3 Things That Make Recruiters Reject Your Application

3 Things That Make Recruiters Reject Your Application was originally published on Break Into Tech.

Note: This is a guest post from Allison Dietz, who got her start as a tech recruiter, before transitioning into coaching students and managing tech employer relationships. If you want to leverage her insider tips in your own job search, check out her coaching page!


I call myself a ‘Recovering Recruiter’ because I will never shake off my recruiting soul. After spending nearly 20 years in the talent acquisition space, I want to share insights to help make the scary, confusing process of finding a job a little easier. Life is stressful enough. I think that’s why Jeremy and I work well together; we want to demystify the application process and help you achieve your goals.  

A good Recruiter is a hunter. They know what they are after and are proactively looking for someone to fit the vacancy. Recruiters are measured on how quickly they fill the job and if the person stays on the job for longer than one year (although organizations vary in their priorities). Thus, most of the time, they seek to weed out candidates that don’t fit the job description. They want to present candidates to a hiring manager that are the safest and least risky.

Be aware because there may be some simple things you are doing that will get you rejected immediately. Before the Recruiter even looks you up on LinkedIn or looks at your resume, he or she is hitting that ‘so sorry’ button. I’m going to pull back the curtain and share three things that make Recruiters reject your application immediately.


1. First in, first hired

First up, fittingly, it is about when you apply. Because even if a job appears to be open weeks after it was first posted, that may just be because a company has a minimum posting policy for their roles. Specifically, a job may have to be posted for a certain number of days before it can be closed.

Meanwhile, Recruiters usually screen applicants as they come in since they’re generally incentivized to hire quickly. Thus, it is always best to apply early. If you see a job is open, do not delay. The sooner you apply, the sooner you can be considered and hired. If you wait until the 11th hour, the Recruiter may not even look at your application and reject you.

This is one of those times where the saying really does apply. Early birds FTW!


2. Show me the (realistic) money

Another easy knockout question is asking applicants what their salary preference is. As a little background on this topic: Every vacancy has a budget – usually in the form of a range. Thus, you will not be considered if you require a base salary above or even below the budgeted amount.  This can even be an automated feature on an Applicant Tracking System (i.e., the online software that collects your application).

My advice is to do the research ahead of time; know the average salary for the position you are pursuing. There are many resources nowadays: GlassdoorLinkedInSalary.com are all reputable sites that you can trust.

Be aware that some states and cities prohibit an employer from requiring the applicants to provide salary history information (CA, NY, NJ, IL, and WA; NYC and San Fran). Salary history bans are designed to narrow the pay gap between men and women.

If you are not required to put down a number, don’t. You never want to show your cards first. Instead, always say it’s something you’re willing to negotiate later. The same goes for during the interview. When it’s your time to ask the Recruiter questions about the role or company, do not let your first question be about the salary. Otherwise, you are signaling to the Recruiter that all you care about is money. If the Recruiter asks you this question, my advice is to ask what the budgeted salary range is for this role. Remember, this is just the start of the conversation, so you want to stay flexible.

Real-life example from 2015: I had an applicant for a Director-level role say his minimum salary was $400,000 on his application. Again, I’m not making this up (I jotted it down so I would remember). I called him to verify because it was so outrageous (maybe it was a mistake). It turns out it was not. He was including bonuses, served in some senior roles over the years, and had a JD and PharmD degrees. However, there was no way I would present him to the hiring manager; it showed a lack of understanding about the role I was trying to fill.

The labor market really is just that – a market. So know your value before you negotiate!


3. The ready candidate is the hired candidate 

The last thing that will make Recruiters reject your application is how you answer the question, “When are you available to start work?” This question is typically on the application itself because it is easy to screen out applicants who say anything beyond the reasonable two to four weeks’ notice. Therefore, my recommendation is always to answer this question with “Immediately” or, if employed, “Two Weeks.”

If you say it will take longer, you are indicating an insincere interest to the Recruiter. You may think you are truthful because you have a vacation planned or want some ‘down time’ between jobs, but it’s not time to worry about that yet. Moreover, if you are waiting for your bonus from your employer in March, do not apply in January, assuming you will be interviewed and offered a job for a future start date. That start date is too far in advance. The hiring manager and Recruiter want their openings filled yesterday (remember, Recruiters, are measured on how quickly they fill their jobs).

Similarly, if there are other issues with scheduling and communicating, that will get you rejected. For example, once you are called for an interview and the Recruiter does not hear back from you, he or she will move on. Or, if you are unable to interview for several weeks, that is a sign of disinterest.

Your career may be a marathon but any specific job search is a sprint. Ready, set, go!

3 ways to stay in the running

In summary, be conscious that Recruiters are looking for the safest bet. They are operating under pressure to screen out as many candidates as possible, as quickly as possible. Whether on the ATS or in the interview, simple questions are designed to knock you out of the running. Please heed my advice:

  1. Apply early
  2. Know your salary band
  3. Be ready to get started

These are all easy measures that indicate to the Recruiter and hiring manager that you are the best fit for the job. Everyone can follow these tips no matter your background, schooling or even the job you are applying to.

If you’d like to hear more advice from this Recovering Recruiter, connect with me on LinkedIn or schedule a coaching appointment. Next, you’ll be hearing, “you’re hired.”


By Break Into Tech
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