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I hope I don't lose my job over this

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The job search process creates a lot of tension and anxiety for many. The waiting game can be a nightmare. You finally land an interview, but get thrown for a loop when it seems like an eternity since you’ve heard anything regarding your status. You’re pumped and hopeful, then BAM. You open your email and find a rejection letter.

You may not realize it, but the recruiter’s job is to narrow the candidate pool and only submit the best of the best to the hiring team. The least she can do is offer closure by revealing the truth behind why you’ve been ruled out and not just send a canned response like, “We’ve decided to pursue other candidates who more closely meet our needs”, right? There are many reasons the recruiter won’t or can’t provide more feedback, but here’s an idea of what probably happened.

Your resume doesn’t cut it

An effective resume will significantly impact your job search. When you’re clear about your career goals, it is easier to find positions that meet your needs. You must first analyze what the employer wants. Carefully review the job posting or description to gain an understanding of the position requirements. It’s extremely counterproductive to apply for a position that you in no way qualify for in the first place. Always keep the reader in mind before submitting your career documents. Your resume should concisely explain how you answer that employer’s problem. Tailor your resume to include the same keywords found in the job announcement. Don’t try and beat the system by stuffing relevant keywords into your resume if you can’t prove your expertise, skills and accomplishments in those areas. That’s how you get a rejection letter. Being honest when writing about your background and experience can boost your confidence in the interview as well. Before clicking the “apply now” button, proofread your resume. Don’t just settle for spell check. Go a step beyond and use an online grammar check system to search for improper word usage and punctuation. Typos and misspelled words rarely go unnoticed, so never make the recruiter’s job to eliminate you any easier by making careless mistakes. Avoid using busy fonts and outdated formats. When in doubt, seek professional help or at the bare minimum, do some research on acceptable resume-writing techniques.

She’s checked you out on social media

Social media plays a crucial role in many hiring processes. Despite having your privacy settings intact, companies can still gain access to your most intimate personal content. Everybody knows somebody who knows somebody, so you can never be too careful when posting or allowing a friend to tag you on social media. You and your potential employer or recruiter can have mutual connections, and people do spill the beans during off-the-record reference checks. Applicant tracking systems are very advanced these days and often search for profiles matching your email address or other contact info. Your attempt to fly under the radar by using a creative Twitter handle will certainly fail if you’re using that same email address to log into your profile and apply for jobs. When cleaning up your social media profiles, start with photos, posts, page likes and shares. Delete any questionable or over-the-top content. You don’t want to be the candidate who ruins a job opportunity based on inappropriate photos, racially offensive posts or politically charged rants. Be yourself online, but be careful. Employers want to make sure you’re a fit for the company culture and its brand image. Best advice—think twice. Post once.

The hiring manager is dragging her feet

Most recruiters and hiring managers will end the interview by giving you a timeframe of when you should hear something back. So, that time comes and passes, and you still haven’t heard anything. You contact the recruiter, but she offers little to no info about the next steps. Sound familiar? It’s not that she doesn’t care about your candidacy. She just doesn’t want to throw her colleague under the bus. She can’t share that her hiring manager hasn’t opened your file in weeks or that her requests for additional feedback concerning your interview status have gone unanswered. Some companies have very lengthy application processes that require approvals from every executive team member — one of which decided to take an international vacation and doesn’t have access to a phone or email. The lack of communication causes you to either A) withdraw or B) go overboard with following up. If you choose option B, you start calling and emailing incessantly to ask for updates and get labeled a pest. Now instead of a job offer, you’ve landed a front row seat on the employer’s blacklist. Of course, your rejection letter won’t say so, but no matter what you do or how many times you apply in the future, won’t get hired now or ever.

The company is in love with another candidate

You may not get a rejection letter, but you’re getting the runaround. You had this awesome interview, and before you can seal the deal, the recruiter vanishes. She’s no longer responding to emails, and you’re being sent to voicemail. Many times candidates are left in limbo because the hiring team is heavily courting another candidate. The company isn’t telling you where you stand in the application process one way or another because should this “dream candidate” back out, they’ll be able to fall back on you. In this case, they’re going about it all wrong. A company that values you will opt to create a positive candidate experience. You’ll feel like a rock star despite whether you’re offered the position in this round or not. You won’t be heartbroken about being #2. If another job opens that fits your credentials, you’ll gladly throw your name in the hat. That’s how I landed my first human resources job after graduation.

To position yourself as an ideal candidate, showcase how you add value to the company’s bottom line. This is far more impactful than simply calling /emailing and asking if the position is still open. You can’t always dodge a rejection letter. Just thoughtfully plan your job search strategy to increase your chances of landing a job. When a position is meant for you, nothing can stop it. Keep applying and networking until something sticks. You only need one employer to say yes, and that company is looking for exactly what you have to offer.

Ashley Watkins, Career Coach and Nationally Certified Résumé Writer with Write Step Resumes, LLC, provides high-quality résumé writing, interview preparation and career coaching services to help job seekers get more interviews and salary offers. She can be found on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, or via


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