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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 this process:

  1. Resumes are received, and screened into two groups ("may be qualified" and "not qualified") by searching through the resumes in an automated system (applicant tracking system or "ATS") using the terms in the job description.

    This means the "right" terms -- the keywords -- used in the job description are necessary for your resume to be found and included in the "may be qualified" group. These are typically the terms used to search through the ATS.

    Without the right terms included in your resume, your resume will not be found in these searches of the ATS, and it will be ignored, categorizing you as not qualified.
  2. A human then opens a browser and 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. The "facts" on the resume or application are confirmed (or not) when compared with the LinkedIn Profile.

    "Social proof" is required to pass this step in the process, and LinkedIn has more credibility than a resume or application.
  3. Then, a person examines the experience and qualifications of the "more likely" candidates, separating the "well-qualified" from the "not now." And the well-qualified candidates are usually reviewed by the hiring manager before job interviews are scheduled.

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 are not invited in for an interview. Opportunity over.

Before a job offer is issued, the top two or three candidates are usually researched online again. This time employers research more intensely. LinkedIn and other social media are checked to see how the candidates communicate (well or badly), eliminating any that do not seem to have the kind of personality that will "fit" into the organization.

7 Important Strategies for Job Seekers to Follow for Success

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!

If nothing is visible about you on the first page, that invisibility means one of two things to most employers – you do not 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. LinkedIn is the platform accepted/expected by most employers for most professions.

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. Put your LinkedIn Profile URL on resumes and applications.  

Make it very easy for employers to find the right LinkedIn Profile (YOUR LinkedIn Profile) when they do their online research by including your Profile's URL in your applications and resumes.

Find your Profile's URL by going to the Profile's web page -- where your photo and all of your information is visible -- and then click and copy the address in your browser's location bar (e.g. linkedin.com/in/yourname).

  4. Do not be a "resume spammer."  

If you apply too often for jobs which you do not clearly qualify for, employers or recruiters may categorize you as a "resume spammer" and ignore all of your applications. Resume spammers are ignored (don't we all ignore spammers?), and automated systems are even better at picking out spammers than humans are.

The best strategy is to apply ONLY for jobs you are qualified for. And, make your qualification for each job for VERY clear!

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 for which you are qualified, your resume spammer designation means that your application will be ignored. Sometimes this designation lasts for a few days or weeks, and sometimes it is permanent, depending on the employer, the system, and the scarcity of someone with your skills.

  5. Make your qualifications for EACH 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.

  6. Learn as much as possible about the employer and opportunity.  

This research is required for a successful job interview, and, during the process of applying for a job, this research can help separate the good employers and opportunities from the bad ones.

Check to see if the employer has a LinkedIn "Company page." Depending on how complete the Company page is, you could find the names of their products and services, their latest news, and job postings.

Especially helpful, information about their employees (the "People" link) is provided if the employees have LinkedIn profiles, including analysis by location, what employees do, where they studied, and what they studied. Very useful information!

Choose a People category (your location and your school, for example), and you will find links to the Profiles of those employees. When you click on a Profile link, you can learn more about how they describe their jobs and the employer, how long they have worked there, promotions (or not), etc.

Also check a site like Glassdoor.com and Vault.com to find employer reviews and more information.

  7. Do "competitive" research.  

See what works for others who are very successful in your field. What does Google show on the first page of search results for someone in your field whom you respect?

Carefully examine what you find. Observe how they create and curate their online visibility:

  • Do they have active LinkedIn accounts? What do they emphasize in their Profile? What information are they sharing there? How and how often?
  • 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?
  • Are they active in other social media like Facebook, Twitter, Quora, etc.?
  • Have they written and published articles on LinkedIn or elsewhere? 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 how to improve your professional visibility, not to copy someone else's Profile.

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 cannot 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:


Susan P. Joyce 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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