if you’re not getting interviews, read this

I have talked to a lot of people lately who aren’t getting interviews and who can’t figure out what the problem is. They tell me that they know their resume and cover letter are fine (and often people have looked those over for them and verified that), and they can’t figure out what they’re doing wrong.

I’ve started asking to see their resume and cover letter anyway — despite their confidence that those aren’t the problem. And you know what? Nearly always, those are the problem. The people who told them that they were fine were wrong — they didn’t have the experience or the insight to know what would make a really great resume or letter. And as a result, these job-seekers have been continuing to apply with mediocre materials and continuing to not get interviews, and are frustrated because they can’t figure out why.

1. Your resume doesn’t indicate that you’ll excel at the job. This is easily the No. 1 reason most job seekers aren’t getting interviews. Most people’s resumes simply list their job duties at each job they’ve held (like “processed bank transactions” or “filled customer requests”). That only tells the hiring manager what jobs you’ve held—it doesn’t reveal anything about how you performed at those jobs. The candidates who are getting the most interviews list what they achieved at each job (like “increased Web traffic by 20 percent over 12 months” or “regularly recognized for highest number of customer compliments”).

Hiring managers don’t care much that you held a string of jobs; they care what you accomplished there, and your resume needs to show them that. So if you’re wondering why you’re not getting calls for interviews and your resume doesn’t list accomplishments, that’s the first place to start.

2. Your cover letter is bland and uninspiring. If your cover letter basically summarizes the information in your resume, it’s not accomplishing anything for you—you almost might as well not send one. A cover letter that helps your candidacy adds something new to your application about why you’d be great at the job; it doesn’t just recite your employment history. Job seekers regularly report that when they start adding personality to their cover letters, they start getting phone calls for interviews.

3. You haven’t asked for feedback from the right people. I regularly hear job seekers with bad resumes say, “I’ve had my resume reviewed dozens of times, and everyone has told me it’s fine.” First, in a crowded job market, “fine” isn’t enough; it needs to be great. But secondly, if the wrong people are reviewing your resume, their feedback doesn’t matter. Friends, family, and even campus career counselors don’t always know what they’re doing; instead, you need people with significant hiring experience to give you feedback. After all, you wouldn’t ask a friend with no auto-mechanic experience to tell you what was wrong with your car; you’d ask someone who knows cars. And with your resume, you need to go to someone who knows hiring.

(One good test: Give them a resume that’s full of duties rather than achievements and see what they say. If they tell you it’s a good resume, you’ll know that their advice isn’t useful on this topic.)

4. You’re applying for jobs that aren’t connected to your job history. If you’re applying for jobs that are very different from what you’ve done previously, you need to explicitly demonstrate for employers why you’d be a great match—don’t rely on them to figure it out on their own. Also, keep in mind that in a tight job market like this one, employers have plenty of well-trained candidates who meet all the job’s qualifications and have already worked in the field. That means that even though you might feel that you could excel at the job if just given the chance, employers don’t have much of an incentive to take a chance on you. As much as you might want to change fields, it’s generally very hard to do right now.

And from there? Read these:

the #1 question your resume should answer
10 mistakes you’re making on your resume
don’t use a functional resume
objectives: leave them off your resume
those big paragraphs of text on your resume are putting people to sleep
the whole “resumes” section of my archives (There are 51 posts in there; read them.)

Cover letters
what does a good cover letter look like?
the point of a cover letter
more things not to say in your cover letter
example of a great cover letter
the whole “cover letters” section of my archives (There are 31 posts in there; read them.)

And yes, I know that’s a lot and it will take time. But the alternative is to continue not getting interviews, and that’s not a good alternative. Seriously — follow the advice in these posts, and you should have a dramatically better resume and cover letter … and if my reader mail is any guide, you should start getting calls for interviews once you do.

Want more help finding a job?
Get my e-book:  How To Get a Job / Secrets of a Hiring Manager

how to get a job If you’ve ever wished that you could look into the brain of a hiring manager to find out what you need to do to get hired, this e-book is for you. I’ll give you step-by-step help through every stage of your job search, explaining at each step what a hiring manager is thinking and what they want to see from you. Learn more here.

{ 68 comments… read them below }

  1. Anonymous*

    This is an awesome post, thank you! I was thinking about e-mailing you the other day, regarding my husband’s current issue, but this does help a bit and I think we’ll have to have him take another look at his cover letter style and resume. But to explain a bit in case you have time for a quick answer…

    He quit his job to finish his BS (he had just over a year left), under the assumption that when he got back, the company that he left would hire him back. This isn’t something that he egotistically assumed; he was told by his direct supervisor, her boss, and that boss’ boss that they would love to rehire him, all he needed to do was contact HR to let them know when he was back in town, then formally apply for the job, etc. Well he did those things and even though they had multiples of that same position open, they didn’t even give him a call! He was the best employee there, and I’m not just saying this–their weekly and monthly metrics showed that he out-performed every single other employee in the call center, and actually received a few recognition awards for such.

    Right now he at least has a part-time temp job (that he barely got because he only had one recent reference; all of the other places he’s worked have been bought out by another company, or closed down, or moved, and have no record of anything), where he out-performs everyone who works there, including the long-term, full-timers. While we’re happy he has this job, it’s not a very good one and he’s clearly unhappy. He has strong skills and is a hardworking, conscientious employee, he just needs to get his foot in the door and show someone that! It’s very frustrating and it sucks seeing him so hurt when he applies, applies, applies, and doesn’t even get one interview to show for it.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Ugh. I can imagine how frustrated he must be! Did he try contacting his old boss directly, in case it was some mix-up with HR?

      In any case, I’d definitely start by looking at his resume and cover letter, for all the reasons in this post. That’s really the most common thing that causes this — let me know if you agree once you read through that stuff!

      1. Anonymous*

        He tried contacting his old boss; left a message she never called back. He e-mailed her boss’ boss (who he knew by name and had e-mailed directly previously, so it wasn’t weird or out of the blue), and that guy didn’t respond, even to say “no thank you” or whatever. He dropped off his resume in person, formally applied for the job on the website, contacted an old co-worker there to get some feelers out–nothing. We’ve given up on that place entirely, but all of that took the wind out of his sails I think, and not getting any callbacks isn’t helping matters.

        I will say though that I don’t believe his resume reflects the metrics issue for his current job or the previous one. I also think he won a few employee awards at the previous position, and those aren’t on the resume either. Should he put those under the job he got them at, or list them in a separate section? E.G.:

        Chocolate Teapots Inc. – Call Center Rep – 20xx-20xx
        -best teapot salesperson award
        -highest teapot sales metrics


        Chocolate Teapots Inc.
        -best teapot salesperson award
        -highest teapot sales metrics

        (Can you tell that I love your chocolate teapots examples? ;)

          1. Anonymous*

            Thank you very much for your response! You’re awesome and I’m glad I read this site. We’ll fix his resume tonight. :)

            1. Bee*

              Same exact thing happened to my hubby. We moved to another state for a year. My husband worked at a job for 6 years, they loved him. When he left the boss said “you’ll always have a job here” and so when we came back after a year and he called, his boss never responded. He left TWO messages, he sent an email, applied online, etc. NOTHING.

              Long story short my husband managed to find an even BETTER job, that paid at least $5 more per hour, WAY BETTER benefits, etc. So think of this as being a blessing in disguise- your hubby will find something better and never look back.

                1. Anonymous*

                  Original Anonymous here–

                  Like I said in my original post, there were jobs available–a few more were just posted in fact–that were exactly the same as my husband’s position (in every way), so I don’t buy that as the excuse here. It’s just frustrating to both of us that this company that claimed to love him and his hard work and amazing customer service pretty much lied to us about rehiring him. If they wouldn’t have said that, he would’ve started applying for jobs long before he moved back here (long story short- he originally went to school out of state, credits wouldn’t transfer, so he had to move to finish his degree there).

              1. Nyxalinth*

                Similar happened to me as well. Back in 2009 I worked in the little call center for the local ballet company. We did a mix of inbound and outbound calls from June until the main season ended in January. We would be returning in June to start the cycle anew…

                …except not. The Board of Directors essentially got tired of us being so awesome and paying us high bonuses during Nutcracker season, and so decided to outsource our incredible massive call center of 5 people to India.

                Then we were told we would always have good references, except then the new center director decided all references had to go through him, not our supervisor…and he had a bad habit of disappearing into the ether for a week to ten days at a time and not returning calls. It cost me a potential job last year.

  2. Victoria HR*

    Agreed. I do a substantial amount of hiring, and when I was looking for a job most recently, I was having the same problem. It wasn’t until I started tailoring every resume going out to the specific job that I was applying for.

    Example: Job A wants experience in interviewing and high-volume recruiting. Yes, I have that, but do I have those specific words on my resume? No? Put them on there. Submit. Ta-da, phone call/interview set up. Keywords are huge.

    I always offer to look at people’s resumes for them, and most people don’t take me up on it. Those that do, never follow my advice. It’s quite frustrating actually.

    1. Anonymous*

      Agree 100% about keywords. It’s very frustrating, but its necessary. For example,for business analyst positions, job ads will call for “requirements elicitation” or gathering, and you have to use exactly the term in. The ad or they will not consider you qualified. Even though they mean the same thing, if they ask for gathering,and you call it elicitation, you won’t be called for an interview.

        1. Anonymous*

          Understanding that this is anecdotal, but when I did my last job search for business analyst positions, if I did not use the exact words in the ad, in ever got called. The requirements gathering/elicitation seemed to be a very common one. I applied to a couple of a jobs with the company that eventually actually hired me, and got no call for an interview until I used exactly the terms in their ad. Then it was “bingo!” -called, interviewed and hired.

        2. ABC*

          I think this is less about system needing keywords and more of HR or hiring managers wanting to see the exact same thing reflected in CVs. Its much easier than them having to figure out on their own that actually ‘gathering’ is same as ‘elicitation’.

        3. Good_Intentions*

          Alison, thanks for posting the link about resume buzzwords.

          I have heard that myth about altering my resume to include terms specific to each and every job ad from the mouths of resume “experts” at my alma mater, the county department of job and family services and a nonprofit focused on helping people secure jobs. Many of these people also advocate for objectives, one-page only resumes and for strictly chronological resumes, even though my college degree from 2003 has little to do with the career field I’m pursuing.

          Sigh. I only wish people would take time to learn facts, build up job seekers’ confidence and actually provide help. I have had my resume critiqued and edited by many, many people who didn’t even bother to ask what types of jobs I was applying for, what my current and long-term career goals were and what my salary specifications are.

          Again, I appreciate the link and your continued advice of common sense approaches that increase the likelihood of results while avoiding crushing the fragile ego and sense of self-worth of job hunters.

  3. Erin*

    Awesome article and post.

    Just to briefly build on what Alison is already saying: really, really tailor your cover letter and resume to the job description. Pretend that you’re the hiring manager. Ask yourself “what does the perfect candidate (a.k.a. purple squirrel) for this job look like?” Paint a vivid picture of that candidate in your mind, and write your cover letter from that perspective.

  4. the gold digger*

    Amen, amen, amen. I applied to dozens of jobs but didn’t get a single interview until I relented and wrote my cover letter the way Alison recommends. Within a short time, I had four interviews (one for a job that didn’t even exist – I wrote that I was the person who should be working for the position they had posted) and one job offer.

    1. Elle D.*


      I had been in a challenging job search situation (slightly long-distance job search, only 2 years of relevant work experience in an overcrowded field, etc.) for about 8 months before discovering this blog. I took a hard look at my application materials and revised them based on Alison’s resume and cover letter advice. Within a few weeks, I had the opportunity to go on a number of interviews and received 2 offers. The recommendations outlined in this post are spot on!

  5. Chaucer*

    After getting your feedback on my resume and the confirmation that my Career Center has no idea what they are talking about, I am seriously tempted to save this article on my phone and show it to the career counselors working there. Seriously, to anyone who thinks that their resume and cover letter are polished and ready for submission, please look at it again with these pieces of advice. If I didn’t get Alison’s help, I probably would still be stumbling around with the crap that my Career Center touted as a “solid” resume.

    1. AP*

      If you have a standard cover letter that is already “polished for submission” for a future ad that you haven’t read yet, you’re already doing it wrong.

  6. Yup*

    Ditto everyone else that I got great advice on this blog (and from AAM directly). I’m in my third month of a great new job, and I really believe that my revised resume and cover letter made a huge difference in getting noticed. I’d been job searching for 6 months with mixed results, and finally decided to sit down and revamp my job search materials. I spent a weekend reading through these posts and getting my head together, and revamped all my documents in one fell sweep: big resume ready to be customized down as needed, word document with reference contacts & job history notes (dates, salaries, etc), and separate word document with ideas for cover letter points and phrases. Once I’d done the revamp, it took much less time to actually apply for promising jobs as they appeared.

  7. ChristineH*

    This is terrific! Just this post alone confirms that I’ve been doing everything wrong in the last couple of years in terms of who I let review my resume (all good people, but none experienced in hiring except maybe one person) and in laying out duties rather than accomplishments, although I have gotten better at quantifying my work.

    I’d like to add two other possible factors: 1) Making it obvious that you’re applying everywhere you can–i.e. not tailoring your materials to the job at hand–and, 2) Not having any real direction in what you’re looking for. The latter has been my problem and I’m betting that having that sense of direction helps you create a stronger resume and cover letter without having to resort to those dreaded objectives.

    I know what I’ll be doing this week….. *sigh*

  8. Scott M*

    Any suggestions on adding accomplishments to your resume when you just do your job well, but you aren’t a superstar who has made the company millions of dollars, or changed western civilization as we know it? I just complete my coding assignments on time and learn new skills as I am trained in them.

    1. Anonymous*

      Scott, describe the impact that your projects had on the company. For example, don’t just say you worked on xyz system, say that you worked on xyz system which increased sales by x percent or decreased overhead costs by 500$. That kind of thing. It’s okay to estimate those, just don’t go wild into unreasonable numbers that anybody knows at a glance is pure bs.

      1. Scott M*

        The challenge is that there isn’t ever a quantifiable benefit to most the projects I work on. It would be impossible for someone at my level to estimate these. The people who could, don’t care about hard numbers like that.

        On projects that DO have a quantifiable benefit, I’m only a small part of. They might involved 50-100 people. There is no way for me to quantify what my small contribution does. If I tried, it would feel disingenuous.

        Aren’t most jobs like this? Whenever I hear suggestions to quantify accomplishments, I can’t help but think that this only applies to a tiny number of positions, but yet it is such a widespread suggestion.

        1. Anonymous*

          Ugh yes this! I’ve never had a job where any outcomes were quantifiable and I have no idea how to talk about my accomplishments that way.

        2. Anonymous_J*

          I have this very same problem. I am an admin. I do the same job every month, and I do not have any idea or access to the information on what impact my work has.

          Worse still, I’ve been here 11 years, so that is the only job on my resume. (I also include significant and relevant side projects and volunteer work.)

          How does one customize ONE job? LOL!

          I definitely feel your pain, Scott!

          1. Twentymilehike*

            I am an admin. I do the same job every month, and I do not have any idea or access to the information on what impact my work has

            Oh this!! Not only is this true, but also my company has never given anyone a job title or job description. Their version if training is basically “do what you want until we tell you you’re doing it wrong.” We have a lot of autonomy but sacrifice guidance. And no one knows what to put in their resumes because we don’t have job titles. When we got our business cards we had no idea what to use … Most made their own titles up (but then how do you verify that?) and I just put my name only on mine. I guess I’m usually called the office manger but it doesn’t really describe what I do. So how do I know what I SHOULD be putting in my résumé for a title?!?

        3. John Quincy Adding Machine*

          I have this problem, too. I have two jobs, and I can see no way to quantify achievements (or even achieve anything, really) at either of them. I’m a line cook (very much a ‘cog in a machine’ kind of job) and a substitute teacher. Sure, there are ways to be good at both jobs, but I’d feel stupid putting things like ‘never have food sent back’ or ‘always managed to get to the school on time even when given very little notice’ on a resume.

          ‘Why should a hiring manager want to hire me over other candidates?’ isn’t useful to me either — four years of searching for a grown-up job have shown that clearly hiring managers don’t want to hire me. I’m not a superstar at any of my jobs, and reading this blog has shown me that only the superstars get better jobs.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            “But I’d feel stupid putting things like ‘never have food sent back’ or ‘always managed to get to the school on time even when given very little notice’ on a resume.”

            “Responded reliably and consistently to last-minute scheduling requests.”

            “I’m not a superstar at any of my jobs, and reading this blog has shown me that only the superstars get better jobs.”

            Well, that’s true, for the most part. If you were running a business, you’d want to hire people who were really great, right? So the thing to do with that information, as a candidate, is to figure out how to put yourself in that group.

            1. John Quincy Adding Machine*

              “Responded reliably and consistently to last-minute scheduling requests.”

              Oh, I like that! And what KellyK said below, too. Thanks to both of you (although I still don’t know if I’d put either thing on my resume — responding to last-minute requests is just… what a substitute teacher does. I’d have no job if I didn’t do that!)

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                Ah — you’re falling into the “this is just a normal part of my job” trap that’s probably preventing you from seeing other stuff like this that you can list on your resume too. You might think it’s just part of the job, but doing it well speaks well of you — and so it belongs on your resume. (After all, if you just skated by in this area, doing the bare minimum and no more, you’d be a very different type of worker, right?) Start looking at other pieces of your job through that lens too.

          2. KellyK*

            To me, if you’re a line cook who never gets food sent back, that shows me that you’re good at completing tasks quickly and accurately in a fast-paced and stressful environment and that you’re detail-oriented and good with directions. I think it’s pretty standard to have the things we’re good at feel like they’re nothing when they are actually significant.

            So maybe something like “Completed orders quickly and correctly in a fast-paced environment, with no orders sent back by customers.” Not just what did you do well, but how does it translate to the other things you want to do.

          3. Scott M*

            I think the unfortunate issue is the economy. Usually the superstars would be few and far between, because they’d be snapped up quickly, or would demand more pay than most businesses would be willing to part with. Then the regular average employees would have a bit easier time of it. But with the economy, there are a LOT of unemployed superstars. So of course it makes it difficult on regular it’s-just-a-paycheck employees, who are reasonably conscientious and just want to perform reliably.
            Quite frankly, I can’t think of anything about myself that puts me above most people in my industry. I’m competent, just like most of my peers.
            Due to the economy, there isn’t much us average Joe’s can do about it, until jobs are plentiful and employees are scarce again.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              It might help to think of it terms not of “why are you better than everyone else” but rather “why would a hiring manager be excited to hire you?” Even regular old good-but-not-amazing employees should be able to answer that. (And if you can’t, that points to a problem that you’ve got to work on fixing.)

            2. John Quincy Adding Machine*

              But with the economy, there are a LOT of unemployed superstars.

              Yes, that’s true. But statistically speaking… can all of my high school friends really have been superstars at the retail/food service jobs they worked before transitioning to office jobs? I can understand the hiring manager’s point of view — of course they want to hire the best — but when I see almost everyone I know with a better job than me I feel like they knew some kind of cheat code that they won’t tell me. It’s frustrating to be the loser of my group.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                They aren’t all super stars, I can almost guarantee it. But see my comment above at 8:09 p.m. about how to look at what you’ve achieved differently — I suspect the answer for you lies in that!

    2. Risa*

      Can you quantify your accomplishments in any way? Apply a number to what you did…. I.e. %% on-time delivery rate for coding assignments, with X% accuracy rate. It’s not always about money, sometimes it can be an indication of efficiency, productivity, etc. Be prepared to demonstrate the numbers and not just make them up. For skills learned, quantify the number of hours trained, any testing scores, i.e. completed X hours of continuing education with an average X% passing rate on testing.

      Look at your bullet points and try to figure out how to put a number into the statement – quantification of any kind makes the accomplishment much more powerful.

      1. Scott M*

        Such things aren’t measured here. And if they are, I can’t imagine they would be useful outside of the company. I could, for example, list how many ‘help-desk’ issues I cleared every week, but that varies so much from company to company that I don’t think it would be useful. Project completion dates vary depending of shifting priorities. I could say I complete projects on time %100, but only because the due date is considered “whenever you can get it done”.

        I think most jobs are like this. Am I wrong?

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          See my comment below — the key question to ask yourself is why a hiring manager should be interested in hiring you over someone with a similar job history. That’s what your resume needs to convey. It doesn’t need to be numerically quantifiable if it can’t be.

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Scott, ask yourself what would/should make a hiring manager want to hire you over other people with similar job histories. Whatever the answer is, that’s what you want to convey on your resume. It’s not always possible to do that numerically in some jobs, but that post I linked to up above (the first one in the resume section) should help.

      1. Scott M*

        Thanks for pointing out the link – I had not looked through those.

        I think my difficulty is that I’m in I.T., where programmers are considered to be a commodity. We are mostly interchangeable. As long as you know the programming languages, and have some experience in them, then you can usually do the job. You might be able to load the deck by having a contact in the company who knows you and your work ethic, but there isn’t anything that is going to make one programmer outstanding over another. You get hired because you match the job requirements, you are amongst the first XX number of applicants that got interviewed, and you could show you weren’t lying about your skill level in the technical interview.

        I’m a good programmer. I have an analytical mind and I’m extremely good at problem-solving. But I can’t prove that on a resume, without going into a multi-page description of my daily job.

        Luckily, I’m not looking for a job right now, but I can see trouble in my future if I have to.

        Thanks for your response.

          1. Scott M*

            I realize that now! :) I’m so used to ignoring ‘related topics’ links at the end of a post, that I didn’t notice that these links were actually PART of the post. Reading on the small screen of a mobile device didn’t help either!

  9. Rob Bird*

    “Duties” has to be one of the things I dread the most about reading resumes/applications. Duties tell me what you did, not if you were any good at it. I work with people to take duties and turn them into accomplishments.

    Accomplishments give you that 3rd party verification that you were good enough at what you did to get recognized by someone.

    I LOVE this website!!!

  10. Construction HR*

    “I’ve started asking to see their resume and cover letter anyway — despite their confidence that those aren’t the problem. And you know what? Nearly always, those are the problem. The people who told them that they were fine were wrong — they didn’t have the experience or the insight to know what would make a really great resume or letter. ”

    LOL, classic Dunning-Kruger Effect.

    Excellent post.

  11. K.A.T.*

    I am having a problem and am going to look over my materials again with this in mind, but was also hoping perhaps someone would have advice about my specific situation. I am a new RN in a city where the “nursing shortage” does not exist. Most RN positions here require experience, and since there are a lot of RNs on the market they can get that. I was hired this summer but, after doing an excellent job (as reported by my supervisor, everyone who trained me, and all coworkers), I was laid off due to company reorganization. I have a great reference from my manager but I don’t even know how to get far enough with anyone that that will become relevant.

    Before I went to nursing school my first career was in IT and I was very successful in my positions there, and I have that well defined in my resume. I tried to reflect how I contributed to my RN position during my brief tenure but it is a difficult thing to quantify in so short a time. Most healthcare companies seem to consider 3 months of experience the equivalent to none. I am hoping maybe there is anyone else reading this who is in healthcare who might have some advice. It seems very different than my previous job-hunts and I am not sure what to do. I have been looking for about a month now (my layoff was a month ago tomorrow) and have only seen a few positions that will even accept nurses with under one year of experience. So far I haven’t heard back from any of them.

    If anyone has any advice on how to customize cover letters for nursing positions, I would love to hear that as well. Most positions do not give much information (they might say med/surg, or telemetry, and what shift they are, but nothing past that) so it is hard to be specific. Here is an actual complete job listing: “[state] RN License or license eligible required; 1-2 years current; Medical-Surgical-Oncology experience preferred; Shift is 12 hours”

    I signed up with a staffing agency and should be eligible to start assignments next week but unfortunately even those assignments will be school nursing or home-health nursing, which most hospitals won’t accept as experience when they are looking at one’s resume. But perhaps it will help. I’m also not 100% sure the best way to add that to my resume.

    Oh and for the record, the people I’ve had review my resume and cover letter include the HR person at the job that laid me off and a friend who is a hiring manager at a clinic (in a different state; nowhere I could work). I am hoping they know what they are talking about!

    I am very sorry if this is too long; I am hoping very much perhaps someone can help guide me in a helpful direction. I decided to be a nurse because I really want to help people and after I thought I found the perfect job where I would get to do that this has been pretty devastating. I know I will do an excellent job wherever I end up, but I just don’t know how to get anywhere.

  12. Jamie EC*


    As somebody who works in the employment counselling field, I can’t even begin to tell you how many people I have seen at our centre who refuse to tailor their resume to the job posting and then wonder why they never received a call back for an interview. We call it “spray and pray” and it almost never works!

    While there are other factors to be considered – high number of applicants, lack of networking, site outages, wrong email addresses etc…it all comes down to whether or not you have a resume that showcases your abilities and how YOU can benefit the EMPLOYER.

    Having a tailored resume and cover letter shows that you have put thought and effort into your application and that you will apply the same effort on the job after you’re hired.

  13. Anonymous*

    This is exactly what I needed! Thank you for making this post.

    I do have a question, though: if you’re someone who has only worked part-time and temp jobs during school and after graduation with little to no chances of bringing major change or accomplish new things, how do you tailor your resume to what an HR manager wants by using your system of showing what you accomplished? I use keywords and I tailor my resumes and cover letters to each job opening, but I feel like I need more to really stand out. I did my jobs well, but I haven’t gotten recognition nor much feedback, despite asking for more feedback. The jobs were mostly typical work in offices, like answering phones, data entry, filing, etc.

    Is this a dilemma that many recent college grads deal with since many of them don’t get great internships or they work at dead-end jobs and how can they overcome this?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      The key question you want to ask yourself is: Why should a hiring manager be excited to hire you over someone else with a similar job history? Whatever that answer is, that’s what you need to convey in the bullet points on your resume.

      The first link under the resume section above (about the #1 question your resume should answer) talks more about this — read that and see if it helps you flesh it out.

    2. Maria*

      This. Even with the #1 Question, I’m still at a loss.

      I worked two jobs at my university my entire educational career, but none of those jobs were anything extraordinary, nor was I invaluable. In one of the jobs, I was very obviously easily replaceable and only got the job because of connections and maintained it because they just didn’t get rid of people if they didn’t have to. How do you describe being a paper-stuffer in a way that makes it sound like it was rocket science, or that it was invaluable? Because it wasn’t! Do I just remove positions where I wasn’t a star player? That really cuts down my experience to like two jobs. Plus I decided to do a full year study abroad instead of internships, so I can’t even have those on my resume.

      This is the curse of the recent graduate. Students entering Uni now know that they need like 4-7 internships to make a good impression and have a fighting chance. Back when I started, no one even mentioned them.

  14. UnemployedInMI*

    Thank you so much for this post. I’m in my late 20s and lost full-time, career job last January. Having taken up a couple jobs (one full-time seasonal and another part-time job) this past summer and fall, then tearing a disc in my back at the full-time job, I’ve been at the end of my rope struggling as to why I haven’t heard back from the almost two hundred jobs I’ve applied to.

    I’m intelligent, experienced, educated and my mom’s answer? “Maybe your resume and cover letters need work.” I took immediate offense saying I’ve done this for so long I know what I’m doing and have had multiple people look them over with approval. I think I have to dig in to some of that humble pie, now.

    Off to read EVERY ARTICLE you have about this right now.

  15. Robert*

    Unless there are glaring errors, how can you tell from words on a screen or a piece of paper without actually talking to them whether or not they are a good fit?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      You often can’t tell about culture fit — that’s partly what an interview helps with — but from their resume, you learn about their background, experience, and accomplishments. From their cover letter (if done well), you learn about why they think they’d excel at this particular position, as well as some about how they communicate in writing, etc.

  16. giraffe*

    “4. You’re applying for jobs that aren’t connected to your job history. If you’re applying for jobs that are very different from what you’ve done previously, you need to explicitly demonstrate for employers why you’d be a great match—don’t rely on them to figure it out on their own. Also, keep in mind that in a tight job market like this one, employers have plenty of well-trained candidates who meet all the job’s qualifications and have already worked in the field. That means that even though you might feel that you could excel at the job if just given the chance, employers don’t have much of an incentive to take a chance on you. As much as you might want to change fields, it’s generally very hard to do right now.”

    And this is why it sucks to be a college grad now. Employers know they can get someone who is overqualified for cheap.

    1. bamboo*

      Yep; I run up against a double edged sword….my two jobs I had after UG and before grad school have nothing to do with what I went to grad school for and what I want to work in.

      Since then, I have difficultly getting interviews for what I want to work in due to my prior two jobs not being in the same field, and I don’t get offers in my prior two fields because managers in those fields look at me leaving for grad school and have asked me what was my motivation to leave (and can tell that if they hire me, I’ll keep trying to leave for a job more aligned with what I went to grad school in).

      Also the tailoring resume/cover letter has not worked either. I’ve gotten more call backs at elite places (NYC finance/consulting firms) recently with just my typical resume and not even sending in a cover letter. All throughout 2012 I was writing custom resumes and cover letters for every job and got nothing.

      The only difference? The market is slightly better now than it was in 2012. It is like dating..you are at the whim of the overall market for the most part and it is a purely numbers game. Cover letters/resumes can marginally help but do not make up for general macro conditions.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        That’s … just not true. I continually hear from people who changed their resumes and cover letters and started getting interviews. That doesn’t mean it works 100% of the time, but it does work. It’s not strictly a numbers game; what you put into it matters quite a bit too, not just marginally.

        1. The wire*

          Out of curiosity what city do work in AAM?

          Some areas are just more competitive such as NYC.

  17. Angela Lunceford*

    Love this site, I can read it all day. Of course I should be looking for a job. By sending my resume via internet to a myriad of job postings, I noticed that thay do fall into a block hole. Temporary agencies are a joke. They call you, you take their tests, they interview you, then nothing. Are they a racket ? Every job I’ve ever worked told me how great I was even the one that fired me on the recommendation of bitter, bitter woman. So my question is: Are temporary agencies a waste of time?

  18. Miriam Jacobs*

    I have been applying for longer than I care to admit for teaching jobs that demand on-line applications. These schools get so many applications that often the only thing you know about the school is whether it is an elementary or middle or high school. It makes tailoring a cover letter to the school’s specific mission very difficult, if not completely impossible. I finally got a teaching job but that was the result of a job fair, not an on-line application. How can you tell someone you want to teach at their school if you don’t know the first thing about that school? Many school districts have several elementary/middle/high schools, so I would have to guess. Any advice?

  19. kas*

    I’m a recent grad and I am getting interviews/emails and calls from employers but my issue is, I’m not hearing from the places I actually want to work! I’ve applied to quite a few positions over the past few months and I’ve heard from a few but once I speak to them I realize the position is not right for me and end up politely declining. For example, I’ll apply to a position and when I get the call and the hiring manager explains it further, I realize I would be working with clients in industries I have no knowledge of or interest in (I’m a PR/marketing grad).

    This post came at the right time because I’ve decided I cannot be picky anymore and will have to somewhat settle to gain experience. I don’t think there’s an actual problem with my resume as employers are showing interest in me (thanks to cover letter/resume advice from this site) but I do think something is missing. Definitely going to go through all of the links and try to add to my resume.

  20. Paul*

    Right now I am working at a company for last 2 years and I have been looking to change but I am not getting interviews…Can i post my resumes visible to all employers when I am employed in the current company? what am I missing as I am not getting interview? Please suggest.

  21. Steve*

    I get fed up when I know I’m the right person for the job, but never get the interview.

    Some agencies and companys have weird ways of searching for keywords, the person who sorts the CV out knows nothing about the job, they just search for the keywords they are given.

  22. James*

    Am in the same shoe as you. The company am working currently with hasn’t paid us a dime for the past six months and I can’t continue to waste a way. I have applied to so many places but no interview yet. What is it am really missing out.

Comments are closed.