Why do I never hear back when I apply for a job?

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You’ve decided it’s time for a new challenge, you’re unlucky enough to find yourself out of a job, or you’re returning to the workplace after some time out, but you’re finding that you’re playing a gameyou don’t recognise. You diligently check the job boards for suitable opportunities, send your CV off for exciting-sounding roles and then nothing! You're shouting into a void. So, what’s going on?

Is your CV being spat out by some kind of screening software? Has a human being even read it? Has everyone lost their manners? These are all valid questions, and whilst we don’t have all the answers, we’ll can try and shed some light on the frustrating and disappointing experience of finding a new job in the ‘20s.

What’s changed?

There is little doubt that the recruitment process has changed beyond recognition in the last decade.

Applying for jobs has become a lot easier, but consequently, it’s lost much of the personal touch. Application is almost exclusively online, through a recruiter, via the employer’s website or through LinkedIn. With one click, it’s possible to fire off a huge number of CVs in a single sitting and although some basic screening may take place through specific questions, the process is quick and easy. We often receive hundreds of applications, manyof which don’t meet the criteria for the role, and a personal response is neither practical nor possible. With this type of application, it’s reasonable to assume that if you don’t hear anything, you didn’t quite make the cut – but you want to know why.

White noise

So, what can you do to stand out from the crowd and get through to the interview stage? Firstly, make sure that you meet the criteria for the role you’re applying for! Sounds obvious, but it’s surprising how often I post a role on LinkedIn, and literally within minutes, my in-box is piling up with CVs. This tells me that, in many cases, the applicant has not read the advertisement properly and therefore can’t possibly have thought through their experience in relation to the role. Far from looking keen and committed, that candidate makes themself look, at best a bit silly and at worst, somewhat desperate. So, think carefully before you hit ‘send’ – take some time to read through the requirements and be honest with yourself about how closely you meet them, especially if they are listed as mandatory. If the ad says ‘You must have experience in the personal care category’ or ‘FMCG experience is essential’ and you don’t have that, then be realistic. If you have 80% of the skills or experience listed, it may be worth a shot, but 50% or less, and you’re probably wasting everyone’s time.


Pick me!

Consider tailoring your CV for the role – without plagiarising the job spec, highlight areas where your experience is particularly relevant, or re-order your CV so that these are seen first. You’ll find more information to help you write a great CV here;

Link to (https://www.tarshandpartners.co.uk/insights/tips-for-writing-a-winning-cv)


Don’t send lengthy covering letters – your CV should be doing that work for you and in truth, often no one reads them. If you really feel you need to make a point about why you should be considered, make it very brief, and above all, relevant and pertinent to the role.  


Hi, my name is…

If there is a named contact on the advertisement – a recruiter, Talent Manager, or line manager, perhaps send a short message to say that you’ve applied for the role, and why you think you’re a good fit. This doesn’t need to be too detailed, just enough to demonstrate that you’ve thought through the requirements.


Not again?!

Some other points to watch out for include applying for too many roles, and too often. If you’re working on the premise that more applications mean more chances of getting noticed, you’re right, but not necessarily in a good way! Recruiters and companies will often have multiple roles posted at the same time and if we see the same CV for a Brand Manager, a Shopper Marketing Manager and a National Account Manager in the same 24-hour period, it’s not likely that person is going to be right for all 3. It doesn’ttake more than 2 or 3 applications for us to join the dots and start recognising a name. The same can be said about applying for the same role repeatedly, either with a recruiter or by sending 2 applications; one direct to the company, and another to the recruiter advertising the same role. Keep a careful record of roles that you’ve applied for and cross check before you send off another CV.


Tangled webs

It’s especially important to tell a recruiter if you have already applied directly to a particular company, even for a different role, and, if another recruiter has talked to you about a role or company. None of us enjoys getting caught up in messy conflicts and employers tend to get a bitcross with candidates who try to maximise their chances through trying as many channels as possible.    


The legal stuff

One of the key reasons we find that candidates are unsuitable for a role is that they don’t meet the legal working requirements. If you’re not a British national, you’ll need an appropriate visa to be considered for any role, whether contract or permanent. If you have a Youth Mobility Visa with 2-3 years remaining, many employers will consider you for permanent roles.  This does not mean that they are de facto agreeing to sponsor you at the end of that period, just that you are eligible to work for sufficient time for them to recoup their investment in hiring you. Similarly, if you have a 2 year Post-Study Work visa, you may be lucky enough to secure a fixed-term contract or permanent role but, at the current time, opportunities for sponsorship are very limited, so please don’t rely on this to extend your stay. If you’ve already been working in the UK for a while, make sure there is enough time remaining on your visa to fulfil any contract role you apply for.


UK experience

You’re new to the UK, you have a strong CV and some great experience but keep getting knocked back because you have no UK experience. This is a really common issue, but it isn’t insurmountable. The key is to focus on some aspect of your experience that you know you can leverage, rather than try to tick off everything on your wish list. If you’re looking to change discipline, category and country, and to take a step up the career ladder all in one hit, you’re stacking the odds against yourself. Plenty of businesses are looking for particular strengths in one area that you might have a bias towards. You have strong innovation experience? Pick that as your start point. You have international experience? Look for UK based roles with an international focus. Maybe you’ve worked with the Nordic markets before, even if you were based in Milan; look for roles with that market focus and make it the main feature of your CV.  Lastly, don’t rule out contract roles, even relatively short ones, if they offer the opportunity to learn about a new market or category.  

On the Money

One simple (and final) piece of advice here. Be realistic. If you’re coming from overseas, the UK is an expensive place to live; rent is high, food, travel and entertainment are expensive, so of course you’re going to aim as high as you can on your target salary, but you might have to adjust your expectations in a competitive market. Find out what candidates with an equivalent level of experience typically earn, and expect to achieve towards the lower end of that bracket to start with. For candidates looking to make a move to improve their current salary, aiming for a 10-15% uplift is about right. If your start point is asking for 30% more than you currently earn, you may not even get a foot in the door to tell them why you’re worth it!