3 Big Reasons Your Application Got Rejected

Jul 9, 2021 | Job Search Strategy

3 reasons your application got rejected

Avoid these three common application mistakes, and your next application should be a home run!

By: Grace Mitchell | Contributor for Let’s Eat, Grandma

So you’ve been sending out dozens of job applications, but, instead of the interview requests you expected, you’ve received a mountain of rejections. Or worse, you haven’t heard anything back at all. What gives?

We’re going to look at three common reasons your application may have been rejected (a survey of hiring experts from CareerBuilder agrees with us). But before we get to those, take a second to step into a recruiter’s shoes.

After posting a job (assuming it’s posted at all), a recruiter receives an average of 250 applications for that one job. Ultimately, only 4 to 6 of those applicants are asked to interview, and of course only one of those interviewees gets the job.

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Photo by Anh Nguyen on Unsplash

It’s hard not to take it personally when you don’t receive a response to your application, but remember, hiring managers often receive hundreds of responses for each job. Photo by Anh Nguyen on Unsplash

The internet is a double-edged sword when it comes to recruiting. On one hand, posting jobs far and wide means the recruiter is more likely to find quality candidates for the hiring manager. But this also means wading through hundreds of applicants, many of whom aren’t actually qualified for the position.

Recruiters and hiring managers (and no, these aren’t the same role!) have a lot on their plate. If they rejected your application, it’s probably not based on some personal vendetta against you. More than likely, your application isn’t reflecting the assets you’d bring to the job.

Job seeker, we know you have what it takes to get the position you want, but your job here is to convince the hiring manager that—of all the hundreds of applications they’ve received from the recruiter—yours is the best one for the specific job posted.

So, without further ado, these are the top three factors keeping the powers that be from recognizing your potential:

1. You didn’t target your resume 

Repeat after Grandma, job seeker: There is no such thing as a good general resume.

Your all-purpose resume that you send to every job may show that you’re accomplished, ambitious, or any number of desirable qualities, but it’s unlikely to have clear relevance to the job description.

Your resume’s job is to show why you’re a good fit for the specific job you’re applying to. Those busy recruiters need to see clear evidence that you can do not just any job, but this job. That means that every resume you send out should be customized and look a little different, even if you’re applying for similar positions.

This may sound tedious, but it doesn’t have to be! You can start with a general master resume that showcases all of your qualifications and achievements. Then edit it down to only what’s relevant to the job you’re applying for and naturally integrate keywords from the job description.

If you’re applying to multiple types of positions—say you’re torn between your experience in Human Resources and your love for managing nonprofits—you can even start with multiple “bucket resumes”: one for each category of job. From there you can tailor these resumes further to each job you apply to.

This process does take a bit longer than sending the same resume out, but it will also yield results much more quickly, saving you time and frustration in the long run.

2. You didn’t include a cover letter

Photo by Steve Johnson on Unsplash

While it may sometimes seem tedious, it’s worth it to put in a little extra work on a personalized cover letter. Photo by Steve Johnson on Unsplash

It’s a huge myth that nobody reads cover letters anymore. While recruiters tend not to read them, many hiring managers still do, and they’re the ones you ultimately need to impress.

(Plus, if the job posting calls for a cover letter, then you submit a cover letter, no matter what. It’s quite likely your application will get rejected for not following the instructions.)

Sure, you may apply with a hiring manager who doesn’t read cover letters, but (unless the job posting specifies “no cover letters,”) no hiring manager will reject you for including one. However, those hiring managers who do read cover letters absolutely will look at your application less favorably for not including one. In short: Your best bet is to write the cover letter—why not do everything in your power to get the job?!

Like your resume, your cover letter should be tailored to each job description, but, similarly, you can begin with a general cover letter and edit it for each job you apply to.

“But the application says a cover letter is optional. Do I really have to write one for every job I apply to?” Remember: you’re trying to set yourself apart from hundreds of other applicants. Including a well-written, tailored cover letter that supplements and expands on your resume is a great way to do so!

We get it: cover letters probably aren’t your favorite thing to write. However, including this short letter is the best way to explain why you want the job, connect the position to your existing skills, demonstrate how your values align with the company’s, and cover any gaps or oddities in your resume.

In other words, the more you allow this powerful little document to work for you, the quicker you can land the job you want!

3. You didn’t proofread your materials

Photo by D A V I D S O N L U N A on Unsplash

Proofread! Proofread! Proofread! Photo by D A V I D S O N L U N A on Unsplash

The final step before sending in your application should always be proofreading it: that includes your resume, your cover letter, and anything else the job posting asks for. After all, 77% of hiring managers said they’d reject an application for a spelling mistake or typo.


While your basic spell check can be helpful, it often doesn’t correct common issues like homophones (such as “their” vs. “there”). To ensure your documents are free of errors, try using a dictionary to double-check the spelling of questionable words, taking a break before proofreading, printing the documents out and reading them from the bottom upn, and/or giving your application to a trusted pair of eyes.

Also be sure to double check the company name and spelling. My word processor once autocorrected the company location I was applying to, from “Montbello” (a neighborhood in Denver, where I live) to “Montebello” (a city in California, where I don’t live). If I hadn’t been thorough in reviewing my cover letter, I would have missed out on a job I love.

Bonus: You didn’t send a thank-you note

Okay, so maybe you followed these tips, got an interview from your application, and nailed the interview! Don’t claim victory just yet: even after your application is submitted, there’s still a major mistake that could get you rejected.

The same CareerBuilder survey mentioned at the beginning also found that 57 percent of job seekers don’t send thank-you notes after interviews. Don’t let that be you!

Employers often expect thank-you notes, and not sending one could be seen as rude, especially compared to the candidates who did send them. It’s not just a formality – a good thank-you note is a great way to restate the major points you made in the interview about why you deserve the job.

Be sure to send a thank-you note after every interview. It might be the difference between getting rejected and getting the job!

Hitting the target

Remember, job seeker: Your application is a reflection of what you can offer the hiring manager. It’s also likely the only piece of information they have on you (not counting your LinkedIn profile, which they’re also likely to search out before or after you apply).

This isn’t a cause for despair, though—think of it as your opportunity to make the best first impression you can! With a tailored resume and cover letter, and some time for proofreading, your application can shine like the job-getting superstar we know you are.

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