5 Potential reasons your job applications are getting rejected

Are you having a hard time navigating through the arduous cycle of job-hunting? Here are 5 key reasons why you might be facing rejections in your job search – and how to overcome them. Take a look.

5 Potential reasons your job applications are getting rejected

Saturday November 11, 2023,

7 min Read

“Thank you for your interest in the role. Unfortunately, we will not be moving forward with your application, but we appreciate your time and interest”

–XOXO, your Dream Job


No, we haven’t read your texts. The author too has received this much-dreaded but short and sweet message multiple times in her life. And, without a doubt, she was heartbroken!

The journey of job-hunting often comes with its share of disappointments, where the dream job you envisioned almost an inch close, slips like sand. Job hunting can sometimes feel like a game of luck and numbers; but in reality, it's a strategic endeavour that determines success. 

On average, a single corporate job posting receives 250 resumés, yet a mere 2% of applicants move to the interview stage. In fact, the hiring manager usually devotes just 6 seconds to review a resumé. The job hunt can be financially draining and, more significantly, it can take a toll on your self-esteem. After sending out numerous applications and attending multiple interviews without securing a position, it's natural to feel disheartened. Moreover, reasons for not securing a seemingly perfect fit job can also vanish into thin air.

Instead of continuing the cycle of applications without seeing results, it's wiser to step back and identify the underlying factors of not getting hired. By addressing these issues, you can enhance the quality, rather than the quantity, of your applications.

Here are 5 key reasons why you might be facing rejections in your job search – and how to overcome them. Take a look. 

Hire the right people

5 Key reasons for rejections during job hunt

Underwhelming resume and cover letter

The cornerstone of a successful job application lies in the quality of your resume and cover letter. 

An average resume that doesn't effectively highlight your skills, lacks a unique touch or omits essential keywords and action verbs can be your biggest pitfall in the job market. Furthermore, there are high chance of your resume being lost in the Applicant Tracking Software (ATS) shuffle.

Statistics reveal that approximately 95% of 500 companies employ ATS to efficiently sift through resumes during the recruitment process. Surprisingly, a whopping 75% of resumes face rejection even before they land on a hiring professional's desk.

To navigate this automated screening process and avoid the chance of landing up in the rejection pile, adhere to some essential guidelines. 

Craft an engaging introduction on your resume to grab the hiring manager's attention. Conduct a meticulous review, checking for grammatical and spelling errors. Emphasise your past achievements and customise your resume for each job application, even when positions appear similar. 

Beyond basic spelling, focus on the formatting of your resume as well. However, avoid overly creative formatting, headers, and footers. Opt for simple section titles like ‘Work Experience’ and ‘Skills’. 

You can also seek help from a friend, mentor, recruiter or the already-available tools in the market.

A resume full of lies

The temptation to embellish one's skills or experience can be strong, especially when job requirements appear unrealistic. But what if your resume reads: “six years of experience” in a software language that had only been around for three years? A lie like that casts a shadow on your entire experience.

Apart from freshly serving the talent team some jokes, the risks associated with misrepresenting your qualifications far outweigh any potential gains. Background checks have become more accessible, making it increasingly likely that such fabrications will be exposed, leading to automatic disqualification. Plus, it hardly takes a minute for the recruiter to read through the lines during the interview.

Honesty and the ability to accurately assess one's abilities hold greater value than any individual skill. Skills can be cultivated and honed over time, but honesty is integral to building trust and fostering professional relationships. Instead of resorting to dishonesty, candidly acknowledge your limitations. Express a willingness to learn and grow, and be open to saying, “I don't know that yet, but I'm eager to learn more about it.” 

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Inadequate preparation

Arriving at an interview without adequate preparation is a common pitfall that job seekers make. 

For instance, the recruiter might ask about your feelings towards the company or how your skills align with the company’s objectives. Another crucial moment occurs at the end of the interview when you're invited to pose questions, and you sit all blank. That reflects your incapacity as their future employee.

To avoid these pitfalls–

  • Invest at least 30 minutes in researching the company through platforms like Glassdoor, LinkedIn, the company's website; the specific role you're applying for; and the interview location
  • Ensure punctuality by setting alarms, and have your interview attire ready and wrinkle-free. 
  • Practice answering common interview questions and draft a list of three to five questions for the interviewer. 
  • If possible, research about the interviewer.

Go the extra mile by showcasing your enthusiasm for the company. Let them know you're knee-deep into your research and are excited about specific facets of the company and the opportunity to join their team. 

Poor networking 

The age-old saying goes: It's not just about who you know, but equally about who knows you. 

Networking underscores the importance of cultivating deeper connections marked by quality rather than sheer quantity. Given that referrals boost your chances of landing a job fivefold, it's time to compile a list of strategic contacts (preferably individuals you'd be thrilled to have as guides) and proactively reach out to them. Reconnect with former colleagues, enhance your LinkedIn presence by updating and actively sharing content and participate in relevant industry events.

If you have second or third-degree connections on LinkedIn or other social media platforms, consider asking a friend to introduce you. A warm introduction, even if the person is in a department unrelated to your interests, holds more value than a cold connection with the precise team you're targeting.

It's essential to bear in mind that a substantial 60% of job placements occur through networking rather than online job postings. This initial outreach can, thereby, help you foster genuine connections via virtual meetings or in-person discussions, transforming them into warm contacts.

Excessive negotiation

Negotiating a job offer is akin to an art form, and it's natural to engage in a round of discussions with prospective employers regarding benefits, salary, work hours, and responsibilities. Many recruiters even expect this. Opting not to negotiate isn't necessarily a mistake, but making an effort doesn't hurt either. 

However, it's important to understand that excessive negotiation can lead to the offer being withdrawn. The ideal scenario involves you receiving the initial offer, countering once, and the company responding with their final offer. This should conclude the negotiation process. Attempting a second round of negotiation is generally discouraged and could result in your offer being declined, including the original terms.

Nonetheless, if you genuinely believe that the offer doesn't meet your needs, make your stance clear and specific. For example, if extended parental leave is a crucial consideration for you and was initially excluded, make sure to include this request in your single counteroffer. If the revised offer still falls short of your expectations, you can communicate your specific needs, such as seeking six weeks of paid leave following childbirth.

If this list has caused regret about the missteps in your past job negotiations, take a deep breath. It can even happen that the outcome in your case wasn’t at all related to your actions. Take note of these pitfalls and give your best shot. Success will come inevitably.