Here’s Why Your Resume Keeps Getting Ignored

I received this email from a reader in India last week:

“I have read your books and post and I loved to read this. I am a Software Developer having 4 month experience and i hate this company. it’s difficult for me to move to another company. I want to be in top company. please help me out, how should I achieve my aim. I’m tired of this job here, only copy paste. i like coding and it’s my passion but being here i think i lost it.

I have attached my resume that is rejected by 100 times and i don’t know how to correct it because for me it’s perfect, but i don’t know the reason why it is rejected so many time. what wrong with me. Please help me out and let me know asap.”

Normally I have to archive these requests for free individualized help, but today I’m making an exception…

In this post, you’ll see a quick breakdown of why this guy keeps getting rejected.

Because really, we’ve all been there at some point, right? I definitely was.

Here are the main reasons why this guy (and so many other young people) deal with constant rejection from employers:

You sound entitled.

If your cover letters only talk what YOU want, no one will pay attention to you. No employer cares what you want. Most of them don’t even really care about your passion.

They care about your ability to perform — to deliver results and value — consistently, reliably, and without causing headaches.

This guy’s subject line was “Help me out.” His final sentence is “Please help me out and let me know asap.” He is likely speaking to EVERY SINGLE EMPLOYER with this same attitude of “What can you do for me,” which is off-putting (yet super common with young people). His lack of grace, humility, and basic manners means he has zero chance.

You sound selfish.

Check out the very first part of his resume:

NO ONE CARES THAT YOU WANT TO BE SUCCESSFUL. Companies only care what you can do for them.

Instead, try something like:

“To bring my 5-years of software engineering experience to Dell’s iOS team and incorporate my ideas, which will open up an additional $50 million in annual revenue over the next five years.”

You might laugh at that, but an employer won’t. They will read it multiple times.

I’m not recommending that you exaggerate or lie. I’m just saying you need to talk about what you are bringing to the table. You have about 5 seconds to get someone to care about your faceless resume. You better make it about THEM, and quantify the exact results you are bringing to the table.

You might be thinking, “But I’m only 22 years old! I’m so inexperienced! I have no idea what I’m capable of.”

Well, figure it out. If you want a steady paycheck, you need to start playing the part.

Stop thinking about yourself, and start focusing on the specific ways you’re going to help the company you want to work for.

Let’s look at the next section of this resume…

The “Education” section holds depressingly little weight for the average employer, unless you went to a top-tier school or had perfect grades.

(Of course, things are different in India and many other countries, which still have a lot of reverence for good grades and degrees).

Most employers know that your education is not a reliable indicator of on-the-job performance. Or your ability to get along with others.

Also, why talk about an “aggregate of 76.92%”? Isn’t that a bad grade? And why are we not rounding up?

This section should be lower on your resume.

Moving on…

A little better, but it doesn’t tell me anything about what you’re capable of.

Why don’t you SHOW THEM what you can do?

*Cue developers rolling their eyes.* 

“But I work with code! I can’t show them that!”

So why don’t you talk about THE EMPLOYER? Why don’t you analyze and improve their code?

That’s what Jack Dorsey did. And that’s how he got his start, before inventing two billion-dollar companies (Twitter and Square).

Again, you need to be relentlessly focused on how your skills can HELP them. You need to translate the fact that you know all of these computer languages into a crystal-clear solution for the employer.

I talk about this constantly in my course Land a Job You Love, and my book Recession Proof Graduate.

Back to the resume…

That sounds really interesting, but a resume doesn’t do this justice. I want to see a video or read a blog post about how you did this. Because I have zero understanding of how this works, but would love to hear you explain it and show me.

(Again, this concept of “showcasing your work” is something I teach in my course.)

Behold! Further proof that resumes are completely antiquated.

No humans communicate like this in real-life. If you hold your iPhone up to another iPhone and have Siri talk back and forth to Siri, this is how it would sound.

This isn’t actually a knock on this guy, by the way. All resumes sound like this nonsense. It’s so boring.

The rest of the resume has some accomplishments listed, which sound sort of impressive, but I have no idea what they are referring to. A lot of employers don’t know either. Why not SHOW them?

And I’m spent. I can’t go on, because it’s exhausting to think about how awful ALL RESUMES really are.

The truth is that this guy won’t get anywhere if he banks his ability to land a job on this resume (or any resume).

My advice?

Ditch the resume. Build a website instead.

Show your work, don’t talk about it in bullet-points.

Because this guy reached out to me, from India. We’ve never met before. And yet, he trusted me enough to ask for help.

How did he find me?

He didn’t find my resume.

He found my website. Where I SHOW all of my work.

Take a hint.


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Charlie Hoehn is the author of Play It Away, Play for a Living and Recession Proof Graduate. His work has been featured on NPR's TED Radio Hour, Forbes, Fast Company, and Harvard Business Review. Previously, he was the Director of Special Projects for Tim Ferriss. Currently, he is the Head of Video at Book In A Box. He lives with his wife and daughter in Austin, Texas.

This Post Has One Comment

  1. HabitLauren (@HabitLauren)

    Love the message Charlie! I’m trying to promote the same line of thinking for new digital marketers (especially recent grads).

    I recently went through around 70 applications for an entry-level position and nearly all of them did the same thing as this guy did: talking about themselves, boring resume, not showcasing their skills. One issue is how schools tell people they should be writing their resume, so then everyone has the same jargon language.

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