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Why is my resume being rejected? An exploration

CareerBuilder | July 19, 2022

Reasons a resume gets rejected

If you wonder why your job applications keep getting rejected, a single factor could make all the difference. Here are seven reasons that resumes get rejected.

Your resume can get you connected with employers, but not if it gets blocked, filtered, or tossed out. Most resumes submitted to job applications don't get read, simply due to the high number of applicants. For the ones that get looked at, typos, formatting issues, or unwanted additions disqualify many of them at a glance. However, some reasons these forms get put aside or filtered out from reaching an employer may surprise you. Let's go over some of the most likely reasons that your resume isn't getting seen.

A bot is rejecting the resume

When you upload a resume and start sending it to companies, many of them use software that might filter it out. Bots can work in different ways, and the problem is that they can potentially falsely flag a legitimately good resume for things like plagiarism, wrong formatting, and more without justification. This means that instead of getting rejected early, your resume might be getting redirected and never seen.

Getting the format precisely right is a big step toward dodging resume bots. That includes file type, so be sure you're following whatever was specified in the posting. Don't put anything unusual in the header and try to keep a reasonable balance of useful skills. Some bots will detect resumes that use the same lists of skills as those found on sample resumes online, so it helps to look up yours and see if it's similar in any way.

It's too long or doesn't reach key information soon enough

How long is too long? The most common standard across the whole market is about two pages, while a three-page limit might be logical for more advanced positions. No matter how long or short, the most important information should be as early as possible, so stick to the most relevant skills and work history for the job in question.

Lots of fluff or cliche terms

A lot of terms become tiresome after a while or lose their meaning. For example, being self-motivated sounds good on paper, but what does it really mean over simply having motivation? This is the risk with common buzzwords and phrases like team player, dynamic skills, or results-driven. Often, you can communicate these ideas with stories of your workplace accomplishments. So instead of listing concepts like being a "go-getter" as a skill, stick to listing the skills that create a clear image of you doing the job.

Unwanted sections or pictures

Charts, graphs, and personal images are usually not asked for or considered a good addition to a resume, along with hobbies, your age, or a conclusion. The format for an effective resume or CV is rather tight, and going too long or adding something like a logo might cause a bot to filter it out. It isn't worth the risk if these uncommon elements don't make you stand out effectively, even if the resume does get through the filter. When in doubt about what to include on a resume, always follow the job posting's directions.

Typos or grammar mistakes

This type of resume problem can sneak up on the best of us, but that doesn't mean you can slack off on language and spelling. About 77% of hiring managers will disqualify a resume upon noticing grammatical mistakes or typos. It's normal to customize resumes for each job you apply for, and between all those edits, a misspelled word or missing space can slip past. Grammar software can help with common mistakes, and if you want to be sure, you could even hire a resume proofreader.

Relevant work history isn't presented clearly

This is one of the problems with making a general resume instead of tailoring it to each job application. Many work histories that cover too much end up clouding which parts are relevant to the job you're applying for. Some bots can discount resumes if they don't detect recent enough work history, which may be unavoidable if you have a work history gap. Other times, you may have to make some cuts to help the hiring manager get a quick, concise idea of your potential.

An unprofessional email address or delivery

Sometimes the problem isn't so much the resume as where it came from. If you have an email address that was created in relation to a joke or one clearly used for personal life, it can hurt your image as a serious applicant. Similarly, if the resume should be uploaded to a certain place and it wasn't, it wastes a chance to show that you can clearly follow directions.

Double check that all of your future resume submissions don't fall into these common pitfalls. That way, you can rest assured that for every job your apply for, your resume has the best possible chance of getting seen and read.


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Get the answer to which keywords are worth putting on your resume.

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