The Real Reason Your Resume Was Rejected

Dear Liz,

I returned to the U.S. from Europe last fall and since then I have not had any success in my job search. What’s especially discouraging is that my experience abroad was my most exciting and responsible assignment yet, but as far as I can see my entire career background is applicable to numerous jobs I see advertised.

I cannot get an interview no matter how hard I try. I have two degrees and ten years of work experience, terrific recommendations on LinkedIn and a large network. Maybe the problem is that I have worked at three different jobs in ten years. Is that a big enough problem to get me eliminated from a recruiting pipeline?

I started my career working for an international consulting firm. I got hired into my favorite client and went there with my manager’s blessing. The client sent me on an international assignment. While I was in Europe, I changed jobs. Every time I changed jobs, it was a promotion. Why would U.S. employers shun me now?

The only replies I get from employers now are terse “no thanks” email messages — and I don’t get very many of those. What am I doing wrong?

Thanks for your insights, Liz!



Dear Megan,

You and many other smart and capable people are scratching their heads wondering “Why can’t I get an interview for jobs I’m clearly qualified for?”

It doesn’t seem to make any sense.

Here are the reasons talented folks like you struggle to get hired these days:

1. There are not as many so-called professional jobs as there once were, because of a combination of outsourcing, automation and the desire of employers to save money on payroll. It is cheaper to have two employees doing the work of five people than to fully staff a team.

2. Fewer good jobs means that people will do anything to hold onto a good job once they’ve got it. This is where workplace fear comes from — people are afraid of making a mistake and getting fired. That’s why so many employers prefer “passive” candidates to people who are currently job-hunting. They automatically assume that anyone who’s job-hunting is damaged goods — a ridiculous and offensive idea.

3. Fear among hiring authorities and other folks involved in the recruiting process means that anything unusual in your resume is suspect. Three jobs in ten years is not a large number of jobs, but you worked abroad, and that is enough to turn off a very nervous and/or junior recruiting person who might see you as an “exotic” candidate — as crazy as that sounds (and is).

4. The recruiting process itself is broken beyond repair and needs to be scrapped. Employers post job ads far and wide (“advertising on the side of a barn,” as the old expression goes) and then complain when lots of people respond to their ads. They developed keyword-searching software to screen applications based on keywords — the worst possible way to evaluate candidates! Much of recruiting today is automated, sadly. You cannot rely on Black Hole career portals to get a job.

5. We all deal with bureaucracy when we pay our taxes, pay a parking ticket, apply for a building permit or register a kid for a school district summer program. In those cases, we may have to jump through some hoops but the system generally works, even if it is slow. Job-hunting is different. The system is obnoxious and slow-moving but it also doesn’t work. When you apply for a job using an online application, you are essentially buying a lottery ticket. However, by law the lottery has to pay someone. An employer can run job ads from now until the cows come how — they are not required to hire anyone just because they placed a job ad!

Your assignment as a job-seeker is to turn your attention away from the broken, traditional recruiting process and learn a whole new way to job-hunt. You have to break rules to get hired these days!

You also have to believe in yourself, because applying for jobs can be a most mojo-crushing activity.

You know your experience is great. You know you are smart and capable. Don’t get discouraged because a lumbering artifact of nineteen-eighties technology (online application systems) doesn’t see your gifts. That process will never value you!

Here are the steps to follow to get a job that deserves you in 2017:

1. Decide what kinds of jobs you want. Don’t brand yourself for any job you could perform, but specifically for the jobs you want.

2. Write your Human-Voiced Resume to bring your power and personality across on the page.

3. Create a Target Employer List for your job search.

4. Working your way down your Target Employer List, begin searching for your specific hiring manager in each firm.

5. Research your Target firms and each hiring manager and using your awesome consulting skills, ask yourself “What is likely to be this manager’s greatest pain point?”

6. Now, begin composing Pain Letters — one per manager — zeroing in on that manager’s most likely Business Pain.

7. Customize your Human-Voiced Resume for every manager, and send your resume stapled behind your Pain Letter to each manager on your list. Send them through the mail, where your letter will arrive with a small thump on the desk and make its presence known far better than an email message could.

8. Some — perhaps most — managers who receive your Pain Letters won’t respond. That’s okay. You only have time to talk with managers who have pain right now.

9. Get your own consulting business cards and give them out to people you meet and people you’re reconnecting with now that you’re back in the U.S. You are a consultant again, working for yourself this time. You could take a job, or you could take a consulting gig. It is easier to start conversations with hiring managers about temporary consulting projects than it is to suggest “Why don’t you create a full-time job for me?” You only need a foot in the door, and consulting gives you that!

10. Get out and network, not as a job-seeker but as a consultant. Spend time every day on yourself — exercising, gardening, cooking or doing something that grows your flame. Keep in mind that there’s nothing wrong with you — you are fine. It’s the recruiting system that is broken!

The more you dig into the Pain Letter research and writing process the more your mojo will return. You will remember that you are savvy and a great hire for the right manager.

Who is the right manager for you? It’s someone who sees your talents — and thus deserves them!

All the best,


Liz Ryan is CEO/founder of Human Workplace and author of Reinvention Roadmap. Follow her on Twitter and read Forbes columns.


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