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..." That type of rejection can sting.
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.
Let’s take a look at nine reasons for receiving an automated rejection email after you send in an application and the main mistakes you should avoid.
Why you got an automated rejection email after your application
Meet the thorn in the side of all job seekers – the applicant tracking system (ATS). Your automatic rejection was caused because the ATS didn’t like something about your resume. It could be anything from formatting to irrelevant keywords to the wrong file type (i.e., Word vs. PDF). Let’s get into the reasons one-by-one.
Reason # 1: Your resume is not formatted well
Most companies today use an ATS, 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 fit for the position.
The candidates the ATS feels are a good match are sent forward to a hiring manager and are 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?
There are three widely accepted resume formats, though the reverse-chronological format is usually the best option. This is the one that details your career history, starting with the most recent job and working back about 10-15 years.
A standard professional 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.
Reason #2: You're overqualified for the job
Another reason for an automatic rejection email after an application is that you're overqualified. Yes, you may actually have too much experience. The hiring manager could see this as a red flag as you won’t stay in the position too long, should you land it. That’s a bad investment on their part. Always read descriptions carefully to see whether the job is a good fit. If you are overqualified for a position, it may not be worth applying at all.
Reason #3: You’re underqualified for the job
On the flip of that, you could also be underqualified for the position. Sure, in some cases, you should still apply to jobs where you meet most of the qualifications. However, there are specific positions that require a certain level of experience. If you are found lacking, you may get an automated rejection email after your application.
Reason #4: You haven’t keyword-optimized your resume
The ATS looks for keywords that are related to the position to determine whether you're a good match for the position. One of the ways that you can overcome this hurdle is by referring back to the original job description. Pick out any keywords or phrases and look for ways that you can weave them into your resume. That should boost your chances.
For example, if a position requires knowledge of Microsoft 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.
Example #5: Your resume is not relevant to the position
Have you tailored your resume to the job at hand? The content on your resume should be relevant to the position. For instance, if you apply to an accounting position and submit an application 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 the most relevant experience first.
Example #6: There’s an unexplained gap in your experience
Gaps in your experience can be a serious red flag for employers. If you’ve taken a career break – for whatever reason – you may need to explain it. One of the ways you can get around this problem is to include your explanation in your cover letter. That way, when a hiring manager reviews your entire application, they will understand why there is a gap.
Example #7: Your resume is too long and convoluted
As a general rule, your resume should be no longer than one or two pages. While you may have a lot to say, it’s always smart to keep things short and to the point. When a recruiter is confronted with reams of information, it can be overwhelming. That may result in an automatic rejection email after your application. To avoid this problem, stick to the most relevant information. If you have trouble cutting things down, ask a friend or professional resume writer for help.
Example #8: Your application lacks crucial information
ATS software scans your resume for specific information, including your name, contact details, and work experience. If you have missed including any important details on your resume, your application may not get past the software’s filter. That means that the hiring manager will never get a chance to review it. Ensure that your document features all of the standard elements. Before you submit your next resume, do one last check to be 100% sure here.
Example #9: You’ve used the wrong file format
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.
Optimize keywords to beat the bots
An automated 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 also need to make sure that your resume is not too long and contains the most relevant information. Don't let an immediate resume rejection get you down. Stay positive and keep applying for jobs.
Avoid getting rejected, and ensure your resume hits the mark with our free resume review tool. If you’re ready to take the next step in your career, this is the way to go.
Charlotte Grainger, Editor & Content Writer, Charlotte Grainger, Editor & Content Writer
Charlotte Grainger is a freelance writer living and working in Sheffield, UK. She has a passion for career development and loves sharing tips and advice. Follow her on Twitter