Applications / Job market

Why do my job applications keep being rejected?

What feels worse, receiving the ‘sorry your application was unsuccessful’ email from a graduate employer, or not even receiving any acknowledgement of your application? Either way, it’s a very frustrating experience. Particularly if you feel you have invested a lot of time and research in an application that you feel was the best you could have made. It can affect the applicant’s confidence as well and in careers appointments we meet many students who question whether they are good enough. This can increase anxiety if you are someone who has experienced imposter syndrome

The application process can be frustrating…

However we try and rationalise it (‘it’s competitive…there were probably more qualified applicants…there are other jobs I can apply for’) the application process can be frustrating and demotivating, particularly if you have made what feels like a lot of unsuccessful applications. Students have experienced academic success and this can feel like the first time they have failed at something. It can be hard to take.

But try to reframe your thinking and look at the process more objectively. Remind yourself that you have developed a variety of transferable skills that make you highly employable, which is after all why graduate employers attend university careers fairs. It can often be fine margins when recruiters are shortlisting for interviews and sometimes a few tweaks can make all the difference. Try to avoid the common mistakes that a lot of applicants make, it will save time and reduce the disappointment you may otherwise experience.

Do’s & Don’ts to help you succeed in the graduate recruitment process

Try to prove how you meet the employers requirements listed in the job description & person ‘spec’
  • Target your applications. Every application should be written for the specific role you are applying for. If you can explain why you want to work for this company and how you meet the employer’s requirements (outlined in the ‘person specification’) you are much more likely to make it to the next stage of the recruitment process. You need to convince the employer why they should be interested in you and you won’t do this if you are cutting and pasting!
  • Are you only applying for roles that genuinely motivate and excite you? If you are simply applying for the sake of it and playing the numbers game, you won’t connect with employers who are all looking for candidates who are passionate about working for their organisations
  • Are you using a ‘scattergun’ approach? I did meet a philosophy graduate once who was offered a graduate role with his 81st application, but even he admitted he wasted so much time applying for jobs that he wasn’t interested in. It does seem counter-intuitive but resist the temptation to apply for a lot of jobs. A few carefully researched and planned applications is always more likely to succeed – and it will save you so much time and effort.
  • Before you even start to fill the application form in, ask yourself why you are applying. It is one of the first questions you will be asked at interview and if you can answer it with enthusiasm and interest it will be an application that will resonate with the employer.
  • Once you have identified jobs you are interested in start to research the employer. This will help to demonstrate commercial awareness  in your application and it will also help you to decide if this is a company you really want to work for. Think about what is important for you. Is it the company’s values, culture, policies on sustainability and well-being, for example? A good career choice is as much about you choosing the right employer as well as the employer selecting you.  
  • If the job details say that you can contact a named person for further information before submitting an application, do it! There may be questions you have, but it is also an opportunity to make a positive first impression. When the employer receives your application they may remember you as someone who took initiative, demonstrating your interest in the position and organisation – enthusiasm is infectious and will make you stand out in a competitive job market.
  • An obvious one, but it needs re-stating because it’s so important. Any spelling mistakes suggest a lack of interest and professionalism so make sure you proof read your CV, cover letter and online application.
  • Use relevant key words from the job description, role responsibilities and person specification and provide evidence of how you meet the recruiter’s criteria. This will help you to get through Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) used by a lot of employers: ‘It is estimated that 70% of CVs fall foul of ATS’   
Any mistakes are likely to see your application rejected

Of course, you may make what you feel is an excellent application and still be unsuccessful. But try not to take it personally, the graduate job market is competitive but persevere and learn from each application. Get objective feedback (Warwick students can book ‘application feedback’ appointments on My Advantage) and be confident that the next application will be the one that leads to an interview.  

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