of your network, and help you progress in your career.

1. Google yourself!  

Look at the first 3 or 4 pages to see what is visible to an employer about you.

DO NOT be happy if nothing positive about you is found on the first page of a Google search on your name!

That means either of two things to most employers – you don’t know how the world works today (so you are out-of-date) or you are hiding something. Neither of those two impressions will help you in your job search.

Then, practice Defensive Googling at least once a month so that you know what is out there. Look for someone dominating Google search results on your name, preventing an employer or network member from finding you.

Check to see if someone using the same name you use is a movie star, political candidate, or a serial killer. When that happens, it's time to add your middle initial to your public name or become "Sue" rather than "Susan."

2. Build "Social Proof" of your skills and knowledge.  

When you are in job search mode or career growth/change mode, you will be spending more time building your social proof because it is so important now.

Managing a public image (or online reputation) is not just for movie and TV stars and musicians any more. We’re all famous, at least a little, and the sooner you get started managing your public persona, the better off you will be.

If you prefer, think of it as “personal branding.”

The greater your positive online visibility, the better your online reputation.

And that increases the probability that you will have a response to your resume the next time you submit it to an appropriate opportunity.

Based on your research in step 5 (below), take the time to set up and develop your own online visibility -- providing "social proof" of your skills and knowledge. Once established, it should take only an hour or two a week to maintain, and probably more time to grow.

Your defensive Googling should show how successful you are in building your social proof.

3. Don't be a "resume spammer."

Apply ONLY for jobs you are qualified for. Most job applicants are not aware that submitting too many applications for jobs they aren't qualified for puts them in the category of "resume spammer."

Resume spammers are ignored (don't we all ignore spammers?), and automated systems are even better at picking out spammers than humans are.

So, when you submit the same resume over and over to the same employer for different jobs, you earn the label "resume spammer." The result: ALL of your applications are ignored.

Even when you apply for a job that you are actually qualified for, your resume spammer designation means that your application is ignored.

Sometimes this designation lasts for a few days or weeks, and sometimes it is permanent, depending on the employer and the system.

4. Make your qualifications for THIS job very clear.

Too often, people have only one version of their resume which they submit or copy and paste into the job application. The technology used to help employers manage all of the applications received recognizes that and is unforgiving.

Your resume may never get past step 1 in the process outlined above if it doesn't include the important terms (a.k.a. "keywords") used in the job description.

Those keywords include terms important to the employer like job titles, location, education and certifications, skills, and the specific requirements.

Read Your Top 25 Keywords to understand what employers are typically looking for.

Use a modern version of your resume -- replace the "Objective" with a "Summary" -- and be careful of too much fancy formatting. Replace "responsible for" statements with quantified examples of your accomplishments.

As noted above, employers look for "proof" that you can do the job. So, in addition to your "social proof," include accomplishments for each job, particularly accomplishments that are relevant to the job's requirements, demonstrating you have the skills for the job.

5. Do competitive research.  

See what works for others. What does Google show on the first page of search results for someone in your field you respect? Carefully examine what you find.

Observe how they create and curate their online visibility:

  • Do they have their own website? What do you find on it? What is the main topic of the website? If articles are published, what are the topics and who wrote them?
  • Do they have active accounts in social media like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.? What information are they sharing there?
  • Have they written and published articles on LinkedIn? What topics? How popular are they? Which are the most popular?
  • Do they have their own YouTube channel or visibility in YouTube? What topic(s)? How popular are they?
  • Have they published any books on Amazon? Are the books popular? What topic(s)?
  • Do they contribute to any national websites or publications? Which ones? What topic(s)?
  • Are they visible inside professional organizations for your field? Which ones? How are they visible?
  • Do they speak at local, national, or international events? Where? What is the topic(s)?
  • Where do they work? What is their job? What can you find out about that employer?

See what you can learn about how to successfully be professionally and positively visible.

Your goal is to understand where and how to build your professional visibility, not to copy someone else's work.

Managing Your Online Visibility Is Not Optional Now

This post is in reaction to a discussion I had with a job seeker who is desperate for a job, but very reluctant to put herself “out there” online -- a very big mistake today.

According to an August, 2018 survey by CareerBuilder --

Nearly half of employers (47 percent) say that if they can't find a job candidate online, they are less likely to call that person in for an interview – 28 percent say that is because they like to gather more information before calling in a candidate for an interview; 20 percent say they expect candidates to have an online presence.

Build and maintain your social proof with a robust LinkedIn Profile and professional activity on LinkedIn. LinkedIn is trusted by both Google and employers so it is the perfect place to establish visibility and credibility.

More About Successful Job Search Strategies:


About the author...

Online job search expert Susan P. Joyce has been observing the online job search world and teaching online job search skills since 1995. A veteran of the United States Marine Corps and a recent Visiting Scholar at the MIT Sloan School of Management, Susan is a two-time layoff “graduate” who has worked in human resources at Harvard University and in a compensation consulting firm. Since 1998, Susan has been editor and publisher of Job-Hunt.org. Follow Susan on Twitter at @jobhuntorg and on Facebook, LinkedIn.


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