The top reasons an employer didn’t call you back
Once upon a time, employers would respond to your application with a call or email acknowledgement. Now you just might hear nothing. This is why.
For many of us, submitting a job application and getting no response from an employer is worse than getting their application rejected outright. Was there a technical error? Did my submission accidentally get lost? Did aliens intercept it?
“Confidence is so fragile during the job-search process that [job seekers] immediately jump to the worst conclusion,” says Tami Palmer, founder at career coaching firm Greyzone Mentoring.
Waiting is torturous, and experiencing radio silence while waiting is downright brutal—but unfortunately it isn’t unheard of. To help calm your nerves (at least a little), you should know that career experts say there are a few logical—if annoying—reasons an employer didn’t respond to your application.
1. The job was already filled
Sometimes companies post job openings as a formality, despite already having an internal candidate in mind for the position, says Jacqui Barrett-Poindexter, executive resume writer and owner of Dallas-based coaching firm Career Trend. These employers often have company policies that require them to post job openings to the public, “so in reality, there isn’t effectively a position available,” Barrett-Poindexter says.
In addition, some employers don’t take down job postings after they’ve been filled. Why? “A lot of times jobs gets posted and then picked up by other job boards, so employers don’t always know where their job postings are,” explains job search and interview coach Melanie Szlucha. Thus, the importance of applying as soon as you see a job you like.
2. The hiring manager was flooded with applications
Put simply, “some hiring managers just don’t have the time to look at every job application they receive,” Barrett-Poindexter says. This frequently occurs when an employer receives hundreds of applications for a position but only has one person reviewing them.
3. You didn’t follow instructions
Job postings often state what candidates have to submit with their application. Applicants should follow these instructions to the letter, says job search and social media coach Miriam Salpeter.
For example, “maybe the employer required you to submit a cover letter, but you didn’t,” says Salpeter, “or the employer asked you to submit your resume as a PDF but you submitted it as a Word document.”
Moreover, “a lot of employers will use job application instructions as a test to see how closely candidates read directions,” Szlucha says. So if an application requires three writing samples and you only supply one, guess what? You’re not going to be considered for the position. “You can’t say that you’re detail oriented and then fail to follow the instructions in the job posting,” Szlucha says.
4. Your salary requirements were too high
Many states have made it illegal for companies to ask job candidates about their salary history, but that ban isn’t in place nationwide—and, unfortunately, many online systems don’t let you skip questions, which means have to put something down for your current salary.
However, if your number is leaps and bounds outside of how much money the company has allocated for the position, your application may not even reach the hiring manager’s desk, Barrett-Poindexter says. The upshot? Some employers say what the salary range is in the posting, so, if you know the job you’re interviewing for pays less than what you’re making and you’re OK with that, say so on your application.
5. Your resume wasn’t tailored to the job description
Today, many employers use application tracking systems (ATS) to vet job applications. These software programs screen resumes by searching for certain keywords, which typically appear in the job posting.
To pass this initial test, use the job ad as a guide. If the job posting says the employer is looking for an experienced professional who is “fluent in data analytics,” use the phrase “fluent in data analytics” (assuming you in fact are!) on your resume. The ATS will pick up on the phrase and realize it matches up with the job description.
6. You weren’t the right fit
This one tends to be the bitterest pill to swallow. In many cases, you won’t hear back from an employer because you simply weren’t a good match for the position. Or there was someone who was an even better match than you were. It happens. It stinks. But it doesn’t mean you’re hopeless by any stretch.
Follow up, just in case
Occasionally, “the absence of a response isn’t necessarily a ‘no,’” says Palmer. “Until you’ve been told by a company that it’s not interested in you, don’t give up.”
So, what’s the best way to follow up? Here are a few guidelines:
- Find out who the hiring manager is for the position. You can usually learn who the hiring manager is just by asking HR.
- Choose the best method of communication. Some companies include follow-up instructions in job postings. If you can’t find instructions, reach out to the hiring manager.
- Craft a smart email. Start with a subject line that includes the job title you applied for, Szlucha recommends. In the body of the email, provide all information that the hiring manager needs to pull your application (e.g., the date that you applied, your job application number, etc.), then reiterate your interest in the position, and highlight one or two reasons why you’re a perfect fit for the job. Ask if your application is still being considered for the position, and if not, would they be so kind as to provide some feedback that would help strengthen your candidacy for future job openings. Also, keep it brief—“people don’t have the patience to read long emails,” Szlucha says.
Next steps: Be proactive
If you request feedback and still don’t get a reply, don’t hound the hiring manager. Move on. As much as it pains you to see that job slip from your grasp, know that there are plenty of other awesome opportunities out there. Need some help? Join Monster today. As a member, you can upload up to five versions of your resume—each tailored to the types of jobs that interest you. Recruiters search Monster every day looking to fill top jobs with qualified candidates, just like you. Additionally, you can get job alerts sent directly to your inbox so you can apply as soon as something catches your eye.