I’m Perfect For The Position, So Why Did I Get Screened Out?

Great question. Probably an obvious answer.

The easy answer is, you probably aren’t perfect for the job, at least from the recruiter’s or hiring manager’s perspective. Now that doesn’t mean you aren’t perfect. It may mean you didn’t communicate effectively as to demonstrate just how perfect you are. So you get screened out.

It has been my experience in close to 30 years as a recruiter that candidates too often ignore the competition that also claim to be perfect for the job. As a recruiter in today’s economy, we can get 500+ responses to an executive level position, all claiming to be, “perfect.” With this volume of resumes, emails, phone calls and referrals, you have to demonstrate you are more perfect than all of the rest.

The real question is, “Have you demonstrated you are more perfect than all the others?” I realize candidates generally have limited information about the position, so demonstrating this can be difficult. It isn’t possible to give every screening detail. Anyone who has hired people knows this. Most hiring managers experience the same thing. When you are looking to hire some one you too get resume overload. So how do you prioritize all these resumes, calls, emails, and referrals? Most have set up some sort of checklist to reduce the number to a manageable figure. Some things on the checklist include, industry, company size, compatibility with products, systems, organization, title, turnover, etc. This is important information that is missing from many resumes. The result is you may get screen out or put in the infamous “B” pile.

The next step might be to further read the resumes that passed the checklist to reduce the number even further. It is at this stage that you must really demonstrate that you are perfect for the position. From a recruiter’s perspective this is the point where I want to see how your accomplishments align with what the client is looking for in the person they hire to deliver the results. This is the, “So why did I get screened out?” point.

Here are some suggestions that might help you to not get screened out if you really are perfect:

  1. Customize your resume as much as possible to directly align with the job. Don’t send the one-size fits all resume.
  2. Your bullet points must include quantifiable results, time frame to accomplish, and be believable.
  3. If you don’t know the exact expectations, some research on the company might give you some tips. If your research highlights issues, try to extrapolate how your functional area will participate in these issues and then how your accomplishments align.
  4. Don’t limit your research to the company’s Web site. Look for press releases, announcements, industry trends, local newspapers, business journals, industry periodicals, and Google the company and its competitors. It will take some work, however, the pay off is not getting screened out.
  5. Use a two column cover letter that compares your experience and accomplishments with what their needs are. (You can download a free sample cover letter on our Web site. (CLICK HERE to get yours)
  6. Keep your resume to two pages. Don’t have so much detail that the important points get lost.
  7. Make sure you have the basic screening information on your resume. Step back and be objective as to exactly how you screen resumes when you were a hiring manager with a stack of 300 resumes on your desk.

There are a lot of reasons you can get screened out, even if you are perfect. I’m convinced doing these few things will at least increase the odds in your favor. I’m sure they will increase the odds if you really are perfect for the position.

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About the Author

Brad Remillard is a founding Partner of IMPACT Hiring Solutions, co-author of "You're NOT the Person I Hired", and "This is NOT the Position I Accepted". Brad is an award-winning international speaker, retained executive recruiter, and expert on hiring and retaining top talent, and executive job search.


  • By Andrea Devoto, October 14, 2009 @ 8:08 pm

    Sometimes people make it through the resume screen but then get weeded out after the initial contact. If you are working with a recruiter they should know what “intangible” things a hiring manager is looking for such as personality. If they don’t know they haven’t done their job and it is not putting you in a position of strength. If you are going for the position on your own, be sure to try and get the hiring manager to talk first. Get him to tell you what he/she is looking for and then you can put in your background as it goes.

  • By Kathy Condon, October 15, 2009 @ 9:58 pm

    While it is important to review what you could do better, it may not have been you at all. Often companies have the person selected ahead of time and just go through the motions. That has happened more than once in my experience working with people.


  • By James, October 17, 2009 @ 10:15 am

    “Sometimes people make it through the resume screen but then get weeded out after the initial contact.”

    Don’t forget people who get weeded out before the résumé screen, by recruiters who spend 15 seconds on a résumé and 30 minutes getting the answers to illegal questions by looking applicants up on Facebook. For an example, see http://www.yelp.com/topic/chicago-recruiters-avoiding-wow-players :

    “…I recently had a lengthy dispute with a fellow recruiter. She brought up searching facebook etc. on potential candidates, she also spouted off in a previous discussion that she spends 15 seconds looking at a resume and makes a determination. My response to her was you spend 15 seconds reviewing someones career but 30 minutes searching them on the web? Her priorities are clearly misguided…

    “…The recruiter I was referencing was spending the majority of her time surfing the web on candidates that were not even remotely qualified for any of the openings we had. I told her maybe she should spend 30 seconds on the resume and get off the Internet…”

    If an applicant followed the personal branding advice to completely fill out the profile information and make his or her profile public…then he or she can be weeded out for things like his or her age, marital status, number of children, religion, activities like National Guard service, etc.

  • By Ask a Manager, October 21, 2009 @ 10:23 pm

    There’s also one extremely common thing: You ARE a great candidate, but the employer has 20 great candidates. In this job market in particular, sometimes the math just means they can’t hire every great candidate.

  • By Denise, October 27, 2009 @ 8:53 pm

    I just believe that some hiring managers are looking at other factors such as rates, salary, etc.

    What has happened to me is that I was rejected and then called back so I know the problem was not me or else they would not have called back.

    Of course I was no longer interested in the poor judgment that they made the first time.

  • By Rita Ashley, November 1, 2009 @ 11:14 am

    You may have been screened out because you didn’t use a personal connection to get an introduction. Hiring managers always go to familiar faces before random resumes.

    Another reason you believe you are a perfect fit and didn’t get a call is the job description doesn’t reflect the actual job. Many times job descriptions are generic and/or written by people other than the hiring manager.

    If you think you are the best fit, read the post above and make absolutely certain you gain an introduction to someone in the company who will share your credentials.
    Rita Ashley, Job Search Coach
    Author: Job Search Debugged.

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