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Turn "No" into "Yes"

Applying for jobs and hearing NO or even worse not getting a reply?


Being a job seeker in any market is tough, you get emotionally committed to applying for great roles. You take the time to research the business and then apply... and then they reply "Thank you... but NO".  How do you turn this around?

The answer is  - give them what they want on your CV not what you want!

We know that sounds easy but here is what it means.

1 - Write for the Reader

Review the last two jobs you applied for. Read the advert, and read your application email/cover letter and CV - did it represent you accurately? I'm sure it did or else you wouldn't have sent it.

Now read your application as if you have been delegated the job of receiving job applications, and you have 20 to review in the last 30 minutes of your working day and you have to pick your impatient mother up from the airport. Hint you will be looking/scanning for succinct communication, logical formatting and the key skills, traits and experience that were in the advert,

Can you see areas for improvement?

2 - Write for Recruiters and HR 

Review the two applications above and put them side by side. If you have exactly the same application for two different roles/businesses then consider customising your applications.

External recruiters, like Palmerston North Personnel, and in-house recruiters like Managers, PA's and HR often see high volumes of applications and regularly see these barriers to progressing.

  • Language Difference - when roles are advertised the advertising style reflects or suggests the tone that applications are expected to be at - e.g. don't apply informally to senior roles
  • Missing Details - clearly outline duties, responsibilities and achievements in each role - don't expect the reader to make assumptions on your ability - if they're not there, they will assume lower skills rather than higher 
  • Communication - decision-makers and recruiters work well with people who communicate effectively when applying - because it's logical to expect these people to communicate the same way if they are hired
  • Role Profiles - it's unfair to expect the reader to know what your last employer's business was, the size and scale of their business and your contribution to it. The brutal truth is if they can't access it quickly they will either immediately reject you or put you in the "maybe pile" - that will change to the rejection pile if they read a better application 
  • Good Formatting - if your application is hard to read, has poor layout or difficult fonts it can hurt your chances. Look for easy to read formats, and consider CV templates that suit your work history. There are lots of free ones online and accessible from MS Office - or get a professional to do it for you
  • Include Skills and Software - don't assume that the reader knows you can use both MYOB and Xero - tell them

Can you see gaps opening up in your applications now?

3 - Write for Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS)

It's 2016 - companies use software to manage applications, recruiters have done so for decades and some companies have automated tools that "interpret your application" and do things with it.

This is a quickly changing area but some things that may happen to your application are:

  1. You may be automatically rejected
  2. You may be highlighted as a priority application
  3. You will be attached to the job as an applicant
  4. You may or may not be added to the employers talent pool for future jobs
  5. You may or may not be reviewed by a real person and manually rejected with a templated response
  6. You may be contacted and assessed - if you do you have made progress!


You will be ranked on the quality of the information in your CV so read 2 - Write for Recruiters and HR again.


You will be tracked by the ATS so future applications, communication and updates will be monitored and stored against your file. It's important to note that you will be prioritised or downgraded based on those interactions and your ability to follow the recruitment process. See 4 - Targeted Applications

Some of the recruitment processes are not logical, and are sometimes frustrating - it is important to commit to the process as they often have good rationale behind them. For example, if asked for references on a questionnaire rather than say "it's in my CV" - it's best to enter them. These forms/questionnaires may help the recruitment manager to manage your application in the system.

HOT TIP - being easy to manage can be a significant advantage.

Making sure your CV/Resume has the appropriate keywords, this is becoming increasingly important

4 - Targeted Applications

This is the single biggest barrier to success - only apply to jobs you can do unless the advertising says otherwise.

When reading the job adverts look for these things:

  • Essential Skills - if you don't have these advertised skills/behaviors or experience don't waste your time
  • Desirable Skills - this means "we'd ideally like these skills but if you are close please apply" it doesn't mean everyone apply so be sensible here
  • Industry Knowledge - if you have the required industry background make it visible, if you are close demonstrate the crossover, if you don't have any industry knowledge you must demonstrate that you are capable and willing to grow
  • Team Fit - this is key - review the company profile - it is very easy to hire similar people who the manager can see fitting in with the existing teams - if you are a square peg in a round hole it may be less likely
  • Aptitude - hard to demonstrate on a CV unless you include achievements, learning & development and professional growth in your CV
  • Attitude - often is portrayed in your communication style, tone and language

BIG TIP - Review the company website - and review the careers page. Then communicate that you have researched and what you understand about the opportunity.

5 - Attitude

Communicate positively at all times. If you are bitter about your last role or suffered a retrenchment - don't let it flow into your CV, cover letter or communication. 

You may only get one chance to apply to that role, or business - so put your best foot forward!


(06) 356 6091 Fax: (06) 356 6071

53 Princess Street, Palmerston North 4410
PO Box 594, Palmerston North 4440


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