Recently we received an email in response to one of our blog posts, Application Fails: What NOT to Put in Your Resume and Cover Letter, where an active jobseeker was concerned about the response he was getting to his applications. He had been following all of the tips and techniques offered. He described the written responses he received from recruiters as "tried and tested, upbeat personal banter" with no reason as to why he was actually unsuccessful. Fair enough! This is a complaint that many people have when they are actively seeking new career opportunities, either through recruitment agencies or directly with an employing company. So how do you get more information?
It sounds trite, but I would encourage anyone who is dissatisfied with a written response to pick up the phone and call the person who sent it to you. It's that simple! A little old school, but effective. You could send an email, but a phone call is personal and more urgent. If you get their voicemail, which is more than likely these days, leave a message and follow up with an email referencing your message.
Thank the recruiter or hiring manager for their response, and tell them you would like to understand why your application was unsuccessful. You may not like the answer or you may disagree with them, but at least you know. You can attempt to change their mind by selling your attributes that don't appear on your CV, but remember, the decision may have already been made and you can view this feedback as a way to improve your chances next time. Before you make the phone call, I would encourage everyone to revisit their application and the advertisement to which you responded.
In many instances, people apply to an advertisement after only a cursory read or having only read the short description. The advertisement may be quite direct about IT systems, industry experience or specific skills, and if you do not have these, then you may have your answer without having to make the phone call. Remember too that recruitment agencies are engaged to find talent for a specific position when hiring companies choose to outsource their recruitment. Hiring companies pay fees to the recruitment agency only on the successful placement of an applicant. If they are paying a fee, their expectation is that the candidates must fit the specific job brief, otherwise they can and do recruit the roles themselves. Just because you can do the job does not mean you are the best person for the job.
A combination of competencies could be in consideration when recruiters or hiring managers are compiling a shortlist. It is also not just about skills. Competencies are often referred to by hiring managers as the "culture" of the organisation, and these often intangible variables may be the reason why you were not successful this time.
So if you hear the word "culture," ask about the competencies the company was seeking. In summary, get on the phone after you have reread the advertisement closely. Ask why you were unsuccessful, don’t be defensive and sell your attributes if there is the opportunity to do so. It’s not easy finding a new opportunity, so by having more conversations you can learn and adapt. Good luck!