job rejection

The Top 5 Reasons Recruiters Ghost Your Resume — According to Research

Job rejection hurts (this post will help you avoid it).

Wouldn’t it be helpful to know what recruiters like and dislike most about resumes? Happily, a couple of university researchers in Australia had nothing better to do than try to answer this question.

And I had nothing better to do than read the results of their study.

The most impressive part of the study was that they convinced 68 managers and HR professionals who didn’t have to to read a bunch of resumes and cover letters.

Job Rejection & Acceptance Findings

When the readers DISLIKED a candidate’s resume it was, in order of importance, because:

  1. They lacked experience.
  2. The resume had a poor format.
  3. The resume lacked information.
  4. They didn’t present their achievements.
  5. They sent a poor cover letter.

When the readers LIKED a candidate’s resume it was, in order of importance, because:

  1. They had experience that was relevant to the job at hand.
  2. The readers liked the format of the applicant’s resume.
  3. The applicant met the qualifications (things like education, etc.) for the job.

You can learn more about essential resume information that prevents job rejection here.

What the Study Means for You

  1. You need to have relevant experience for the job (even better if it’s progressively responsible experience).
  2. Your resume must have a good, easy-to-consume format.
  3. You must share the information your readers want, not the information you want to share with them. (Note: If those are mutually exclusive, you probably don’t have a career match.)
  4. Oh, and the cover letter? This study supports the notion that your cover letter can hurt you more than it can help you. So beware!

Source: The Impact of Competency Statements on Resumes for Short-Listing Decisions, Jim E.H. Bright & Sonia Hutton. International Journal of Selection & Assessment, Vol. 9, No. 2, June 2000

Image: cafotoarda
Updated February 2019

© 2010 – 2019, Donna Svei. All rights reserved.

Comments 12

  1. Good information Donna! The upshot for job seekers is to target their resume at the job’s requirements, and make sure your resume is formatted so well that it entices a hiring manager to read it.

  2. Very short, useful and clear! The only question that remains unresolved is how do we break that vicious “No experience – no job, no job – no experience cycle”. I suspect that so much talent is getting lost in it.

  3. Barbara, Rick, Nina,

    Thank you for your comments. I appreciate them!

    On experience…internships are great ways to climb that mountain.

    Also, starting in a junior role. I have two friends who have parlayed roles as executive assistants to senior executives into wonderful professional roles. They both started “behind” their peers and have leapfrogged them — because they did great work and were visible to key decision makers.



  4. Donna, I don’t know how I missed this before. Excellent takeaways here, and I am glad that the dislikes included “bad cover letter”. There are a lot who question the value of including them so I’m particularly happy to see it on the list!

  5. Hi Ed,

    On cover letters, I’m of the “Keep ‘Em Short & Sweet School” unless you’re a terrifically persuasive writer. I have certainly eliminated (ouch, harsh word, where’s my thesaurus?) more candidates because of their cover letters (lots) than the other way around.


  6. Hi Donna,

    Maybe you’d like to put some names to the “Australian Researchers” in your excellent blog. They are me (Dr Jim Bright aka @thefactorypod on twitter) and Dr Joanne Earl). Perhaps you could insert our names into your blog?

    Keep up the great work Donna!


  7. Hi Jim,

    I cited the article this post pulls from at the bottom of the post. Did you see the citation?

    Very glad to know about the book that you have written with Joanne as well.

    BTW, you keep up the good work (please!). The more evidence job seekers have to guide their job searches the better.


  8. I know I’m a little late to the party. Donna, thanks again for bringing great information to light and presenting it so well.

    Now, as for these so-called researchers in Australia…

    I wonder how much grant money they spent on this research? Because I could have told them the same things for a juicy NY strip steak.

  9. David,

    You’re never too late to the party! And I’m looking forward to joining you and Jim for a lovely dinner one of these days.


  10. How are you supposed to make a career change if good CVs demand relevant experience? The best a poor sod like myself can do is try to highlight (through relevant examples in the CL) how they are good at picking up new skills and point to relevant education (in CV).

    Employers & HR drones need to be a little more venturous and give one or two new comers a chance.

  11. Hi Anayaka,

    Pointing out examples where you were a quick learner can work.

    So can certificate programs and intern/externships.

    There is a movement towards looking at skills and potential that seems to be getting good results at the entry level. The approach is starting to be studied for senior executives too. We’ll see how that goes.


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