During a good economy, the average job seeker gets about 1 interview for every 10 applications. During a bad economy, that number went to about 1 interview for every 20 or 25 applications. (We know because we apply to jobs for our job seekers and have tracked response rates before and after lockdown!).
By why should you expect to get so few interviews for so much work? There are 3 reasons. To understand, you have to step into the recruiters’ shoes.
Reason #1: Competition
Employers typically get many more applications than they have job openings. The bigger the brand name of the employer, the more applications they get. The smaller the employer, the less help a recruiter has to review all of their resumes.
Reason #2: Quick Skimming
If you’re lucky, the recruiter who sees your application is able to focus their full attention on your resume. One great recruiter we spoke to gets up at 6 am. He tries to read every resume he received in the last 24 hours before his workday starts. But many recruiters are only skimming resumes on their lunch break or between meetings.
The average recruiter spends only 6 – 20 seconds reading a resume.
Reason #3: Software That’s Not on Your Side
Some resumes may never even reach a recruiter. Employers use a software called an “Applicant Tracking System” (ATS). These systems often use fairly basic and limited keyword “parsing and matching” algorithms to “read” your resume. Let me explain.
Parsing means that they use code to convert your resume file into a format that the computer can understand. Most of these systems are old and so don’t have the capability to decode color, unique symbols, or fancy designs that you might have built with Canva, Adobe, or other design tools. As a result, if you apply online, you’re safer if you stick with a plain black and white resume with an everyday font like Arial or Times New Roman.
Matching means that the software will try to match keywords that are in the job description to what’s in the resume. These tools are often not smart. For example, they often can’t match words with different tenses or spellings.
That means that your resume needs to have exactly the search terms a recruiter or the software is looking for. This means you need to make sure your resume includes the job title, common software tools, and the most important skills that are required for a job. For example, if you’re applying to be in customer support, make sure you have the following keywords in your resume: “Customer Support, Zendesk, SQL, Intercom, Email, CSAT (customer satisfaction score), building documentation.”
In sum, many resumes get filtered out by the Applicant Tracking System. And a whole bunch more get weeded out when a recruiter skims through a resume. As a result, a 90% rejection rate actually means you’re doing just fine on the job market.
So, if you’re asking yourself why you’re not getting any interviews, here are 4 issues with your process:
- You haven’t sent enough applications. Send at least 50 applications to have a large enough sample to start getting responses. If you might only win 1 out of every 25 times, you need to apply to quite a few jobs.
- Your resume might need work. If you haven’t gotten at least 2 interviews within 2 weeks of submitting your 50 applications, then your resume needs work.
- It could be that your resume isn’t getting parsed correctly. To fix this issue, pick a boring but readable black and white resume format.
- It could be that your resume isn’t getting out of the software and into recruiters’ hands. Make sure your resume has the job title, the key software skills, and other key skills as they are described in the job posting.
If you think this is a crazy inefficient situation, you’d be right. And that’s why we built JobStep. We allow you to leave resume writing to the professionals and the numbers game to our robots and highly efficient operations team.
We’ve built a job search process where all you need to do is prepare for interviews. You focus on being a great communicator, reflecting on your past experiences, and thinking about what you want in your career.