Top 6 Reasons You Never Hear Back After Applying For A Job

why never hear back applying job

By Meghan M. Biro

People often wonder why they never hear anything back after they hit "send" on the email with a resume attached or on the online job application. If you're very lucky, you might have a preliminary email exchange with a recruiter and then never hear from them again. It's a depressing experience, and one which also casts a shadow on the hiring company's reputation. So why does it happen? Is it you, is it them, or is it just something every candidate must prepare for in the hiring process? There's no question that job seekers face an uphill climb. High unemployment nationally means more competition for every position; according to a January 2012 article in The Wall Street Journal, Starbucks "attracted 7.6 million job applicants over the past 12 months for about 65,000 corporate and retail job openings."

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An oft-cited recruiter's complaint is that as many as 50 percent of people applying for a given job simply aren't qualified. Adding to the challenge, most large companies -- and many smaller ones -- use talent-management software to screen resumes, weeding out up to 50 percent of applicants before a human even looks at a resume or cover letter. The deck is definitely stacked against the job seeker. So how do you break through?

Here are my top reasons you're not hearing back after applying for a job, with five suggestions for ways to avoid the Resume Black Hole.

Why You Never Hear Back:

1. You really aren't qualified.
If a job description specifies a software developer with three to five years of experience and you're a recent graduate with one internship, it's unlikely you'll get a call. Avoid disappointment -- don't apply for jobs for which you lack qualifications. Most job descriptions are written with very specific requirements. Yes, the company is trying to find the most qualified candidate; yes, they are trying to weed people out. It's not personal, it's business.

2. You haven't keyword-optimized your resume or application.
Job descriptions are salted with keywords specific to the skills or attributes the company seeks in applicants. A close read of the job description is a necessity, as is keyword-optimizing your resume and cover letter, if you're using one, or email. If the job description lists words in a certain order, e.g. a list of programming languages required, use the same order in your resume.

More: 6 Certifications That Will Help You Get A Good Job

3. Your resume isn't formatted properly.
You might think distinctive formatting will set your resume apart, but automated programs don't care if a document is pretty. Help a machine out. Be consistent in formatting -- consider using separate lines for former employer, job title, and years worked.

4. Your resume is substantially different from your online profile.
LinkedIn, Dice and other online profile sites can be useful tools, so it's important to make sure they match what's on your resume. This may seem to be a contradiction -- in No.1, I advised keyword optimization -- but it's really common sense. Jobs worked, employers, years on the job and other details should match. The subtext here is always tell the truth.

5. The company received 500 resumes for one job posting, and yours was 499th in.
Looking for a job is a job. Do your research -- know which companies you want to work for, organizations where you sense a culture fit. Every morning scour the job postings and jump on anything for which you're qualified (and in which you're interested.) Being early with your resume or application does matter. Check back often in the first few days to make sure the listing hasn't changed. Often a company will post a job and halfway through the process change the description.

6. It's hard to game the system.
Your best bet is still a personal referral, and even that may not be enough to get a call. A guy I know gave his resume to a woman who worked at a company where a good job had been posted. He received an automated email noting his resume had been received but never heard another word. After a month he asked his friend to check with the recruiter. It turned out the job description had changed, but the recruiter never bothered to let the referring employee -- or the applicant -- know. This isn't unusual, unfortunately. So what can you do?

How You Can Get Noticed:

1. Research interesting companies on social media.
Find out who the recruiters are and follow them. Many will tweet new postings, so watch their streams and jump on anything for which you are qualified. And if they tweet news saying the company's had a great quarter, retweet the news with a positive comment.

2. Consider starting a blog in your area of interest or expertise.
It's a social world; time to build a trail of breadcrumbs leading to you. Include the blog, and links to any especially relevant posts, in your emails to recruiters with whom you're working.

More: 7 Part-Time Jobs That Pay Up To $40 An Hour

3. Get professional help with your resume.
Either a resume writer or an SEO expert can help you increase your odds of getting through the talent management software. If you can't afford this step, read the top career blogs for advice.

4. If at all possible, don't wait until you're out of work to find your next job.
I realize for many people this isn't possible or might even be offensive, but your chances of finding the next job are best when you're still employed.

5. Network.
Old advice, but still true. Be visible, be upbeat, be informed about industry trends and news in your area of expertise.

Finding a job is tough, no question. I've talked to other recruiters who say they only respond to 30 percent of applicants. The odds are good you'll be in the 60+ percent who hears nothing a lot of the time. Don't take it personally -- it's not a rejection of you, it's a reflection of the times. If you don't hear back, know you're not alone.

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Is Ms. Biro serious with this "advice"? If all these employment experts have such sage advice, why the increasing joblessness and underemployment among college and multiple degree holding graduates with years of exemplary professional experience and STEM degrees from leading US research universities, despite the plethora of online "expert advice"? Clearly the problem isn't as simple as formatting resumes or applicants not being qualified for the positions they're applying for.

May 13 2015 at 10:03 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Vinay Ghosh

This is really nice information about how to manipulate your resume for increasing your chances for the job. Today as the population is increasing, companies are looking for quality that they also want to see in the resume. Than you for this useful information. I will definitely follow them in future."

October 11 2014 at 11:51 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I've spent numerous days out of the week sending out applications with cover letters that I am "qualified for". Any by that I degree and one year of experience in which I apply for jobs at the low end where they prefer at least a high school diploma and less than a year of experience (Thanks, Monster). Still, I've been unemployed for 5 months with student loans glooming. I've had two interviews in the company, one recruiter. I followed up after the interview and no response at all by the small company I've took the time to apply and cross state borders for an interview. Not to mention no human responses from the hundred of jobs I applied to online, in addition. Here is what I am deducing from this:

1. If they can't take the time to respond to you to let you know that at least that your application had been accepted and being reviewed or that you are not qualified/company is going in a another direction, they're unprofessional. (Mentioned in Forbes, I'm glad I'm not the only one who believes it).

2. They won't take the time to follow up with the interviewee because there are more pressing matters. No company that is small and trying to get business/employees in the future, should not be so dismissive to reaching out afterwards. It is unprofessional, lazy, and shows the company's true values. Negative Glassdoor review was made, better believe it. But if larger companies like Google can show class in following up (I'm not sure, but I imagine it would affect their brand if they don't) with all of the operations of a big company, then a smaller company should take notes because they are not as busy.

3. Another reasons why I hate recruiters/HR people is not only are they lazy enough to send a few emails to job seekers who've applied, they are relying on software that picks out words instead of reading the damn thing. Not so bright methods by recruiters/HR people are another obstacle, unfortunately, in this unforgiving economy.

July 02 2014 at 6:05 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I really think employers should have the number of vacancies of job opportunities that way we can realize that theyre indeed looking at some resumes to fill in a position. It also give the person searching for a job hope because you see the number of open positions available.

August 26 2013 at 11:46 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

When I first lost my job in December of 2009, I honestly did not think it would take long to find another one. I applied to every job I was qualified for that had a good salary, but I did not hear from even one company. I had two different "professionals" help me with my resume. No response. I did all the "keyword" things that they suggested. Didn't work. Now, I think it's because I haven't had a job since December of 2009 that may be causing the silence. I have not had one interview in 2-1/2 years. I do get e-mails telling me I wasn't chosen for the position so I know they at least got my resume. I'm not sure which would be worse - not getting any calls or actually being interviewed and not being chosen. That would make it a little more personal. At least now I can just justify it so I don't go jump off a cliff.

August 06 2012 at 12:03 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

They go by how you look too. I am homely looking but from the neck down, I can & do dress professional. I never once could get my foot in the door when I was young so I decided well, there'll always be jobs in housekeeping. So I applied at Exxon-Mobil in downtown Ft. Worth, Tx. Got right on. Been there 3 yrs. almost make $20.00hr. cleaning offices & restrooms. I love it. Guess it never was meant for me to be sitting behind a desk. I wasn't pretty enough.

August 05 2012 at 11:44 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

it is the keyword thing.. if you don't fit exact what they want you had best not even try.. problem is you don't know what it is... if you are not the blonde and big on top forget the office post... or otherwise.. Some retailers say they are hiring but it seems like you need to be a snob to work there or some want years of experience, if you have that why would you leave the job you have... ?

August 05 2012 at 10:21 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Let's be brutally honest. If you are 45 or older, they simply throw your resume into the trash.

August 05 2012 at 10:02 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to hvogel1387's comment

You so very correct. I have had a chance to talk to numerous HR people and head hunters off the record.The age is actually 40 . I have noticed that if I do not put dates down on my resume I get calls back but as soon as the hiring company receives dates "year graduated" it is impossible. It does not take a rocket scientist to figure out your age. I can see why people would not tell the truth about their age. what are you supposed to do? Starve

August 06 2012 at 12:28 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

There's a lot of published research to corroborate your assertion, despite the extreme difficulty of proving age discrimination. Of course, the job experts don't have viable solutions/advice for dealing with the ubiquity of difficult to document age discrimination, especially in the application stage where individuals' ages are easily deduced from graduation years and job history dates.

May 13 2015 at 10:06 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

There are many qualified people out there, but the job market is so precarious that people who already have jobs are in fear of loosing them.
So they can't hire someone "matched" to the job, for, if they're actually good at what they do, they'll be gone before the boss finds out. Then they go to the boss and say, "I need help" so the boss appoves a requisition to hire someone.
If the person interviewing is the one who needs the help, they're not going to hire someone who's qualified, they're going to hire someone who can be their friend, so they can "figure it out together." This way, there's no threat to their position because the blind is leading-the-blind.
The Boss needs to participate in the hiring process, so they can ensure that a truly qualified person is being hired, hopefully, they'll look at a person's resume and verbal communication skills and know whether that person matches the job, as opposed to someone being hired because they're attractive, yet, dumb like snot.

August 05 2012 at 9:19 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Reason #7- you are a white male over the age of 50, which is me. I recently had a job interview and the guy doing the hiring was younger than me. When I asked him if the job had benefits such as health insurance, he did not know. I found out as the interview was ending that he had been in his job for all of three weeks! If anything, I was overqualified for the job, but I bet he was looking to hire some nice looking twenty something female. At least he had the courtesy to send me an e mail when the position was filled. It's the luck of the draw, and many times not what you know but who you know.

August 05 2012 at 8:05 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
3 replies to RMS's comment

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