Why Your Perfect Resumé Keeps Getting Rejected

(This article appeared originally on NextAvenue.org.)

You may think you have the “perfect” resumé, but a hiring manager—who is looking for specific things—may disagree. Even if you think you’ve gotten your resumé down to a science, if you keep getting passed over for jobs you want, it’s time to take another look with a critical eye.

Here are seven reasons why your resumé may have been rejected, and how to fix it for next time:

1. There’s too much focus on irrelevant work experience

You’ve probably wondered whether to include all your job experience on your resumé. The truth is: it depends.

Illustration of recruiter looking at applicant's CV. Perfect Resumé pbs rewire
Be sure everything you present to a potential employer is consistent.

If you don’t have a lot to work with, part-time jobs and volunteering can round out your resumé and show the skills you’ve obtained. On the other hand, if you have years of experience, give your resumé a haircut.

Here are a few items to consider trimming:

  • Work experience that’s more than a decade old
  • Jobs where the skills you used aren’t relevant for the position you’re applying for
  • Irrelevant hobbies and interests

If you think it’s important to include some of these, make references to them as brief as possible. For example, rather than eliminating a job entry entirely, simply list the name of the employer, your job title and the years you worked there.

2. You’re missing keyword phrases that resumé scanners demand

Before your resumé ever reaches an HR person or hiring manager, it might be scanned for certain keyword phrases. Many companies use scanning software to take some of the workload off of their staff. If your resumé doesn’t contain the right keywords, it may be rejected before a human even sees it.

Customize your resumé for each job opening by inserting relevant keywords. These can be pulled from the job listing itself, industry publications and other sources. A tool like JobScan can also help ensure that your resumé is optimized for resume robots.

3. Your perfect resumé doesn’t match your other application materials

If a hiring manage decides to dig a little deeper, it’s important that everything you present adds up. Your resumé, cover letter, even your references combine to create an overall impression of who you are.

Be sure everything you present to a potential employer is consistent. If you need help keeping your messaging on track, there are resources like Hudson and ResumesCentre that offer resumé and cover letter writing assistance, templates and career advice.

4. There’s inappropriate content on your social media accounts

If you’ve developed a professional presence on social media, you should include information about your social media accounts on your resumé.

But if you have written or shared content that might be viewed as offensive or controversial, that could seriously harm your chances of getting hired. Make your profiles private. Or, better yet, get rid of it.

5. You failed to focus on what you can contribute

Save remarks about pay, benefits and advancement potential for the negotiations phase. Your resumé should be all about what you can bring to the table. What skills do you have? What have you done at your current employer or previous employers to improve the bottom line or help things run better?

Show proof! Don’t just say that you improved processes in customer service. Say that you created a program that led to a 25 percent improvement in customer satisfaction for over-the-phone support.

6. Your materials contain typos and awkward wording

There’s no room for spelling or grammar goofs in your resumé (or cover letter). Fortunately, there are plenty of tools you can use to produce error free resumés, like ProWritingAid.

You should also have a trusted friend or family member read your resumé, too. A second set of eyes may catch mistakes or awkward wording that you missed.

7. Your resumé’s formatting and content isn’t a cultural fit

The way your resumé looks and reads should be matched to the job you’re applying for. For example, if you are going for a job in which creativity is valued, emphasize your skills with the design and content of your resumé. Your cover letter also provides an excellent opportunity to demonstrate cultural fit.

A headshot of Sylvia Giltner. PBS Rewire. Sylvia Giltner

Sylvia Giltner is an HR manager and freelance writer at ResumesCentre.com. She helps people write the perfect resume and land a desirable job.