Why are all my job applications being rejected? Part 2: Ghosting Boogaloo

by Rose Farrell on Jul 1, 2024

Job hunting can sometimes feel like a never-ending loop of rejection emails or worse, radio silence. The market has changed in the past 6-12 months - with shedloads of layoffs all over the world, there’s more people looking for jobs which means there’s more choice for employers. Don’t despair just yet. Let’s talk about how you can improve your chances by tailoring your CV, keeping a handy compendium of all your best projects in a document, prioritizing quality over quantity, and understanding the tough market landscape - all while (maybe) keeping your sanity intact.

Why are all my job applications being rejected?

Find your niche

When there’s a lot of choice for employers, they can afford to be fussier. For the last number of years, someone who had Skill A, B, and C required by the job would be a great candidate for a role. Now, there might be 5 candidates with those skills.

Domain knowledge is a big help here. For some sectors, people who know the area is a major consideration in who they decide to hire. For companies in FinTech, Healthcare - anything that has some major regulatory oversight. Employers in this area might take someone with slightly less experience in order to hire someone who just understands the importance of the relevant ISOs. A friend of mine works for a government funded org in the UK and they’re having issues explaining to a colleague who came from outside the sector that they can’t make decisions about what they’re doing next year until after the UK elections. All their best laid plans might be upended by a different government. Someone who used to work for a different government funded org wouldn’t even need to be told this.

Another niche is experience in a lesser used (or newer) tool/technology. Generative AI experience is right now (June 2024!) in high demand and I think (don’t quote me, just a recruiter, not an economist!) that Gen AI will stay in demand for the next year or so. What’s your most niche skill?  You could search for jobs with a requirement for that skill.

Read the job advert.

One of my personal pet peeves is when I lovingly write an advert like “For this role you will be doing the NLP with the AI and then using NLP to NLP the AI so you will need to know NLP” and then I get 45 applications with absolutely zero NLP experience. This is a waste of your time applying to it and a waste of my time having to read it.

I am pleading with you to read the job advert.

To contradict my point completely - don’t let imposter syndrome prevent you from applying to a job. If you meet 60% or more of the requirements, apply. Less than that and you’re likely not a strong fit.

Instead, reach out to the recruiter who posted it and say something like “I saw this one advert - I don’t think I’m qualified for it but if you have anything else relevant, let me know. [2-4 bullet points on your experience].” You’re still getting the attention of the recruiter but now you don’t look like you did not read the advert.

What I’m trying to say is there’s nuance to the often given advice of “sure, just apply!! You never know!!”

Tailor Your CV

Sending out a one-size-fits-all CV is like buying everyone you know the same Christmas present. Sure, it’s efficient, but it’s not doing you any favours. Each job will have slightly different requirements, and your CV should reflect that. Here’s how to make your CV shine:

You’re an expert in this field. When reading the job description, consider what you know about the area. Do a bit of research on the company.

If the job description talks about “delivering the next generation of predictive insights, and recommendation models” then you can surmise that experience in things like deep learning, classification systems, ranking is important. Then that’s the experience you need to emphasise.

You can look on websites like stackshare.io to see what technologies they used. Look at other jobs they have posted. If it’s an AWS heavy company and all your experience is in Azure - it might not be the best fit. (I mean, I know that this isn’t always the case but generally speaking if the choice is between “this one person who has lots of AWS and this other person who doesn’t - a hiring manager is going to pick the AWS person”)

This is getting more important now with the rise of AI powered job applications. There are plenty of platforms that people use to spam every job ad in sight with their CV, hoping for a small return on investment. It’s super annoying and means the noise level is ever-increasing, drowning out the genuinely fantastic applications.

Focus on your achievements instead of just listing duties. Did you reconfigure the autoscaling policies and make the clusters scale more efficiently, thus saving a heap of money and computing power? Say so! Numbers speak louder than words.

What was different due to your influence? What did you change? Why you instead of someone who has similar experience? I might get 10 applications with 10 years of AWS DevOps experience. Why are you different?

If you just write a list of duties, there’s no difference between you and literally the worst person ever to do your job. Every recruiter “posts job adverts” but only I post them with excellent Star Trek gifs.

Tailoring your CV for each job will give you a bit of a leg-up over the competition who just hit “easy apply”, calling it a day.

But Rose, who has time to tailor their CV for each position? I have a life, and what is even the point if I’m going to be rejected anyway?

This is why you need a “You: The Greatest Hits” document. Ideally, you’ll have started this years ago, but the second best time to start one is today.

I know that when I have to write anything about myself, I immediately forget everything I have ever done, in my entire life. I know I’ve done some good work at some stage, but when I’m on the spot - it is absolute empty brain time. (see earlier in this article, when the only thing I could remember about my past work was Star Trek gifs)

  • Every time you do something great - write it down. Write down everything - your role, the skills you used, the outcomes, and any impressive results. This way, you won’t forget anything important.
  • Categorize your projects by the skills and technologies they showcase. Whatever the job ad/spec asks for, you can easily find and highlight the most relevant projects.
  • Keep this document updated with your latest and greatest work. You never know when that random project might be the one to land you your dream job.
  • When applying for jobs, simply copy the relevant project details into your CV. Boom - all the tailoring, none of the crying into an empty CV.
  • If you’re like me and Imposter Syndrome prevents you from recognising any achievements - just write them all down and then highlight the ones that you get praise for in work and/or ask a friend for feedback.

Cover off objections ahead of time

In recruitment, one of the first things we learn is how to handle objections. That’s when someone isn’t interested in what we’re giving. The client has a PSL and can’t sign a new agency? Do they want to hire contractors? The candidate doesn’t want to work with a company they regard as staid and boring? This project is with their R&D wing!

Take no for an answer when you hear it buuuuut if there are aspects of your CV that are a blocker - head off the objection before you get that rejection mail.

  • If you are an immigrant, put your work permit status at the top of your CV.
  • If I have an application in front of me and the person was educated outside of the EU - my first worry is that they’re not able to work in Ireland without sponsorship. If my client isn’t willing to sponsor, it doesn’t matter how good the experience is, it’s just going to be a no go.
  • However, I’ve often sent the “sorry no sponsorship” rejection letter to get a reply saying “oh but I have Stamp 1G”. You need to be upfront with that info and let people make their decision based on all the facts.

- If you’re willing and ready to relocate - tell us! We get huge volumes of applications from outside the region the job is in but 90% of the time when we reach out to the applicant, they tell us they want to work remotely from somewhere else. If my client needs someone in Dublin, even the best ever person who is living in another country and doesn’t want to move will not be getting the job.

Quality Over Quantity, Every Time

In a crowded job market, less is more. Firing off hundreds of generic applications is like throwing cabbage at the wall and hoping something sticks. Instead, focus on fewer but better applications. You don’t get a date by hitting on everyone in the bar in one night.

A tailored application will get you further than 10 boilerplate applications. As I talked about above, putting the time in to highlight your extremely relevant skills will get you further than your basic CV.

With fewer applications, you can spend more time on each.

Job hunting can be exhausting. It’s a marathon, not a race.

People hire people

Reach out to recruiters, hiring managers. Ask for advice to get a conversation going.

If you can, attend industry events, tech meetups - talking to people irl will help get your brand out there. Just this week, I put a candidate in for a role. They had met the hiring manager at an event months ago. They were remembered so the HM specifically asked me to get in touch and get their CV across.

Go easy on yourself

Job hunting can be tough on your self-esteem. Being rejected from a job doesn’t mean you are a failure, and it doesn’t mean you suck. It means you’re not a good fit for that job. There is a place out there for you, and you’ll find it. :)

Also, remember that writing job descriptions is an art rather than a science. There’s going to be things not on the advert because the author didn’t remember it was important or didn’t think it needed to be said. There’s going to be things that the hiring manager only remembered they needed after viewing their 10th CV without it.

It’s hard to get the entire vibe of a role into a job advert short enough that people don’t expire with boredom while reading it. You might get a rejection because of something that is completely separate from your application.

Be kind to yourself by acknowledging your efforts and celebrating small victories. Remind yourself that rejections are not reflections of your worth, but steps towards finding the right fit.

Some points that don’t really fit into other bits:

  • I honestly don’t spend that much time thinking about the job applications that I reject afterwards. No one is sitting around going “ahahaha, look at this weirdo”. We note the unsuitability and move on.
  • You can always reach out to ask for more detailed feedback. It’s possible you won’t get an answer - recruiters are people too and our workloads can be heavy, but definitely ask!
  • You’re not being annoying by asking for feedback.


Getting a bunch of job rejections can feel as if you’ll never find a job and that you’re personally a terrible person. You’re not. It’s just tough out there. Let rejections roll off you like water off a duck’s back. Companies are not paying rent to get to stay in your head.

By tailoring your CV, keeping a project cheat sheet, focusing on quality applications, and understanding the job market, you can improve your chances of landing that perfect gig. Stay positive, keep refining your approach, and remember: persistence pays off. You’ve got this!

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