Why You Didn't Get Shortlisted

You went through the job description and knew that it was a job well within your capabilities. You spent hours working on the application. Jeez, even though you may have emailed it over to the employer just minutes before the deadline, you know you put all your effort into that application and were sure you’d at least be offered an interview.

Then… nothing. You don’t get shortlisted. You don’t even get a ‘thanks, but no thanks’. Just… nothing.

I know how frustrating it is when you KNOW you can do the job you applied for but for some reason, you’re just not getting shortlisted. It’s even more annoying when you either don’t receive feedback from the employer or you receive the standard rejection letter, telling you that ‘on this occasion, you were unsuccessful’.

Yeah, thanks.

Meanwhile, you still don’t know why you didn’t get shortlisted for an interview.

In the current climate, it’s normal for it to take a little while before you get shortlisted, simply due to the sheer number of jobseekers applying for roles, especially when it’s an entry to mid level role. There are, however, some clear do’s and don’t when it comes to getting shortlisted for that role you have your eye on.

Check out my top 5 reasons that you didn’t get shortlisted so that next time, you know what to do.


1. You didn’t run a spelling/grammar check

Ugh, man. This is really annoying for employers because it comes across as though you don’t care enough to double-check for errors. ALWAYS run a spell check and if you can, get someone else to cast an eye over your application. You may think that minor errors in an otherwise strong application aren’t a big deal in the grand scheme of things but when an employer has over 100 applications for one role, minor errors become a reason not to shortlist someone.

Similarly, applications written in capital letters (yes, this happens) and handwritten applications are a no.

2. You didn’t actually respond to the person specification

The person spec’ is like is your needy friend that needs lots of attention and for you to check in with them all the time – it’s hard work! It’s designed to break the role down into areas such as skills, knowledge, attitude etc so that both you and the employer can work out how good a match you are for the role and vice versa. It’s SO important that you use the person spec’ to work out which sections you need to respond to (for a written application, there’ll be a key that tells you how the specific criteria is to be assessed – usually application form, interview, certificates etc.) Don’t just read the person spec’ and then proceed to tell the employer why they should employ you, totally disregarding the criteria. You’ll end up wasting your time. Use the supporting statement section to demonstrate how you meet the criteria. 

3. You said that you could do x, y and z but you didn’t give examples

It’s not enough to say “I’m able to lead and motivate others.” You need to have solid examples of how and what you’ve done to demonstrate meeting that criteria. You don’t need to write a novel, just enough detail to show the employer that you can back up your impressive talk. Have one good example for each criteria that you’re responding to.

4. Your application was all over the place

Again, bearing in mind that an employer probably has many other applications to sift through, you want to make it nice and easy for them to see how you meet the criteria. Always set out your application in the order given in the person specification/job description and use the criteria to create a heading for each criteria, a bit like an essay. It takes a little longer but trust me, it will help your application to stand out since a lot of applicants don’t do this!

5. You didn’t make the link between your transferable skills and the role you’re applying for

This is especially important if you’ve been out of work for some time. I know you still have experience but being able to write and talk about your transferable skills is what will get you shortlisted for the role. Likewise, if you’ve worked for years in one field or role and want to move into another field, make it clear why you’re applying for the role and how your transferable skills are applicable to the role. Using examples will help you to do this.

I hope these tips help you with your next application – let me know in the comments section how you get on 


Tamaan WilkinsonComment