I've been applying for jobs... lots of jobs, but I'm not getting any feedback at all. I'm not getting any calls. I'm not even getting many emails with canned responses like "we decided to move forward with another candidate".

I'm aware of a number of problems with my resume and my personal branding. I'm working on improving that, a little at a time, but I'm not letting it delay my application to jobs I know I can do right now. I expected a lot of rejection, but I didn't expect people to just ignore me.

I'm hoping someone here can help me identify the biggest problem with what I'm doing so I can focus on fixing that first.

For the record, I'm not spamming. I'm reading lots of job posts and carefully selecting the ones I know I can do. I'm writing individual cover letters for each one and, when possible, I address people at the company directly.

I'm a Web Developer. I have very strong skills in HTML, CSS, & JavaScript (in the browser), and strong skills in MongoDB, NodeJS, PHP, and MySQL. I have experience with a lot of related technologies.

Here are some problems I'm aware of:

  • I'm American, but I live in Malaysia. So, I'm only applying for remote positions right now. (I want to move back to the US eventually).
  • I have a huge gap in my work history due to health and family issues. I've left some of my previous employers out of my work history because the health issues caused my employment to end prematurely and negatively.
  • I do not have any kind of formal education or degree, but I do have several certifications including a Front End Development certificate from Free Code Camp.
  • I lack a proper design portfolio. This is partially due to my work hiatus and partially due to poor organization skills on my part. I have been very active on CodePen and GitHub, though.

Here's my resume, as a web page: https://vaggrippino.github.io/CVRemix/

I'm including these because I include them in my cover letters and I think they're relevant to the question:
LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/vaggrippino/
GitHub https://github.com/VAggrippino
CodePen https://codepen.io/VAggrippino/
Stack Overflow https://stackoverflow.com/users/2948042/vince
Twitter https://twitter.com/VAggrippino
Facebook https://www.facebook.com/vaggrippino
... or you could just google me :)

Thank you.

I don't understand why this was considered a request for a review of my résumé or profile, but I'm not updating it to release that hold. I want to thank you all for the excellent feedback, but the comment boxes are too small.

Pffft! ... You don't know what brutal is. I was braced for "You're too old to get a job and too stupid to get a degree! Get a job cleaning toilets!" Instead, you told me what's wrong and how to fix it. For that, I'm grateful to this community.

I can't return to the US right now. The reason would take too long to explain.

I can't get any formal education... especially not anything that costs money. My finances are such that I can barely buy food.

Legally, I can work here, but there are cultural, political, geographic, and economic barriers that make it infeasible. There's also very low demand for IT work here in Sabah. This one would take too long to explain, too.

I've been trying to make up for that gap in my work history by learning. I've been reading documentation and completing tutorials. That's why I am so confident about my skill set, but also why I have nothing to show for my time other than some free online certifications. I've had this unexpressed wish that employers would just test me so that I could prove I really know all this stuff.

What I can do is work on my résumé and it's clear that's where I need to focus first. I wasn't always so negative. I guess being out of work for so long has affected my demeanor.

Some of that missing time was spent talking to doctors and numerous specialists. Some was spent dealing with failed treatments and unpleasant side-effects. Some was spent in total despair over my predicament. And some was spent learning the discipline necessary to become a functioning human being again. I made it through that. I'll make it through this.

Off-topic ... whatever... I asked what I'm doing wrong in my job search and I got some excellent answers that I can use to do better. As far as I'm concerned, this was an excellent question and this Q&A site works better than many of the other Stack Exchange sites.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Jane S
    Commented May 16, 2018 at 20:57

7 Answers 7


Brutal feedback

Right, brutal it is. ;-)

Small bit about me, so you know a bit about how I'm judging you.

I would say I'm a social guy, I get on well with most people. I finished a formal Bcs degree with a focus on the back-end.

By now I have almost 5 years of experience, since finishing my degree. Recently I've gone up to "lead developer", so I get to judge others' performance and have a say in who we should and should not hire.


Based on what you said about your skills, you should be receiving more replies, even when trying to get a remote job. However:

  • You're being very negative about yourself
  • Based on what you say about your skills and how you try to prove them (with certificates), I find a large gap between the 2
  • Lack of formal education is a problem up to a point

Allow me to explain.

Negative about yourself

about yourself

In the red you criticize yourself and point out you're a rash decision making person and have poor health.

This alone makes you quite unsuitable to "think things through". You will be doing stuff by trial-and-error instead of using proven methods, methodologies and/or industry standards.

Your poor health makes it doubtful that you would be worth the payment of a full months salary; you just stated you might be absent a lot due to health reasons.

In the green bit you say (paraphrased) that "I do the work, but more because I must, not because I like it".

The fact that you have a family is irrelevant altogether.

Semi-fix: remove the negative

Delete the whole section shown above. It's irrelevant to the "now" situation and it just puts yourself in a negative light.

If you want to say something about yourself, how you are now, that's fine. Would even recommend it, but stay on the positive side of things. The negative leaves a stronger taste in the mouth than the positive.

It's even better to say that you like going to the pub on the weekends for a few rounds with the lads.

Gap between said skills & certificates

Your CV website tells us all about your skills and experience with complex systems. DB administration, Red Hat, Java development, etc. etc.

However, the certificates you use to "prove your knowledge", they're for basics of front-end web development. That is, even though you have self-said (on your CV) experience of about 13 years.

Now, obviously you might have the experience, but you have absolutely nothing backing it up. No certificates, no public projects or contributions, nothing. As such, we (employers) would be trusting you on your word alone.

Next to that, the IT-workplace develops in a fast-pace. Your 13 year gap does not help. (Yes yes, you might've done stuff, but, can you show it? Or show skills?)

Lack of formal education

Now, this is not a deal-breaker per se. But, when you combine it with the criticisms above, the picture gets bleaker. No formal education, giant gap in work experience, certificates for basic level coding, etc etc.

If you had some form of formal education you could use that to at least prove that you have a certain thinking-level (capable of abstract thinking for programming for example) and a decent work-ethic.

Now, that was all of the negative for now. I'm going to give you a positive spin as well.

You appear to be honest and you want to work. Make sure to write that way as well.

The design of your CV website is nice looking, the colours are nicely chosen and it reads well. Just make sure to stay positive (and don't sneer at people, e.g. with "if you're the Ctrl+F type of person ;-), people like myself appreciate those, but most will not).

Of all of those past 13-15 years that you've been mostly self-employed, add projects. Tell about stuff that you have done instead of having missed out and/or done nothing all that time.

Not being employed does not necessarily mean you've been twiddling your thumbs, but you should show that you haven't.

That's all for now, have at it ;)


Brutal. I can take it.

Just to remind you that you said this and I'm taking this into account with how I'm going to answer this. I really am not trying to be mean here so please don't take this personally!

My perspective is that of someone who has hired multiple times for developers in roles similar to what you are applying for. I've read more developer CVs then I can count.

Still sure you want brutal honesty? If not then you might want to stop reading now!

The short version

You don't have one big problem, you have multiple medium-sized problems that all add together to sink your chances.

The long version

I'm not just looking for a job. I'm on a mission...

Ugh.. this is perhaps in the bottom 5 CV-openers I've ever seen. And I've seen some truly awful CVs. First impressions are extremely important in CVs and this comes straight out and tells me that you don't want what I'm offering, which is a job not a mission. The job posting said "web developer" not "holy crusader". I'd like to say that I'd give you the benefit of the doubt and I'd read further but the brutal truth of hiring for dev roles is that more often than not I've got dozens of CVs to review and I'm going to be very ruthless on a first cut so chances are I'm going to stop at this point unless the entire candidate pool turns out to be poor and I'm really struggling to find people to interview in which case I might revisit for a deeper dive.

I'm going to build interesting and innovative things to show my talent. I'm going to become a leader and influencer in Web Development

That's great and all..for you but that's what it is.. it's about what you are going to do for you. I'm looking to hire someone who, when they are on the clock at least is going to help the company achieve it's goals. Not yours. Also "leader and influencer"? Sorry but, no, people who go around being those things in their fields don't talk about doing those things because they are too busy doing those things.

If CTRL-F is the first thing you do when you look at a résumé, this section is for you. I'm not just keyword stuffing, though. I have real, verifiable knowledge of all of these technologies and paradigms.

I don't quite CTRL-F, but yes I do look for the skills first. If they don't have the essential skills I'm looking for then I don't read any further but whether you intend it that way or not this statement (in the context of the fluffy, almost marketing speak of the first section) feels just slightly like you might be looking down on a hiring manager who cares more about the nitty gritty of what you can do rather than your lofty visions of changing the world. Hackles - raised.

As for whether you're keyword stuffing, well forgive me if I don't just take your word for that. I'm going to check out your experience to see if it backs up your claims.


Honestly the gaps don't really bother me much: sometimes life happens and there's enough of an explanation in that you've been a freelancer in between the perm gigs to cover those for me. What does bother me is that there is very little supporting evidence to back up your claimed skills. Now I'm really starting to think that "keyword-stuffing" line falls under "the candidate doth protest too much". You've been freelancing for years, so there must be some projects you can talk about to bring in mentions of the skillset you claim. All I can see is that you've done some PHP, MySQL, Oracle and some older technologies that are unlikely to be relevant in modern fullstack development such as CGI (that takes me back!). So at this point I'm calling keyword-stuffing.


I don't generally require a degree for devs that I hire - I know full well that it's not the be all and end all of how to learn. One of the best devs I've ever worked with didn't even finish regular school much less go to university; what he has done is learn it all on the job and can back it up with results. Trying to spin your lack of formal education poetically as if you are some sort of coding-samurai who wandered the earth learning the mystic ways of the The Code though.. I've said it before and I'll say it again: Ugh.

How about you tell me what formal education you do have. That's what the heading of the section told me I'd be getting here not Robert Frost quotes and waffle. If it's short and sparse then it's short and sparse but give me the info.


This is better - at least it's providing me with some solid information that I can compare with other candidates. I'm not sure including the Sololearn certificates just to trash them is the best plan: if you don't believe that they are meaningful why include them at all?


No thanks, I've already moved on to the next candidate.

How to be better

You need to align your CV with what a hiring manager is looking for, and while I can only speak for myself I don't think I'm alone in the mindset that when I'm hiring someone to be a developer I'm looking for someone to do development. I don't want a visionary, I don't want someone who can change the world for me. I just want my darn websites doing well and in a timely fashion by someone who isn't going to cause me people management headaches. So dial the pretension down from the current 7/10 to about a 1/10.

Tell me what skills you have, how you got them and how you've employed them in a real world environment. Then I can work out if you're going to be a personality fit in an interview. If you really do want a vocation instead of a job then that's perfectly fine and valid, just don't be surprised if those of us who take a more pragmatic view of the world don't want to hire you because we clearly aren't on the same page… in fact I'm not sure we are even reading the same book.

  • 2
    +1 for "I want a developer not a visionary"
    – Mr Me
    Commented May 16, 2018 at 10:36

You have 7 buts in your website. You irradiate negativity and "I deserve the job but I haven't been lucky" mentality.

The education section is totally unnecessary. It damages you more than it serves you good. Remove it altogether. If someone is interested in your education they will ask.

Certification section is good, but I wouldn't give it such big space (personal opinion).

Your experience is awesome.

You mention some skills but you don't get deeper. You don't mention any framework (the word framework itself is nowhere to be seen).

That's my feedback.

Answering your question in short: the way you present yourself as a negative person. Remove all buts. Make some jokes. Maybe a section about the things you like/do for fun. Speak about why do you love your work. No buts (I repeat).

  • 3
    I'd suggest not making jokes, stick to facts. Jokes have a tendency to depend on the recipient, and if your joke misfires, you are the one getting burned. Commented May 16, 2018 at 11:28
  • 2
    @MarkRotteveel It's 100% opinion based that one. It all depends on what are you looking for; in my case I appreciate working in a non-very-serious setup, so I sell myself as a non-too-serious fellow too. "Why you tell him to do the same then?" Since his cv is too negative, a light touch will do good in my opinion
    – Mr Me
    Commented May 16, 2018 at 12:06
  • 1
    I think jokes have the same problem as the self-deprecation in the current CV, it is distracting and easy to miss the mark, or even actively off-putting. Commented May 16, 2018 at 12:50

Vince's Shortcomings/Problems: Past 13 years "Self-Employed" (unemployed). Mostly short time at each company. No formal education. Online 'Certificates' of completion. People have only heard of two prior employers.

Employer's Solution: Someone half your age with formal education, working at a competitor.

Solution for Vince. Work for small company that needs one person to do half a dozen things well. It likely won't pay much but if you could singlehandedly grow the company into a success your position would be secured. That involves moving to where you plan on retiring, the US. A big risk, maybe a reward. Option two: Attend a well recognized US school and use your experience to breeze through the class, get new paper and exceed your competitors in interviews.

  • 2
    What do you mean by "Solution: Someone half your age with format education, working at a competitor."?
    – Masked Man
    Commented May 16, 2018 at 6:23
  • Well, I can't fix my age. I was actually actively employed as a freelancer for part of that time building sites on LAMP stack, but I can't prove it, so I can't fix that either. I thought about putting those (2) missing jobs back into my work history. Those guys were not happy when I left, but it would shorten the gap to 9 years. I could do jobs on Upwork or Fiverr, I wouldn't earn much, but it would give me recent work history, portfolio items, and maybe even a testimonial from the clients. This is an accurate answer, but it doesn't really give me a problem to focus on.
    – Vince
    Commented May 16, 2018 at 6:34
  • 2
    @MaskedMan He didn't put it nicely, but he has valid points. I'm 45 and ageism is a real thing regardless of idealist's claims. I think the value of formal education is overstated in light of all the positive press around bootcamps and certification, but recent work in the same field (at a competitor) would make any other candidate much more hireable. He doesn't provide a solution for me though.
    – Vince
    Commented May 16, 2018 at 6:39
  • 1
    I know you weren't trying to be mean, but you did suggest a "solution" that precluded any chance of me getting a job... always the younger guy with the B.S. in Bs... I prefer "not nice", anyway. Supportive and uplifting comments sound like lies to me. If there's anything I've learned from my 7 years in the Army and 20+ years (trying to) work in the IT field it's that sometimes the best information is delivered in the least pleasant way. Retire?! Hah! I'm quite certain I'll die behind a keyboard and I wouldn't have it any other way. Destination US is for my daughter's benefit, not mine.
    – Vince
    Commented May 16, 2018 at 7:09
  • 1
    @Vince - Daniel's comment about asking for the reason for rejection is helpful. You made the effort to send a resume that matches the position offered, it's only polite for them to thank you for applying even if they say "only successful candidates will be contacted, no phone calls please" - I go a step further by eventually dropping by (I guess, another "not an option" for you) and seeing how whom they chose matches what they asked for (hint: the AD best not be fraudulent). You say this or that is 'not an option', so you've worked the past two decades painting yourself into a corner.
    – Rob
    Commented May 16, 2018 at 13:02

I think in lot of eastern countries like where you are and where I am, importance is high on formal degree. That according to me could be your biggest problem in your own words. If you can still work on getting some credits to complete graduation, it may help to show on resume and get some more traction.

Although, I wouldn't worry too much about not getting any response. I think it is very usual to not hear from anyone for hundreds of jobs.

  • I don't think the education could be the primary problem. Especially with all of the positive press about bootcamps and certification. Most of the opportunities I apply to are not within Southeast Asia. I'm not avoiding closer jobs. It's just that most of the opportunities I've found have been in Europe or the US. I had no problem finding employment in this field when I was fresh out of the Army with no education, no certification, and far fewer skills. Unfortunately, paid educational resources are not an option for me, but I am always learning and trying to earn more valuable certifications.
    – Vince
    Commented May 16, 2018 at 6:17
  • About about consulting and remote work? They will not ask for his academic certifications. Commented May 16, 2018 at 10:22
  • Well everyone's experience is different. Industry where I work in, it matters a LOT. Anyway, I am not in IT and anywhere close to OP's domain. So I can imagine it is different there.
    – PagMax
    Commented May 16, 2018 at 10:25

Why not going consulting and remote work?

I have a Filipino wife, and from my contact with the part of the world you are now, they have

  1. a huge shortage of specialized labor;
  2. Huge issues with brain drain, as soon people get experience they go to better paying countries, Singapore or maybe even USA.

There seems to be an huge market to explore in Malasya, Phillipines and Indonesia with the right partners. Even Australia leaves a lot to desire on competencies on the IT field.

I would start training to gain traction with smaller customers and cheaper prices, and once building a reputation, rising prices and trying to work for more countries.

  • 1
    I've done consulting without great success and I am applying for remote work. Local work isn't an option for geographic, political, cultural, and economic reasons. There's also very low demand for developers. I need to explain the differences between West Malaysia (i.e. Kuala Lumpur) and where I live in Sabah (a.k.a. Borneo), but there's not enough room in this little box. My wife's Malaysian. I've been here 15 years and I've had every conceivable negative experience trying to work locally.
    – Vince
    Commented May 16, 2018 at 11:48
  • @Vince Sent you a linked.in invitation. I would also try to use work social tools more extensively. Commented May 16, 2018 at 13:54

From the Perspective of an employer, I can tell you that we get a lot of applications from abroad, of varying quality. We never offered a remote position, but even if we where, that does not mean we would look into employing someone completely out of country.

  1. It is not clear to us what we would have to do to give you an employment contract if your live completely in another country. Its too much overhead.

  2. Even for remote jobs, sometimes in-person meetings are required. So there is a difference between remote X-100 miles away or remote halfway around the globe.

  3. It´s hard to build trust only via online-only-presence.

So you are at a distinct disadvantage over a lot of other applicants and you do seek work in a field where employers have to deal with tons of low-quality-application (Web development), so Malaysia alone could trigger the HR-person to just delete.

So my Advice would be:

  • Engage in an open-source project to set yourself apart from the masses of I know HTML applications.
  • Seek freelance-jobs to build trust with interesting organisations without having a large entry-hurdle for them.
  • Try to find something local.
  • In your case, a trick you could try to get them to notice you: Send your application and call within 48 hours. Say something like: *Hi, I sent you my application yesterday. Just wanted to make sure you received it and have everything you need ..."
  • 1
    I think you've misunderstood. The jobs I'm applying to are only available to remote candidates and explicitly available to people from outside the country. Some of the companies are comprised entirely of remote workers. They call it a distributed team. They use a multitude of communications tools stay in contact by chat, audio, or video. From a communications perspective, the fact that I'm American puts me at a distinct advantage over candidates from, for example, Asia or Eastern Europe. Unfortunately, local work isn't an option.
    – Vince
    Commented May 16, 2018 at 11:31
  • @Vince: In that case (in any case, actually) they should at least reply to your application with a short rejection - everything else is just rude! What kind of Companies are this? All US-Based?
    – Daniel
    Commented May 16, 2018 at 11:35
  • Initially, I was only applying for jobs at American companies, but I broadened my search to include any English-speaking companies when I realized I wasn't getting any responses. Since I'm American and I still have my American bank account I wanted them to pay me by direct deposit and automatically take out the taxes... just like normal jobs I've had in the past. I hoped for constructive criticism in responses, but I expected to get mostly canned rejection responses. I've been surprised to get nothing.
    – Vince
    Commented May 16, 2018 at 12:04
  • 1
    Have you tried contacting them again, by mail or maybe by phone - I was just wondering if you received my application and if you need anything else? Do you maybe have an estimate to when you will be making a decision? Great, looking forward to hearing from you!
    – Daniel
    Commented May 16, 2018 at 12:08
  • I did for the first few. That's how I got my one "we've decided to move forward with another candidate" canned response. Then, I read some advice that I should treat it like a numbers game... apply to as many positions as I can. That's probably bad advice, but that's what I've been doing. I've been applying to several jobs a day and I couldn't keep track and I'd rather be ignored than be a pest.
    – Vince
    Commented May 16, 2018 at 12:14

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