I keep applying for jobs but never get any interviews. What am I doing wrong?
Vivek, 24, accounting graduate
If you’re sending out applications but never getting interviews, there are a number of areas you need to look at. The good news is that once you’ve applied some simple strategies to your job hunt, you can greatly increase your chances of getting shortlisted.
The first thing you need to look at is whether your skills and experience are aligned to the jobs you’re applying for, because there’s no point if you’re not suitably qualified. You need to carefully review both the advertisement and the position description, and analyse the key selection criteria to ensure that you are well matched to the role. As a general rule of thumb, you should meet at least 80 per cent of the criteria. If one of the criteria states that you ‘must have at least 3 years experience in a similar position’, then this is what they want. If they ask for you to be a Registered Division 1 Nurse, then this qualification is essential to the role. It is also important to note the differences in language used in a job ad – for example, ‘knowledge of’ as opposed to ‘experienced in’. Highlight the key words in the ad to identify what the ‘must haves’ are to do the job.
The next thing to look at is your cover letter. A cover letter is the first document an employer reads, and if it isn’t tailored specifically to the role then you’re wasting your time applying. A cover letter isn’t just about why you want the job – it’s about what you can offer and why that particular organisation should employ you. It needs to show that you’ve done your research about the position and the organisation, that you are confident in your ability to do the job, and that you share their vision and values.
Your resume also needs to be tweaked to reflect the requirements of the position. Review the terminology used in the job ad and match this with the language in your resume. You want to make it as easy as possible for the employer to see that you fit what they are looking for. An employer will receive a large number of applications so you need to put the most relevant information on the first page of your resume.
If a job ad asks you to respond to key selection criteria then you MUST address them. If you don’t, your application will not be shortlisted. Prepare a separate document titled ‘Responses to Key Selection Criteria’ and address each criterion individually. It is essential that you highlight your experiences and skills in relation to the criterion, using specific examples that are as relevant as possible.
Employers want to see that you can follow instructions. There’s no point saying that you have strong attention to detail if you can’t pay attention to the details in a job ad. If you are asked to submit a two-page resume, this is what you should send them. If you are asked for two referees, then it is not appropriate to say ‘referees available on request’. And of course, pay attention to spelling and make sure you get the recruiter’s name right!
Jo Messer is a Career Development Specialist who has many years of experience in supporting and guiding students and graduates of some of Australia’s most respected universities, as well as mature-aged clients, across all facets of their career. She is a Professional Member of CDAA and an active member of NAGCAS. Whether you have a specific question about how to achieve your career goal or something more general, Jo is available to provide you with up-to-date advice.