So you've put all that time and effort into tailoring your resume for a position and you receive an instant rejection email or notification. Something along the lines of "thank you for applying, we regret to inform you that..."
What causes your job application to be automatically rejected? There could be a number of reasons as to why the resume was rejected in such a short period of time which we'll cover in this post.
3 reasons your application was rejected immediately
Reason # 1: resume not formatted correctly
Most companies today use an ATS (Applicant Tracking System) which automatically screens a resume before it's ever seen by a human. The software is designed to scan a resume and determine whether the candidate is a good match for the position. The candidates the ATS feels are a good match are sent forward to a hiring manager or assigned a weighted score based on skills and experience. Approximately 75% of resumes are rejected by an ATS and many times it's because the resume isn't formatted correctly.
So how do you format a resume correctly for an ATS?
The good news is that it's the same as formatting a resume for a busy recruiter or hiring manager. The first thing you need to do is use a Microsoft Word document and not a PDF. A Word document is easily read while a PDF may be problematic for some ATS. To keep your formatting consistent across screens, opt for a simple, traditional resume format.
A standard resume format will avoid fancy colors, designs, and graphics. These things can't be read by an ATS--and when that happens, it's usually rejected.
We have a free resume review that shows you how your resume performs in an ATS.
Reason # 2: not keyword optimized
Making sure your resume could be read by an ATS is the easy part, you then need to ensure you have the proper keywords to score high. The ATS looks for keywords that are related to the position to determine whether you're a good match for the position.
Read our complete guide on exactly how to use keywords on your resume.
If a position requires knowledge of Excel and Quickbooks - make sure you have those terms on there along with other relevant keywords. A core competencies or skills section is the perfect place to utilize keywords and easily swap them in and out when tailoring your resume to different positions.
The content on your resume should also be relevant to the position.
If you apply to an accounting position and submit a two page resume on your experience as a waiter, it's likely to be flagged by an ATS as irrelevant. Hiring managers are going to look at the resumes with relevant experience first.
Reason # 3: you're under or overqualified
Another possible reason for automatic rejection could be that you're either under or overqualified for the position.
Read the descriptions carefully to see whether the job is worth applying to. Yes, in some cases you should still apply to jobs where you meet most, but not all the qualifications.
There is also a chance that you're overqualified for a position but it's not easy to determine as that's usually not listed in the job posting.
A hiring manager can set the hiring software to automatically reject those with over 10 years of experience. In this case, anyone with over 10 years of experience would be automatically rejected. Similar knockout questions can include whether you know certain techincal skills or if you have a degree.
An automatic job application rejection email can be hard to deal with. The best thing to do is to ensure your resume gets past ATS and is properly keyword optimized to perform well. You should also read the job description carefully to see if it's a position you're actually qualified for. Don't let an immediate resume rejection get you down: it happens to the best of us. Stay positive and keep applying!
Good luck with your job search!
The ZipJob team is made up of professional writers located across the USA and Canada with backgrounds in HR, recruiting, career coaching, job placement, and professional writing.