The position is perfect for you. You have the qualifications and experience. And, you spent ages carefully crafting your CV and covering letter. Since submitting them, you’ve been anxiously checking your email 100 times a day. Then, two weeks later, you discover you didn’t get the interview. “Why?” you want to scream. Victoria McLean, founder and CEO of award-winning career consultancy City CV shares why you're not getting to interview stage.
“Why does this keep happening?” “Why am I such a failure?” “Why am I not good enough?”
As founder and CEO of City CV, I’ve had this conversation with hundreds of people and I’ve reviewed and re-written thousands of CVs. I have some good news. There’s nothing wrong with you, you are good enough – and you can fix this situation.
There are actually dozens of reasons (not just three) why you might not get a particular job interview. It could be they’ve gone with their preferred internal candidate. Perhaps a business downturn has delayed their recruitment plans.
But, what if it keeps happening? I understand how disheartening this can be. However, in my experience, most candidates go wrong in one (or more) of these three key areas.
1. Your CV lacks focus
It’s tempting to fire off applications to every vaguely suitable opportunity you see. But this scattergun approach rarely works. It’s much better to take a more strategic view; decide on your target role, research the organisation and requirements carefully, and tailor your application accordingly.
Your CV obviously has to cover your employment history. You’ll need to communicate your experience, achievements and the benefits you’ve brought to your employers. But, you also need to position yourself for your future desired role and demonstrate that you understand the environment you’ll be working in.
For example, let’s say you’re looking to secure a management position. It’s not enough to simply cover the projects you’ve delivered or the responsibilities you’ve had. The hiring manager will expect to see evidence of how you’ve developed a team, mentored colleagues and motivated people to achieve those challenging project delivery deadlines.
If you’d had a career break, say so but don't dwell on it. Simply explain the reason for your break on your CV (e.g. parental career break) then move on. You never need to justify or apologise for a career break – your CV should focus on your professional achievements.
This strategic focus is my #1 tip. Demonstrate that you understand the requirements of the role, the company culture and the nature of the sector with a targeted CV.
2. You rely solely on online applications
There’s a reason online jobs boards are sometimes called ‘the black hole of rejection’. Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) will automatically screen out any CVs that don’t meet pre-set formatting requirements and keywords. Sadly, a gap on your CV can also mean you’ll be filtered out; it’s infuriating, but also important to understand such hurdles.
Women returning from career breaks are not the problem. It’s the system that frequently lets them down. I’m not saying don’t use online portals, and we can certainly help you make your CV more ATS-friendly, but I am saying don’t rely on them entirely.
An estimated 70-80% of vacancies are never even advertised. Many of our career returner clients find their new role through their personal networks. To tap into this hidden job market, get back in touch with your old colleagues and contacts and let them know you’re ready to return.
It’s not about asking for a job (which feels awkward). It’s more about re-connecting and finding out about current trends and opportunities.
You’ll feel much more confident doing this if you have an up-to-date, professional and engaging LinkedIn profile. I can’t recommend LinkedIn highly enough. I really believe it’s an essential tool; not just for job hunting, but also for networking and keeping your knowledge current.
3. You’re not communicating your unique value
What makes you the obvious best choice for the role? That’s a question you need to be able to answer. First, in your head, but also on your CV.
What strengths do you have that are a perfect match? What accomplishments prove it? Once you know that, it’s a question of articulating your unique value, selling your credentials and making a really strong case on your CV.
If you find this hard, you’re not alone. It can be particularly daunting if you’re returning from a career break. It’s why our CV consultants take so much time (usually around 1-1.5 hours on a Skype call) going through these questions individually with every client, before they even start to write your CV.
One final point. Your CV is not the place to ask for flexible working conditions. That conversation comes later in the recruitment process; always keep your CV focussed on your professional achievements and commercial value.
A job search often feels like a full-time job in itself. But really, landing a job is about three things. Understanding what the potential employer is looking for, getting in front of the right people, and communicating why you are the best person for the role.
Good luck. And, remember, the expert team of experts at City CV are always happy to help.
In Spring 2021, 2to3days and City CV are running a series of free careers webinars (including The Perfect CV on 17 March)