5 Reasons Your Online Job Application Did Not Catch My Attention

Are you sending tons of resumes on job ads but do not even get an answer? Here may be why:


Recruiters both in HR departments or recruitment agencies/ search firms receive a large number of resumes every day and we have to decide within 5-10 seconds if we call up the candidate or not. The “Leitmotiv” of my job – professional recruitment - is to find similarities between the job and the applicant, the skills of the person in front of me and the job responsibilities.


Her are 5 tips for targeted applications that are more likely to bring you to the interview:

  1. Only apply if you match 75% of the job ad: this ratio will give you a) confidence to succeed in the job and b) enough room to grow, learn and stay motivated for the next years. 75% is not only a good indicator for the recruiter - who will weed out those candidates who fall short - but it is also important for your personal risk management: you want to be sure the next step will be the right one and you will stay and evolve within the new organization, right?
  2. Only apply if you cover 99% of the KO criteria: When it says “fluent Bushman language is a must criterion”, this means that you cannot do the job unless you are fluent in Bushman language. Though you might apply when you give yourself a “very good”, do not do so if you only have basic knowledge. Be prepared that everything you put on your resume will be double-checked - and in 80% of the cases I correct the language level stated. I had candidates that put “fluent” on their resume yet were not able to communicate at all in the stated language
  3. Do not apply when you are clearly over or under qualified: If you read “7 years relevant experience”, you can be sure to get a negative response if you have 2 or 20 years of experience as we consider that the job is either under or over your competencies or not in line with the salary range for this level. Though we understand that you might be willing to go down on salary and responsibilities if you are highly qualified, you might create an internal disequilibrium. We might furthermore assume that stepping down in terms of responsibilities, title and salary as well as reporting to someone potentially less qualified than you is neither good for your morale nor for your career management and we would fear that you will not stay but continue looking for a “better” job. If you do not have the experience required and do not meet the 75% above, we might assume that you won’t make it…
  4. Only apply when you are around: You should live in the area where the job is located or have a very good reason why you apply: I get resumes from Australia for jobs in France. Though the credentials may be flawless, these candidate can unfortunately not be priority A as they cannot be in my office e.g. Monday at 5pm for a first interview and meet my client on Thursday. Furthermore, moving to another city and leaving family and friends behind may sound easier than it in reality is and in my career and experience shows that in the end, we often hear “Well, I underestimated this. Sorry but I have to turn down the offer”. If this is true for different cities, it becomes even truer cross-border when a work permit is required. Unless you are a super-specialist, most employers will not be ready to engage themselves as they cannot be sure that you will really get the permit
  5. Only apply if your gut feeling is right: Do not ask me why but I have candidates who tell me “yeah, I had a doubt and actually, I don’t like the industry”. Do not apply when you are not convinced of the job content, the industry or other parameters you cannot change. Choosing a new job is about the question where you want to spend 40-50 hours per week – ideally for the next years. A doubt at the beginning will most likely result in a refusal, from the candidate or the employer. This is like a hole in a boat when you leave the haven: do not think it will go well or there will be happy surprises – in 99 out of 100 cases this will not happen



People tell me I am often too direct and I am sorry if this is what you think after reading this post. I do not mean to destroy hopes and perfectly understand that we currently live in a difficult economic context with many candidates desperately looking for a new job. I agree that you should do a maximum to increase chances to find a new job. Yet it is all about efficiency and the aim of my writing is to increase the positive returns on your efforts.

Read more on www.MyJobThoughts.com | Career advice from a headhunter: A toolbox for job-seekers, hiring managers and recruiters likewise that reveals the secrets of the job search and maintenance and debunks the most common misconceptions about headhunters

Views: 4615

Comment by Martin Ellis on December 11, 2012 at 4:31am

Hi Jorg,

I'd only add that applications should reflect some effort. Generic applications that start out 'Hi' without my first name or lines like 'I know I could add value to your company' without naming 'your company' are a real turn-off. The make the applicant appear lazy. I admit it, unless they're a 100% skills and experience match and their spelling is perfect, they'll be rejected. Who wants somebody who simply can't be bothered?

Comment by JP Winker on December 11, 2012 at 11:50am

Jorg - I enjoyed the disclaimer about being "too direct". Keep in mind, however, this is critical to the value you provide in writing your thoughts. Too many writers soften their opinions to appeal to a broad audience and deliver bland insights. Your direct style may not please everyone, but you are sharing the realities of our business. Sometimes cold, blunt facts are hard to hear.  

Comment by Jorg Stegemann on December 11, 2012 at 11:57am

Martin - Good point, I agree.

Comment by Jorg Stegemann on December 11, 2012 at 11:57am

JP - Thanks. We seem to speak the same language... 

Comment by Sarah Calverley on December 11, 2012 at 8:07pm

HI Jorg. I agree with some of what you are saying, but for the most part, we are becoming a world of multi-skilled, multi-cultural workers.  If someone has a skill set so valuable to what my client is looking for, why in the world do I care if I have asked for 5 years experience and they only have 4 years?

I always see recruiters saying how they review CV's in just a few seconds and if the keywords / 100% skills match / years of experience don't jump out at them they dismiss the person. As far as I am aware, most job seekers / candidates have never worked in recruitment - how do they know what will ultimately appeal to a keyword reading, year counting robot? Recruitment is about people potential - or at least it should be.  If recruiters can't be bothered to consider a few options and actually get a picture of someone's background by taking say; a minute as opposed to a few seconds to glance at a resume, there are other careers out there.

If we are to be successful as recruiters in the long term we need to change the same old processes we have been taught for so long and make less assumptions.

Comment by Rachael McDermott on December 12, 2012 at 11:09am

Hi, interesting article.  I wanted to ask about people that appear over qualified.  What if the person truly wants to take a step back in their career and be more of an individual contributor vs. manager/director?  Sometimes due to family situations or other personal reasons, this is what they truly want and need.  Or maybe they just don't like being a manager.  Should they address their commitment to this step in their cover letter as a way to assuage any fears recruiters/hiring managers have that they'll be bored, etc.?  I know this is very much a case by case situation but I'm curious as to your opinions.  

Sarah, I like your point alot!

Comment by Kerry Skemp on December 12, 2012 at 12:56pm

I think this is a good summary from the perspective of someone trying to match a candidate to a specific job opening. But, coming from the startup world (as I do), I think there's always merit in learning about qualified people who don't match current listings. And I think any organization should be open to meeting good people regardless of whether they meet certain qualifications or are local. The right person in Australia may (should) merit a huge relo package if the qualifications and personality are correct, even if an opening wasn't initially meant for relocation candidates.

A company has to ask: if I'm not committed to relocating or finding a position for a great candidate, am I really looking for people who can help my company, or just people who'll "do just fine"?

For these and other reasons, I most strongly support criteria 5. Candidates and recruiters alike can usually read between the lines and tell whether background and personality are a fit for a company. If the fit is great, I say send in your credentials regardless. If the fit is not great, save yourself and the recruiter/company some time and move on.

Comment by Jorg Stegemann on December 13, 2012 at 3:34am

Hello Sarah, Rachael and Kerry - Thanks for your comments.

I agree with you that it is neither an approach that is fair or quality oriented to spend 10 seconds on a resume and I am the first one who tells my clients "Don't judge this person from paper: the resume is the past but does not show the potential, motivation or personality". Alas it is the truth that tome is very limited when you have high volume work, for instance 100 resumes.

My recommendation is therefore to have a catchy headline (like on LinkedIn) that invites the reader to spend more time

Comment by Martin Ellis on December 13, 2012 at 4:25am

Interesting thread. I'm a speed-reader on resumes I'm afraid - especially on senior roles. That may sound perverse, but if somebody can't communicate about themselves clearly, crisply and quickly, then their comms skills won't be up to speed for a senior/leadership role where they have to connect with a wide and disparate audience. A resume is a strategic document, not tactical, and should be read in that context. If I'm looking for technical people, then my approach may be slightly different.

Comment by Michele St.Laurent on December 18, 2012 at 4:08pm

Great point about resume speed reading, Martin.  Candidates should do themselves a favor and present a clear, non-cluttered document that highlights their job titles, companies and dates of employment.  Yes, all the bullets are important to further qualify applicants, but recruiters and hiring managers should be able to scan a resume to see if the experience is there.  If so, they can spend more time reading the bullets.  Candidates should make it a simple experience for their resume to quickly be read and qualified. 


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