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3 Things that are Killing Your Job Applications (and how to fix them!)

At the job interview

As a resume writer, I read and write a lot of job applications. Recently we recruited for a new writer in our team. With over 170 applications hitting my inbox, I remembered a few things that are killing job applications – and they are more common (and easy to fix!) than you think.

1. Check the application requirements, and follow the application instructions

There were two main aspects to our application process: the first, to provide a resume – the second, to address three key selection criteria in a cover letter.

We received 177 applications, and the majority of candidates did not follow the application instructions, so the “unsuitable” pile looked like this:

  • 97 applications only had a resume – no KSC or cover letter
  • 1 application was the menu for a gluten free home food delivery service
  • 56 applications included a resume and a cover letter, but did not address the key selection criteria

In total, there were only 23 applications for me to seriously consider. Point being, if you don’t follow the application guidelines, you will go straight to the ‘unsuitable’ pile.

2. Write for your audience

I challenge you to think about your application’s purpose, what it will be used for…and who will be reading it?

By doing this, you will be forced to consider things like:

  • What are they looking for in a candidate for this job?
  • What do they want to know about me?
  • How can I demonstrate that I care about the outcome of this application?

Your application – including your cover letter – needs to make sense to the reader. Are you applying for a part time role? Briefly explain why that works for you. Changing industries? Make sure they know your motivations for doing so. From an employer’s perspective, it is just as important for the job to suit you as it is for you to suit the job.

If you’re applying for multiple roles, you can save time by writing an ‘anchor’ cover letter that addresses your strengths and history, then use it as a template. Each time you apply for a job, add a paragraph to detail WHY you’re applying, how you meet their specific requirements, and what motivates you. Make sure you address the correct contact name and reference the right job in the title, too!

3. Tailor your resume to suit the job

They say you only have six seconds to grab a recruiter’s attention with your resume. If you are applying for a job that you would be great for, it’s important that the reader can recognise this quickly.

What do you need the reader to know about you? Make sure this information is easy and obvious to find – structure your resume to ensure that important information can be seen on the first page. An example is your education – if a qualification is desired for the role, then make sure the “Education” section outlining your degree is front and centre.

Use the Professional Summary section (normally positioned at the top of your resume) to outline why you are an ideal candidate for the job. Tailoring this section for each job application will make all the difference when you are applying for multiple roles.

If you have a ‘Key Skills’ section on your resume that lists a bunch of interesting but not essential skills for this job, then it doesn’t serve a purpose for that application. The same skills are not necessary from job to job, so this is an easy section to tailor each time you apply.

Applying for multiple jobs can be tedious, but quality over quantity is the approach I advise you to take. Sometimes, a small tweak to your documents will make a world of difference to the receiver, and you are more likely to receive a call back for interview when your application makes sense to the recruiter.

Vicki Clothier

Vicki Clothier

Vicki Clothier founded Clothier Careers in 2016, a careers service specialising in resume preparation and review, government job applications, career coaching and recruitment. You can connect with Vicki at or