We’ve all at one point received the following e-mail: “Dear Candidate, Thank you for submitting your resume and considering a career with [INSERT COMPANY NAME HERE]. After thorough review of your resume we regret to inform you that we cannot move forward with your candidacy at this time. We appreciate your interest and wish you success in your career.”

It’s a bland, generic and automated e-mail that you get once the company has decided you weren’t the right fit. Depending at which point you were in the interview process you may have received this e-mail for a variety of reasons but for now, I am going to specifically focus on why you received this e-mail after submitting an application online. Recruiters generally look at your resume/application for 30 – 60 seconds and tend to hone in on a few key things to decide if you are someone who gets to move forward in the process.

Compensation Expectations

In many cases applying to jobs online requires you to submit your “salary expectations.” Of course we would all like to make as much as we possibly can but this question on an application isn’t for you to tell an employer about how you’d like to be a millionaire…it’s an assessment on how realistic you are. When applying to jobs, I tend to think of this question as a “guessing game” and try to realistically guess what the position would be paying me. As long as I feel the rate falls within the market range and also a number that I am comfortable with then I see it as worth my time to submit my application for the position.

On the flipside, when I am recruiting and assessing candidates this indicates to me that they are going to be within what the position can pay and that they are realistic in their compensation expectations based on what they are bringing to the table. In other words, they are a candidate that is worth my time speaking to. Typically anyone who puts well above what the position can pay is ruled out due to not being within the salary range for the designated role. For example: if you are applying for an entry level Customer Support role, but indicate your salary expectations are “$100,000+” I can assume that we will not be able to pay you what you are looking for and therefore will not waste your time.

Educational Requirements

Many companies remain strict in their requirements around education so make sure you read the “Minimum Requirements” area of a job description thoroughly. As a recruiter I can appreciate a candidate who applies for a job in the off chance the company would be able to flex their requirement however sometimes the rule is not bendable. You may immediately get disqualified for this reason. If you fall into the bucket of not meeting the minimum educational requirements, yet go for it anyways, you should anticipate the probability of getting the automated “Thanks but No, Thanks” e-mail.


Tenure is also a pretty good indicator for recruiters on the caliber of the candidate they are dealing with. I have even worked for an employer that disqualified any candidates who had more than 3 jobs within the past 10 years (now that may be a bit extreme) but does speak to how heavily recruiters weigh tenure when it comes to reviewing candidates. Having short tenure can say a lot of things about your commitment to a job. Are you someone who is jumping laterally every year to a new role? Maybe you’re someone who has done a lot of contracting over the years? Perhaps you are making promotional advancements when changing companies such as taking on roles with a larger scope?

Based on what internal knowledge the recruiters have about the role to which you are applying they may assume that in a few months to a year from now you’ll want to do something else based on your work history/tenure which would deter them from even giving you an interview. If you’re in a field where contracting is very common, for example IT, feel free to indicate on your resume the positions that were “contract” jobs as this may cause a recruiter to take a second glance at your tenure. If spotty tenure is something you feel you are faced with, my main piece of advice to you is do not falsify the duration of your employment(s) on your resume. Inevitably your future employer will find out and this will result in a highly undesirable outcome for you.

Late to the Game

Unfortunately there are some instances where your resume doesn’t even get looked at. Employers are in a hurry to find great talent so once a job posting is live they’ve got to sort through the pool of talent. And fast. Right now it is a candidates’ market (meaning that candidates have many job choices), employers are all competing for the best candidates to fill their positions. Acting quickly is in their best interest so they don’t miss out on actively seeking, top talent.

From a candidates’ perspective, job searching can also be very competitive. Depending on your skillset your application may be one of hundreds to be reviewed. Often job postings are not removed from online until an offer has been made and accepted so if you waited too long to apply to a position you may think you still have a chance but the reality is that weeks have gone by where the employer has talked to many great candidates. They are through the majority of the interview process with lots of great choices before you’ve even had a chance to speak to anyone. In this case, where the company already has their sights on someone already in the mix, you may be too late to participate in the interviews.

The Obvious

Maybe you didn’t get to go to the phone screen because of “the obvious”. What does this mean? It means you clearly weren’t qualified for the job. I’m all for encouraging people to apply to things that may be a little bit of a stretch when it comes to their experience. For example, if they are asking for a minimum of 2 years’ experience in Product Management and you only have 1 year of experience in Product Management, I say you should go for it. You’re within the realm and don’t have anything to lose by giving it a shot. “The Obvious” is for those who are clearly not qualified for the position. In the past I have worked on a “Director of IT” position which required X, Y, and Z all related to corporate experience in IT, managing an Infrastructure team, making vendor decisions, etc. I couldn’t tell you how many “rejection emails” that I had to send out to the individual contributors who had no management experience and on top of that no IT experience. If you’re someone who is completely attempting to make a career change by blasting your resume out to any job out there in hopes of something sticking, I will let you in on a secret that this is the wrong approach. It will almost always result in the automated “thank u, next” e-mail.

My advice is if you are trying to make a total career change, at least try tailoring your resume to fit that specific job description such as focusing on any leadership aspects you have at work, and any other extracurricular things you have taken on outside of your “9 – 5”. Additionally, in your extra time try to gain a certification within the field that you are trying to move into, and leverage a cover letter to tell the recruiter your story around what your end goal is. Don’t waste your time applying to everything under the sun, in the hopes that on the off chance you will miraculously get an interview and job offer when you have 0 experience.

At the end of the day, we can all agree that no one likes to be rejected; I know I hate it. But more than I hate rejection, I hate not knowing why I got rejected. Hopefully, you now have more of an inkling as to why you received the impersonalized HR rejection e-mail. From here you can more knowledgably continue your job search when it comes to filling out an application, putting together your resume, or at the very least have taken a small step closer to closure.