Getting called in for an interview is way more complicated than it should be. You can do everything right and still end up with nothing. Or you can be recommended by someone influential and get your foot in the door without even formally applying. The whole thing’s more out of your control than you want to believe.
So, what are some things that might influence your chances of getting the company’s attention—regardless of whether they should or not? It’s impossible to name them all, because, like a snowflake, every hiring manager is different. However, here are four of the more common reasons you didn’t get called in and, more importantly, what you can do about them.
1. You Don’t Know the Right People
You’ve probably heard the old saying, “It’s not what you know, it’s who.” You can stop being in denial now. We both know it’s at least partially true. Of course, hiring managers want to hire people who can do the job. The problem is there are usually many people who can do it. Sometimes the difference all comes down to who made the introduction.
Did your name pop out of some clunky applicant tracking system, or did the VP of sales pass along your resume? It matters. This means networking doesn’t just need to be a part of your job search strategy, it needs to be the biggest part of your strategy. Here are a few tips to get you started.
2. Your Resume Isn’t Easy to Skim
You read that right. I said format, not content. If a recruiter can’t easily skim your resume and get all the relevant information from it quickly, how likely do you think it is that you’ll make the cut?
Okay, maybe it’s not all about the format. The point is, it doesn’t matter how impressive you are if your application materials lack clarity. Clean up your resume bullets, and focus on the main points you want to make.
3. You Left Off Relevant Information
Of the things that might tip your job candidacy one way or the other, you would think stuff that you didn’t include in your application wouldn’t be involved. Frequently though, things that you leave off, such as irrelevant jobs or GPA if you’re a new grad, can hurt more than they help.
Sure, you don’t want to waste space on your resume on things that aren’t your strengths, but you might accidentally be making yourself look worse if there’s a big gap between jobs or empty space hanging around at the bottom. Hiring managers might assume the worst, when the reality is much tamer. Include enough so that questions aren’t raised, then use the majority of your application materials on your more relevant skills and experiences.
4. Your Name Gets (Illegally) Judged
Yeah, this one is kind of a bummer. It’s illegal to discriminate based on race or gender, but it doesn’t stop people from letting their subconscious—at least I hope it’s subconscious—biases influence their impressions of job candidates. This information isn’t usually revealed in an application, but often times a name is plenty to work off of. There’s not much a lone job searcher can do about this, but consider it a bullet dodged. You don’t ever want to work for a company that wouldn’t hire someone based on his or her race or gender.
The good news is that there is at least one bonus you can give yourself in the name game. Apparently, people with middle initials in their name are perceived to be smarter and more successful. Go ahead. Add that one letter on your resume and see if it makes a difference. Who knows? Maybe it’ll tip the scale in your favor.
Again, these things probably shouldn’t matter. The job search process would be more equitable if they didn’t. But, the reality is that they do. Once you have a sense of what to expect, your next step is to use it to your advantage. Good luck!
Photo of bowling courtesy of Shutterstock.
Lily Zhang serves as a Manager of Graduate Student Professional Development at the MIT Media Lab where she works with a range of students from AI experts to interaction designers. When she’s not indulging in a new book or video game, she’s thinking about, talking about, or writing about careers. Follow her musings on Twitter @lzhng.More from this Author