This is probably one of the main areas of uncertainty in the whole process of hiring because usually, when you get a rejection from a company, it always says something very generic. Therefore it is extremely hard to find out what the reason was. Even if you take the time to call HR, usually they won’t be able to tell you what the real reason was.
Why they don’t tell you the real reason?
There are several factors. One is the fact, that they are basically not allowed to tell you if they think you are too old for the team of youngsters because of legal reasons. Another factor is that if they tell you, that you lack of experience in a skills, you will argue with them and this scares some people because they lack of the technical knowledge and can only match the skills on your CV with the skills on the job description. Furthermore, some HR professionals just know the hiring manager very well and know how they judge the CVs based on their design and structure. HR will then reject your application if you don’t match that structure, even if you basically fulfill the technical criteria.
I highly suggest that you connect with hiring managers directly whenever possible. I am aware that this is not always possible but I urge you, if there is the choice to talk to HR or the hiring manager, always choose the latter. This is especially useful for SMEs and startups.
Did you already join the Career Network Switzerland group on LinkedIn and connect with me directly? If not, make sure you do to get the most out of your relationship building efforts.
1. Amount of Applications
Depending on tons of factors, HR might receive up to 50-100 applications per position, especially for English-speaking roles. Therefore it is literally impossible for them to have a deeper look at the CVs and cover letters.
2. Screening Time
When I recruited, it usually took me 10-20 seconds to screen through a CV to judge if the candidate was a match or not. This is not a long time for the candidate to grab my attention. The most important areas I screened were picture, location and nationality, job titles and the technical skill summaries. If the candidate matched these criteria according to the job description, I had a look at the rest of the details.
3. First Impression
When a recruiter or HR opens your CV, the first impression will usually decide if they reject you or not. You only have a few seconds to prove that you are the dream candidate. I highly suggest you start by adding a very high quality and professionally taken photograph at the top of your CV. Don’t be too fancy with the design of your CV, I have seen some Resumes that have been overdone.
Side note: If you are a graphic designer, you are absolutely allowed to design your CV in whatever beautiful way you want because you know what you are doing. If you are nothing like a graphic designer, please don’t try to be one by including Word Arts and such on your CV.
4. What the Company is Really Looking for
If the only info you have about the job you are applying for is the job description, you know nothing about it. There are so many things that go into this job and department that are never put on the job advert. This is the point where you get on the phone and call the company to ask about specifics about the job and department before you send in your application. If you know nothing more than what is in the description of the job advert, you will have a very hard time tailoring your communication to it.
5. The Top 20
If you apply for a job where you compete with 99 other applicants and are good enough to be in the top 20, this does not mean that you get invited. Even if you and 19 other applicants for the position are the perfect match, there is no guarantee that you get invited because the company usually invites 5-7 people for an interview.
So even if you think you are the perfect match in terms of your skills, it does not mean you get the interview.
6. Piling up
I received an email from a reader a few weeks ago who told me that she always receives the rejections on Friday and she asked me if this is a special day in Switzerland. I think Friday is a special day anywhere in the world because it’s usually clean up day. When your application is good but not outstanding and remarkable, your CV might land on the pile of “To be done” which is usually cleaned up by Fridays or every last day of the month. So when HR puts you on that pile, other applicants get selected for interviews in the meantime. And by the time your application gets back to the desk of HR, the position might already be filled and you receive the very nice “No Thank You” rejection letter and have no idea why.
7. Knowledge of HR
I know many HR people who are very knowledgable about their field they recruit in. However, there are also others who don’t know that much about the technical specifications of the jobs in your field. Usually HR does not just recruit for one very specific part of the technologies but throughout a broader range. Therefore it’s not easy to know every detail for them.
When you apply for positions through HR, consider this fact and guide them. Tell them that you are what they are looking for in words they understand and not in words you want to show off your sophisticated expertise. Communicate simple and clear. You don’t have to show HR in the first two sentences that you have a PhD in Nuclear Physics. If they don’t understand what you are talking about you won’t get selected.
1. Tell them WHY you do what you do
2. Tell them HOW you can help their organization
3. Tell them WHAT you have done in the past
8. Complete Application
I already mentioned this in 7 CV Tips to Tune Your Resume for Switzerland and 12 CV Details That Will Get You a Job in Switzerland. You must have a complete application for most job applications in Switzerland if you would like to get selected. This means Resume, cover letter, diplomas and work certificates.