So you’ve had no feedback from employers. You’ve spent what felt like hours on an application, thought it was a fantastic effort and the job was surely yours. Yet you’ve not even had a reply, just an auto generated thanks. What could have possibly gone wrong?
To answer this question, you need SOME feedback from employers. Everyone else might be convinced you have a fantastic CV/cover letter/job application but it’s the employer that has the final say.
You might make your own assumptions on why you’ve not heard back, but to find out what the employer is REALLY thinking about your application is priceless. That feedback can be used to make a better application in future and come back a stronger applicant.
However, in practice there are 2 major issues with feedback from employers.
They tend to send a generic response such as “thank-you for your interest in our company, unfortunately on this occasion you were unsuccessful.”
They won’t usually write feedback specific to you because it can be a legal or public relations risk.
The second problem is a company might not reply altogether. If either of these 2 are happening how do we know what to improve on an application?
Fortunately a lot of analysis has been done over the years to gauge feedback from employers about job applications. This article aims to shed some light on this and help you find out what employers are thinking.
The focus is on feedback for the PRE-INTERVIEW stage of recruitment i.e. the application itself. Feedback for you AFTER a job interview is a whole different ball game because the employer has met you and knows more about you.
In the excellent 2010 Orange County Resume Survey by Eric Hilden, they asked employers what was the number one mistake applicants made on their application, below are the responses:
In a similar survey by careerbuilder.com they asked employers what would make them automatically dismiss a candidate from consideration for a job. 61% highlighted spelling mistakes.
There is no excuse for a spelling mistake. If you saw a product advert that had spelling or grammar mistakes, how likely are you to place an order?
Don’t over rely on a spell check tool because it isn’t 100% fool proof. For example if you wanted to write “then” but wrote “than”, spell check won’t always highlight this as an error.
Another problem with spell check is that the American version of words can be preferred over other regional variations. An example is emphasise (English version) vs emphasize (American version).
Proof read it yourself and also get a third party to proof read it. A third party will pick up on these mistakes easily.
It’s often been asked why people make the most basic errors on an application? The reality is that if we’ve spent time and effort creating something, then there is emotional energy attached to it. This clouds our judgement and makes us biased towards it. It can easily make a person think their application is excellent, when it might be average. Its faults are obvious to others but not to us.
If you saw other job applications – you might not necessarily feel your application is the best. You’ll probably find other applications look the same as yours, with similar terminology and phrases.
Other employer responses from the careerbuilder.com survey were:
· Resumes that copied large amounts of wording from the job posting – 41 percent
· Resumes with an inappropriate email address – 35 percent
· Resumes that don’t include a list of skills – 30 percent
· Resumes that are more than two pages long – 22 percent
· Resumes printed on decorative paper – 20 percent
Some other employer surveys have highlighted the following mistakes:
· Scruffy/messy application
· Not enough attention to detail for example may have had lower case letters where they should be upper case
· Incomplete applications
· Making it obvious the job advert wasn’t read properly, i.e. asking questions about the job that were addressed in the advert
· Not meeting the basic criteria for the job as outlined in the advert
· Not following instructions on the application properly
· Cliché statements made but no evidence provided i.e. statistics or facts
· CV looked like everyone else’s
· No cover letter with CV
· Social media page showed applicant in a bad light
This is not an exhaustive list, just a brief summary of the main reasons given by employers/recruiters.
There is no excuse for any of these!
The only possible exception would be if an employer cannot contact you due to factors outside your control, i.e. poor mobile phone reception. A busy employer may try to contact you, if you don’t answer then the next person is called.
By the time you receive the message from the employer and reply, all allotted interview slots could get taken.
In the careerbuilder.com survey they also went a step further and asked employers what worked or what they liked on applications.
They highlighted some examples of highly creative CVs below:
· Candidate sent his resume in the form of an oversized Rubik's Cube, where you had to push the tiles around to align the resume. He was hired.
· Candidate who had been a stay-at-home mom listed her skills as nursing, housekeeping, chef, teacher, bio-hazard clean-up, fight referee, taxi driver, secretary, tailor, personal shopping assistant and therapist. She was hired.
· Candidate created a marketing brochure promoting herself as the best candidate and was hired.
· Candidate listed accomplishments and lessons learned from each position. He gave examples of good customer service he provided as well as situations he wished he would have handled differently. He was hired.
· Candidate applying for a food and beverage management position sent a resume in the form of a fine-dining menu and was hired.
· Candidate crafted his resume to look like Google search results for the "perfect candidate." Candidate ultimately wasn’t hired, but was considered.
Other surveys asking about the positives on applications highlighted the following:
· Thought had gone into the presentation and formatting of the application
· Good fact based examples of evidence i.e. Reworded system generated letters and customer complaints came down by 30%
· Good command of written language
· Knowledge of the company was obvious
· Knowledge of the industry and current issues for the industry was obvious
· Knowledge of the job was excellent
· Passion/desire for the job stood out
Many people realise the importance of employer feedback but don’t want to put the time into proactively looking for it.
“If you are willing to do only what is easy, life will be hard. But if you are willing to do what’s hard, life will be easy”
T. Harv Eker, author of the book Secrets of the Millionaire Mind
If you’re applying for jobs you’re qualified and able to do but not getting anything back, something is not right. Time and effort identifying what’s not working can pay HUGE dividends in the long term.
Companies that don’t make the required rate of return from their advertising go back to the drawing board. They spend a lot of money to commission surveys and customer focus groups with one aim – to find out what the customer thinks. However we will discuss how you can get feedback for free.
There are 4 problems for recruiters when providing individual feedback:
· providing individual feedback can legally be a risk
· It puts them in a position where they have an uncomfortable conversation
· They spend their time on someone who is not part of the company so it will not benefit the company
· recruiters may be prepared to give feedback but don’t want to put it in writing
There are 2 ways to go about getting feedback but don’t be too hasty as the employer may still be going through the applications. If they have replied to let you know your application was unsuccessful, or it has been months after the deadline it’s safe to ask for feedback.
Send your application again but ask for feedback (you will have the contact details from previously applying). How you do this depends on how you applied and what documents you sent. The worst that will happen is that the employer doesn’t reply. On the flip side you could get some crucial feedback.
If you originally emailed your CV with a cover letter in the body of the email, then resend the application with one difference. Before the cover letter, add a brief paragraph politely asking them how they think you can improve your application. Emphasise a telephone call will suffice as they might be reluctant to put the feedback in writing. This also has the added advantage of saving time for the recruiter.
An example paragraph could be along the lines of;
“I am writing to you further to my job application of (date) when I wasn’t successful in getting the position of (job title). I would like to be a stronger candidate in future I would be very grateful if you could provide any further feedback to improve my application. I appreciate you are very busy and please feel free to call me on (number) to provide feedback at your convenience.”
If it was an online application form then you probably won’t have a copy to resend. Use the paragraph above as a guide to generate an email to the recruiter. They are likely to have an electronic copy of your application. If you can provide a date and time when you applied it will save them time.
Another option is to be proactive by getting feedback BEFORE you start to apply for jobs. So once you’ve done your CV and cover letter and had it checked by a trusted friend get in front of recruiters and ask them.
5 ways to do this include:
1) Recruitment fairs – a good opportunity to meet lots of employers in one location
2) You could visit employers with your CV and cover letter. In shops ask to speak to the manager. Visiting other employers will usually mean you meet the receptionist/secretary and won’t get to meet anyone else, but still ask them for their feedback. Chances are the receptionist will be used to seeing lots of CVs and will also be flattered you want to know what they think.
Alternatively you could try to arrange a quick 5 minute meeting with employers by ringing them or asking the secretary. This could be a very good networking opportunity but they might be reluctant to take time out of their busy schedule if they don’t know you. You won’t know till you ask.
3) You can also set up an appointment with recruitment agencies. They are paid by employers when they place people into suitable jobs so they want stronger candidates. They will be happy to give feedback.
4) Another option is employers that you may have worked for in the past (paid or unpaid). Chances are you will need to contact them for a reference anyway. So you could go a step further and gently ask if they could have a look at your CV and cover letter to provide their feedback. Then just arrange a meeting or send the documents over.
5) Ask the Jobcentre. The work coaches there work off an appointment system and unless you’re on benefit you won’t be able to see them. However you could politely ask the reception staff if they have a minute to glance over the application documents. Most of the staff in Jobcentre are used to seeing lots of CVs and will gladly give their opinion.
Avoid the lunch hour as no-one maybe available, the Jobcentre is usually quieter between 4pm to 5pm. You could also ask them about local recruitment and you might be able to get information on whose recruiting.
It goes without saying you need to be dressed smart and well-groomed when in front of an employer. Don’t aggressively demand feedback.
Just explain you want to be the best candidate possible and were curious about their perception of your CV/cover letter. Tell them that they can be honest and there will be no negative reaction for any negative feedback.
It’s important you let them know you appreciate how busy they are just need a moment of their time. Reassuring them that you won’t be offended will put them at ease and they will respect the fact you want to better yourself and want to know their opinion.
Show them your CV/cover letter and ask what they would like to see improved on them. You could also ask what they like about the documents and see how the conversation goes.
Whilst receiving any feedback don’t get into an argument with people about what they say. Just right down everything said – analysis will come later. Even if you don’t like or agree with what they say, note it, thank them.
Make sure you’re not pulling a face whilst they say something, smile. If people sense you’re not happy they will be reluctant to be honest with you. Obviously ask for clarification on something they say that you’re not sure about but don’t digress.
Once you’ve asked a few employers it will give a basis for further improvement plus you would have networked with recruiters.
You might not want to hear this but the reality is your job application might not deserve you being called for a job interview. The reality is you need a return on the time and effort invested in applying for jobs. If you’ve applied for many jobs and only had a few interviews then something isn’t working.
Feedback helps find what that is and is priceless in evaluating how the application process is going.
Go over the negative feedback from employers section – make sure you’ve got the basics right. Review the positive feedback from employers section too, can you honestly say your applications can be counted in the same light as the good applications?
Devise a strategy on how you will evaluate your own applications. Keep track of what you send to employers so you can see what works and what doesn’t.
Actively seek employer feedback. Follow up your job application using the techniques suggested in this article. Be thick skinned and be prepared to hear what other people and especially employers’ say. Short term pain, for long term gain.
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