Ask Matt: I keep applying -- why do I keep getting turned down?

  • November 19, 2012 - 11:14 AM

Dear Matt: How can one person apply for numerous positions with some of the top local employers and keep getting turned down? One large company claims to have 450 positions open, but I have received 16 rejection emails and nearly as many from another similarly large company in town. What is happening here?

Matt says: There's no way one person is qualified for 450 open positions. I would even be hesitant to say there are 16 exact fits for any individual.

If you are applying to anything that is not an exact fit, you won't get noticed. Remember you are likely one of hundreds or even thousands of people applying for the same job with a large company, and if you don't have exactly what the company is looking for, someone else does -- and they are the ones getting noticed.

How do you get noticed? By reading each job description and tailoring each résumé and application so that they include the key words, skills and achievements listed in the job description, showing that you have done what they require in the job. If you don't do this the system won't even qualify you.

What is that system? It's an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) -- the program large employers use to screen, qualify and accept job seeker applications.

When you submit a résumé multiple times the system is smart enough to know it's the same candidate applying over and over again, based on email, phone or address, says Jake Wyant, a national practice recruiter in the St. Paul office of avaap (, a technology driven enterprise software services company.

"A recruiter will be able to see that the individual applied for multiple positions and when they applied," says Wyant. "The system also has a résumé harvester which assigns a résumé ranking that rates how good of a fit the candidate is based on matching key words. The system then is set to put those high ranking matches into a folder attached to the job opening so the recruiter can just open daily and see what is there. They may even have automatic notifications that a high ranking match has applied."

Also, says Wyant, "multiple applications may actually be seen as a red flag by the recruiter because it shows that the person applying thinks they are a fit for everything. I have seen candidates get aggressive and start applying for everything under the sun -- despite not being actually qualified or experienced for what the job requires."

If you keep getting rejected, it's time for a new approach. Get away from the computer; get out and network. Meet people, so you can have contact with a human being, not a computer.


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