The Reasons Why Most Resumes Are Rejected

It may not seem like it when you are preparing your resume from the safe confines of your room. But the job market can be a harsh, cruel place. Every day millions of job seekers worldwide send out their resumes through the Internet or on foot. And every day, millions of job seekers’ resumes are rejected or outright discarded.

You may not even receive word from the recruiter. Research conducted by recruitment specialists BeHiring showed that recruiters review a resume 200 seconds after it has landed on their table. In the 5 to 7 seconds it takes them to scan, more resumes are rejected than accepted.

How do you prevent your resume from being rejected? Here are the 10 most common reasons why resumes fail to land the interview.

1. Spelling and Grammar Mistakes

The study by BeHiring showed that it only takes one mistake in spelling or grammar for your resume to be rejected.

If you think recruiters are over-reacting to just one mistake in spelling or grammar, put yourself in their position. Would you invest thousands of dollars every month in someone who won’t even bother to spell or grammar-check his resume?

You have many options at your disposal to ensure the accuracy of your resume:

  • Run your resume through Grammarly.
  • Review your resume through the different stages of preparation.
  • Run it through the spelling and grammar check of your program.
  • Have a trusted friend or associate review your resume.

To err is human but spelling and grammar mistakes are simply unacceptable for recruiters.

2. No Connection to Job Pursuit

The reason why cover letters remain relevant is because it connects your resume with the job you are pursuing. But the cover letter will not get you the interview; the resume will.

If your cover letter was able to establish the connection, your resume should validate it. As we discussed in Chapter 4, storytelling is an effective approach to stating your case. Weave your storyline throughout the resume beginning with the Header.

No matter how great your resume reads of how glowing the achievements are, if there is no connection to the job pursuit your application will be rejected.

3. Lack of Thought and Effort

For recruiters, reviewing resumes is second nature. They’ve developed an intuition for reading resumes that they can tell if you put enough thought and effort behind it by identifying visual cues.

You may want to keep your resume short and sweet but indicating your scope of responsibilities as “Designed Strategies” and “Conducted Research” will leave a sour taste.

Your resume should be customized for the job position you want and for the company.

As we discussed in Chapter 2, companies today that place greater importance on right-fit personalities over technical and fundamental competencies. How you compose your resume will give recruiters a firm perspective on whether you are right-fit with the organization or not.

4. Technical Gibberish

The purpose of the resume is to land you the interview. It should not be designed to impress the recruiter with technical jargon. There is a time and place to become technical and it is not in your resume.

It may be 7 seconds or it could be 7 minutes. But recruiters do not want to spend precious time deciphering your content. Speak in a language which everyday people can understand.

If the recruiter feels he or she has to open a dictionary to understand your resume, it may well end up in the trash bin.

5. Lack of Cohesion

Throughout this book, we have discussed the importance of structure; of having cohesion in your resume in order to support your branded value proposition. Structure gives your resume greater focus and firmly establishes your purpose.

Recruiters will spend most of their time on your work experience. They can easily spot loopholes and raise questions on your time line. This usually happens when there are gaps between tenure. Many job seekers are afraid of gaps but these are actually part of your story.

If you refer to Chapter 6, if there are gaps, use the Functional Resume Format where you can place Achievements or Accomplishments before Work Experience. A recruiter can see what you did during the period you were not employed.

You could have taken additional training courses, completed higher education or spent 1-2 years working as a freelancer.

Keep the recruiter in mind when you are writing your resume. It must keep the recruiter on the correct train of thought when following your content.

6. Unnecessary Information

Believe it or not, a recruiter can and will reject your resume at the Header.

If the recruiter sees your complete address and realize logistics may affect your availability for work or compromise your ability to carry out extra hours, your application will be declined.

Even if you somehow state that you are planning to move closer to the place of work, the first question on the recruiter’s mind would be, ”When and what is our assurance you would do that?”

You are not required to provide your full address. Your city, state and zip code should suffice.

Think of your resume as prime real estate. If you want it to appreciate in value, you should only put up relevant and important information.

7. You Were Caught Lying

Recruiters have their ways of unearthing the truth. They could see inconsistencies in your content, they may know people in the companies you identified in your work experience or it could be intuition. The thing is, you’ll never know.

Lying has no place in a resume. A “white lie” will not add value. A 3.6 GPA cannot be rounded off to 4.0. Paraphrasing your duties and responsibilities to make them look more important will not work because it will detract from the rest of your story line. Once you go off the rails, it will be hard to get back on track.

8. Lack of Accomplishments

Job responsibilities are not job accomplishments. Recruiters are more interested in what you were able to do than what you did.

Your accomplishments will answer these questions from Chapter 2:

  • “What made you think you’re cut out for the job?”
  • “What can you do for the company?”
  • “What have you done that merits consideration?”
  • “Why should we be interested in what you have to offer?”

Recruiters will look for the CCAR Equation from Chapter 5 in your work experience:

C – Context; Your title and scope of responsibilities.

C – Challenge; The problem presented by the organization for your resolution.

A – Action; The course or courses of action you implemented to resolve the challenge.

R – Result; The outcome of the course of action and how it impacted the performance of the organization.

Without specific instances, your work experience loses value.

9. Questionable Online Reputation

Social media gives people a false sense of entitlement. People become reckless with their content believing no one of consequence will be reading.

The same study by BeHiring showed that 68% of recruiters will look you up in social media specifically Facebook. Sure it is your private page and you should be allowed to post what you want. But so is drinking alcohol.

You should be responsible with what you do because there could be consequences to your actions.

Recruiters want to know “Who You Are”. Social media has given them an unfiltered view of your life outside the confines of work.

Think twice before you post content on social media when you’re active in the job market. In fact, you should clear out potentially damaging content before you start actively applying.

10. Inappropriate E-Mail Address

An e-mail is a prerequisite for every resume. But if your e-mail address is “[email protected]___” or “[email protected]_____”, it will bury your chances of getting considered.

In the BeHiring study, 76% of recruiters will reject your resume if your e-mail address is inappropriate.

Your e-mail address must be simple yet professional. Recruiters only want to see your name, your initials or variations that still validate your professional identity.

Take the time to create a professional e-mail address from Yahoo! or Gmail. It may be difficult to find an original e-mail address but stay with it. It will be time well spent.

It is not the end of the world if your resume is rejected. There are factors that you cannot control once you submit your resume.

  • Recruiters are people with unique preferences and expectations. You will not know how the recruiter will view or respond to your resume.
  • The job may already have been filled and the post was not recalled or updated.
  • You may have applied too late and the recruiter already sent the final list of candidates to the hiring manager.
  • The job opening may have been placed “on hold” without notice.
  • Job description may have been changed arbitrarily.

If you do not hear from the company, you can follow up to clear your mind. Regardless, review your resume and assess why you did not get the invitation from the recruiter.

You should only concern yourself with factors you can control and one of them is your resume.

You may think it is perfect but that is only your perspective and more often than not, you could be biased. Keep an open mind or ask assistance from a friend or associate who has recruitment experience.

Review the list of reasons provided in this chapter and see how you can implement revisions that will make your resume better. Your resume should remain dynamic; it should continually evolve and improve. You should view it as a work in progress.

I founded ResumeOK in 2011, with the goal of helping people increase their chances to get a better job. I am a career and online marketing expert that has reviewed and written thousands of resumes. During my career, I have found certain patterns that make a resume successful, and I’m sharing all my insights in the samples that you can find on ResumeOK. My work has been published by reputable publications such as BusinessInsider, FoxNews, SmartRecruiters,, HuffPost, ZipRecruiter, SnagAJob. If you need help with your resume, or just want to say “hi”, send me an email. Read more about us here .

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