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A job search is stressful, especially when you’re not hearing back on your applications. Unfortunately, according to a CareerBuilder survey, more than half of companies (52%) respond to less than half of the candidates who apply, making applicants feel like their resume is in a black hole. Sometimes, though, there are a few things a job seeker can do to get a resume noticed.       

1. Your resume didn’t include the right words

Nowadays, applying to a job means submitting an online application, even if you’ve emailed in a resume via your professional contacts.  Most companies, especially large ones, use applicant tracking systems (ATS) to help them manage the applicant selection and interview process. HR and recruiters set up their ATS to scan resumes for keywords and phrases that match the job description. Resumes that do not include these keywords are filtered out, and, therefore, are (most likely) not reviewed by anyone.

Solution: Include words and phrases from the job description in your resume and cover letter and beef up your skills and certification section. Use industry keywords where appropriate. Also, keep the formatting simple. Fancy formatting like tables and special fonts can confuse the ATS.

2. You’re not qualified

Being over qualified or under qualified won’t get your resume through the ATS filters. The good news is that your resume will live in the ATS, and if a position that better matches your experience opens up in the future, your resume could be reviewed again.

Solution: Sometimes luck will be on your side and there’s a gray area between being too qualified and being underqualified, but unfortunately, there’s not much you can do to fix this situation. If you’ve been applying for jobs that require ten years’ experience and you have just five, you most likely are not a good fit. Revamping your search or working with a staffing agency can help you find available jobs that better match your skills and experience.

3. Timing

Your timing may just be off. Perhaps the company decided to put recruiting for the job on hold. Maybe the recruiter has yet to start reviewing applications. On the other hand, you could have caught the tail end of the selection process and the company has already chosen a few candidates for the position. 

Solution: You can’t control when a company decides to review resumes, but you can try to be in the first batch of applications by setting up alerts to notify you when new positions open up. Some job boards let you set up email alerts, others have RSS feeds. Following target companies and staffing agencies on social media is another way to stay in-the-know about job openings.

It’s frustrating not hearing back on your applications.  Being proactive and following up can help you learn why you haven’t heard back yet. Wait to follow up until the posting’s close date has passed. If there is no close date, wait at least a week after applying to reach out to HR or your contact. Not sure who to follow up with? Do some research on LinkedIn.