Believe me when I say it’s a soul-crushing feeling. I know, because I’ve felt it. You probably have, too, seeing Someone Less Qualified Got the Job and not you
You’re legitimately more talented, knowledgeable, and hard-working— but you’re not getting called back. Meanwhile, your loudmouth Facebook friend who still manages to party Thursday-Sunday just nabbed a great position in your same field. What gives, universe?
The unfortunate truth is that talent, even when backed by experience, does not always win. There are three main reasons someone less qualified got the job.
1. Your resume/cover letter doesn’t do you justice.
A recruiter has a limited amount of information to go on. (That is, they can’t just lounge around your house and get to know “the real you” the way a new friend or romantic interest might.) So it’s up to you to communicate exactly what you want them to know through your cover letter, resume, and/or online presence.
You have to show them that you’re great, in the most obvious way. And to do this, I recommend focusing on “punching up” and “paring down.”
“Punching up” is about starkly highlighting your strengths— really selling them with concrete language. For instance, you may currently be saying:
“During my time at Jobstanzania Limited, I managed five accounts, doing my best to ensure that the projects moved forward in a timely manner and that the clients were satisfied with the result.”
But what you should be saying is:
“While with Jobstanzania Limited, I juggled five accounts, blasting through any administrative obstacles that threatened progress, facilitating clear conversation between the client and web development team, and maintaining highly cordial client relationships that ensured everyone always felt heard and taken care of.”
The second part, “paring down” is about cutting the fat; getting rid of anything that dilutes or distracts from your most impressive points.
Since it can be difficult to judge your own resume, you’d be well-advised to get outside help with this revision process— asking others to pick out the parts they find most impressive, so you can punch them up and pare down the parts that aren’t as electric.
2. You’re too forgettable.
Recruiters are gathering information on many people at a time. Likely, they’ve already read several resumes immediately before yours, and they’ll read more immediately after finishing reading your resume.
A job posting could easily gather a dozen people who meet its exact qualifications. And I’ll bet you your competitors all claim to be “detail-oriented” and a “team player,” too.
All else being equal, memorability can be enough to climb to the top of the stack.
How you stand out will depend on your industry. For instance, if you’re in Public Relation field, in place of a bland mission statement at the top of your resume, you could list some fun headlines a reporter could theoretically use to write about you for different audiences. If you’re an Engineer, you could describe (and include a link to) a fantastical 3D model you created for fun.
3. The worst of all “A Google search raises red flags”
Finally, it very well could be that the recruiter just had a bad feeling about you. (Harsh, I know, but let me explain.)
It’s common practice to Google candidates, and quite frankly, the main reason is to sniff out bad vibes. Recruiters want to put a face to a name, see what you’re talking about, and filter out those people who strike them as irresponsible, incompetent, or unfriendly.
Even a bad profile photo can be a red flag. And while a recruiter is unlikely to admit something like this has colored their opinion of you for the negative, it’s your responsibility to ensure that it doesn’t.
As a preventative solution, I recommend testing your profile photos using a free online tool like PhotoFeeler, to be certain you’re being shown in your best light online.
By now, with all this talk of punching up resumes and optimizing online image, I hope you understand that landing a killer job is about crafting the most desirable image that you can.
It may not be the definition of fair, but unfortunately recruiters are not mind readers and can only see as much “awesome” as you put in front of them.
All that said, I hope you’ll get out there and show the world how much better you really are than that jerk on Facebook!