| 10 reasons you weren't referred to hiring manger

One constant theme I hear from resume clients is that they know that they are well qualified for a job but did not get referred to the hiring manager and they don’t understand why.

Here are 10 reasons why you could be well qualified but did not get referred:

  1. Your resume does not reflect your qualifications for the specific position. For maximum effectiveness, your resume needs to be tweaked for each job. Make sure that your resume mirrors the language of the announcement and questionnaire. For example, if your resume talks about “cybersecurity” and the job posting uses the term “information security,” you should change your resume to include the words “information security.”
  2. You did not submit all required information. Perhaps you forgot to include your transcript (for positions requiring them) or neglected to include your DD214. Without all of the required documents, your application may not have received full consideration or the highest rating.
  3. You did not give yourself enough credit on the occupational questionnaire. If you did not rate yourself highly on the questionnaire, it is unlikely that your application will be scored at a level to be referred to the hiring manager.
  4. You have time-in-grade but do not meet the specialized experience requirements. Without the requisite specialized experience, it is unlikely that your application will be considered best qualified and referred. Be sure to spell out your possession of the specialized experience requirement in your resume.
  5. Your resume is acronym-laden and full of technical language so Human Resources (HR) reviewers have a hard time telling whether you are qualified or not. Remember, the first audience for your resume is HR; if they don’t understand your resume, it will be hard for you to be referred. And, just because you are applying in your own agency, doesn’t mean that they understand the technical work that you do.
  6. Your resume is too short; you are not likely to achieve success with a 1-2-page resume; a typical federal resume is 4-6 pages. From a federal HR perspective, if it’s not on your resume, you did not do it. HR Specialists are not allowed to make assumptions or draw conclusions about your experience—you need to be specific.
  7. Your resume is too long. If your resume is 10, 12 or even more pages (and you are not a scientist with multiple professional publications, etc.), your resume has far too much content and it is likely that a lot of that content is irrelevant to the job you’re applying for. Make good use of your “resume real estate;” everything on your resume should be focused on the job you’re applying for. Everything else should be eliminated. And there’s no need for your resume to go back 15, 20, or 30 years.
  8. Your most relevant experience is not current. While you will certainly be rated qualified if your relevant experience was a long time ago, it’s going to be hard to be rated best qualified when there are likely applicants who are currently engaged in relevant work.
  9. Your resume is missing relevant accomplishments. If your resume is a list of duties and does not include any accomplishments, it’s like saying, “I do this, I do that, trust me, I do it well…” The strongest resumes include relevant accomplishments.
  10. Your resume is missing metrics. Without metrics, readers of your resume do not know if the budget you manage is $1, $100, $100,000, or $1,000,000. Your resume should include metrics so that reviewers of your resume understand the full scope of your work.
  11. BONUS REASON: You are not applying appropriately. If you have status, you should apply as a status applicant; if you do not have status, you should be applying under delegated examining or all citizens announcements. If you are eligible for specialized appointment authorities, make sure your USAJOBS Profile appropriately supports your eligibility and your resume clearly shows that eligibility.

If you are not putting your best foot forward with each and every application, you are doing yourself and your career a disservice. If you are applying for jobs for which you are fully qualified; responding to the questionnaire appropriately; using a targeted, federal-style resume; and following all instructions in the job posting, you should consistently get referred to the hiring manager.

Nancy Segal is a federal human resources training and job search expert. Following her own 30-year federal HR career (much of it at the senior level), she founded Solutions for the Workplace LLC in 2003 to provide an HR management perspective to both federal managers and astute applicants to U.S. government positions. Nancy has unmatched federal career management insight, high standards, and respect for people’s time, and her clients use this to their advantage.