Not getting a response to applications? This may be why

Not getting a response to your applications? Here are some of the reasons why:

1. The candidate wasn’t actually right for the position.

Typically, this is the most common reason a recruiter didn’t respond to someone who thought they were PERFECT for a specific position. Often they lack the education, experience, tech acumen, etc…

It is important to be honest with your own skill set and realistic with your expectations.

2. The candidate had an awful resume.

A lot of times, candidates who apply to positions BUT who are not called back for an interview are actually PERFECT for that position. However, many of these candidates do not have resumes that show they they are perfect for the position. In effect, a poorly written, confusing or old-fashioned resume is keeping them from getting a response.

There are thousands of resume resources available online for free. Some that are specific to the fashion industry can be found here.

3. The application never made it past the ATS (Applicant Tracking System).

Applicant Tracking Systems, what job seekers see as company job boards, are complex software tools that help streamline HR, Recruiting, Onboarding and Compliance.

Many of these ATS systems use keyword-based bots to determine if a resume is good for a specific job. A candidate resume that lacks the correct keywords is rejected; never to reach the recruiter or hiring manager.

The key is to use the right keywords. You can find blog posts on the proper use of keywords here, here, here, and here.

4. The candidate had poor application habits.

Poor application habits can be including a bad cover letter OR not having a cover letter at all. Some job seekers apply via email and put NOTHING in the body of the message. Others don’t reference the job title when applying.

If you are worried about your personal application habits, please read this post on Fashion Industry Recruiters Pet Peeves.

5. Sometimes, unfortunately, recruiters are lazy… …or too busy.

At most companies Recruiting and HR are being asked to do more and more with less and less. It is very hard to fault a recruiter who is getting dumped-on by the higher-ups.

Sometimes, HR/Recruiting gets enamored with time-saving technology only to find out, they are missing-out on good talent. This issue goes hand in hand with recruiters being required to do more with less.

Unfortunately, some recruiters are lazy and/or just bad at their job. To be fair, the same thing could be said about a percentage of any working population.


All of these things are true. There is another issue as well. Many companies are too specific about the experience they are looking for. A good designer can design anything, they don’t have to come from your exact competition. The places they worked before were the ones they got jobs at, but that doesn’t mean that’s all they know. I went shopping today and was shocked at some of the lousy, I creative products I saw from main brands that think they are so high and mighty and I know how they hire from their competitors. Some companies need to hire people with different perspectives.


Totally agree- a great designer can design anything! But a lot of places look at your past jobs, and pigeonhole you into only doing one thing. And lot of brands like to poach only from their competition, which is why sometimes different brands start to look the same.

I was able to jump around a lot in my 20’s, and did everything from streetwear, yoga, surf/skate, and fast fashion juniors for almost 10 years, before getting into swimwear. Now I’ve been in swimwear/resort for almost 10 years… and still, pretty much every recruiter has said “Well, I can’t place you because you can only do swim”.

Recuiters and companies should know that fashion is fashion, and while you may have a specialty, we all design in much the same way- shopping, trends, color palettes, etc… So any learning curve you may have may be more technical/construction than actual creative design.


Exactly! It’s ridiculous. 80% of apparel uses the same bodies anyway. Swimwear is probably harder than a lot of other apparel, if you can do that, you can do it all. Play up other apparel on your resume by saying you did it freelance. Good luck to you!


Agree with you. I find many fashion companies and recruiters based in NYC have “selective tunnel vision” when it comes to giving candidates a chance. If your background is swim, you should definitely be considered at least for intimate apparel and loungewear positions! A person who has worked within the watch industry should easily be considered for jewelry companies considering many fashion watch brands reference jewelry trends and materials to develop product. I think because there is an abundance of people in the NY/NJ area with these skills, companies can afford to cherry pick their candidates…especially now due to the amount of talented people looking for work…I fear it will be worse.

Someone in the industry told me if there is a specific company you want to work at where your skills are transferable yet it’s not the exact same product category, then you’re often better off trying to forward your resume to a Director or VP (even the owner if the business is small to medium sized) within that company. On average, a company isn’t going to pay a recruiter top dollar for them to find them a candidate who has experience in a different category, even if the skills are transferable. Yet that same company might give you the chance without having to pay a recruiter fee. This is especially true for jobs that pay over $70K/year.

If there’s a specific different apparel category that you would like to enter, I would create a few renderings or even a mini design capsule based upon trends 1 to 2 years from now…and submit the renderings along with your resume to every company on your wish list. I’ve known merch/PD people who have created moodboards for various categories to help them get interviews.


I feel everyone’s pain. I have applied to several jobs that honestly I would be perfect for (I have 18yrs experience & came from a family who worked in the industry) and I have not gotten a word out of any of them. I look up who is currently in the position they are looking to hire & it’s always someone very junior with no prior experience in that “field”

Another thing I feel hurts is that - I did not get a college degree. Some places will absolutely turn you away if you don’t have your BA or BS. BUT YET, you may have all the practical experienced needed. SMH

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I’ve found that the larger, more corporate companies are sticklers about degrees. They must have a template checklist OR an ATS that rejects non-degree holders.

Agreed, it’s very frustrating to be pigeonholed into one or two categories. Recruiters and the companies they work for need to be more open, as most skills are transferable. I work in wholesale sales and have sold a range of product categories to all major department stores, but I have still seen this pervasive mentality over and over in my job searches.


Wow…you’re in sales? Do you live in the NYC area? I’m rather shocked companies and or recruiters aren’t open to offering opportunities within other areas. I’ve always found my sales exec and planner/sales analyst friends can easily jump from one product category to another…all while designers, merchandisers, and product developers often struggle to be considered for roles where our skills are definitely transferable.

Is it because of the types of accounts you typically have? I’m saying that because perhaps certain companies with luxury products, for example, would be hesitant to hire a sales exec who has mainly handled off-price or mass accounts. And I’m constantly seeing sales exec jobs that require people to have Wal-Mart or Amazon/ecommerce accounts.

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I have extensive experience as a buyer and in product development. My biggest successes have been in categories I didn’t work in previously. But now, like those who have posted here, I cannot even get an interview if I have not done the exact thing as the posted position. Believe me, if you can buy ties, you can buy pots & pans. Both WalMart & Target move their buyers frequently. This allows the individual to gain a broad base of experience and be exposed to ongoing learning and facing new challenges. It also brings fresh eyes to a category, which is often needed for innovation. Growth can only come through change.
It’s very frustrating to be pigeon-holed and only stifles innovation.


In addition to all of the above, it is also the hiring managers. In most companies, HR has NO power. They are more like facilitators and are at the mercy of the hiring manager’s flights of fantasy about some unicorn that will come prancing through their doorway. HR also deals with hiring managers who never prioritize filling positions, putting off reviewing resumes and interviewing candidates. I have been told that Ms. Hiring Manager won’t be available for an interview for 3-4 weeks. Seriously? Yeah, and I’ll just hang out eating PB&J for another month. Oh, and another good one is that the hiring manager changes the requirements midway through the interviewing process. Heard that one more than a few times too.


Unfortunately many companies abuse the job search process as described. A qualified applicant has no idea when applying if the job is still even available or if the employer is simply farming for future candidates with no intention of hiring. The integrity of HR Depts, Hiring Managers and online recruiting towards applicants is suspect at best and dishonest at worst. I don’t wish to work for a company that has little respect for people in that way…but the garment industry is not really integrity based so…


Another thing that Ive seen is that people often think they have perfect resumes and credentials for a role that they are perfectly aligned for EXCEPT market position or company prestige.

Regarding Market position: the market position often makes jobs that sound the same on paper into totally different roles. If you’ve done womenswear woven production for a domestically produced runway brand, you still aren’t qualified to do the same job for a mass brand because you have no overseas experience. Same vise versa. Working on PLM doing CMT production is a totally different beast than managing a team running around Vernon or the Garment District in and out of suppliers and factories. Both have their challenges and the overlaps are few.

Lastly, company prestige. the amount of sparkle associated with the company names on your resume shouldn’t matter, but sorry to let you know, it does. I’ve worked mostly in luxury and have been offered roles that I know other super competent industry colleagues also applied to and weren’t even invited to interview for. I know that a significant part of my getting the shot to interview is that I have some very well known and respected brand names on my resume and those super competent colleagues had primarily worked for startups or brands that didn’t go anywhere.


Actually, I went to a highly respected school for fashion and skipped foundation year as I was accepted by portfolio directly into fashion department. We were told a degree was only needed if you planned to teach. Your portfolio was everything.

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