I’ve accumulated close to 15 years of experience in human resources management through the Marine Corps, hospital staffing and retail industries. Over the years, I’ve seen a lot of strange, sad and head-shaking things on resumes, applications and spoken in interviews. Listed below are some stand-out annoyances, “don’t do’s” and basic rules of decorum that seem to be lost on so many of today’s job seekers.
The best part of my job is telling someone that they got the job. However, I simply have to shake my head in disbelief at some of the nonsense that is presented to me on a regular basis. If you are looking for a job, please read and heed. I WANT to tell you that the gig is yours. Whether I am able to do this is largely in your hands. This article is solely my own professional opinion and is not meant to infer any endorsement by any of my employers past or present.
- Complete the WHOLE application. Looking for work is serious business and those of us reviewing your applications take it seriously. This information is important and can be the determining factor between your application being selected for an interview over another. If you can’t be bothered to take the time to complete the whole application, then I am going to assume that you don’t really want the job.
- Employee and family referrals do not guarantee an interview or a job offer. While such referrals can prove invaluable for finding great talent, the fact that you know an “insider” does not entitle you to an interview. Really, it doesn’t. Your application will still be weighed against others to determine whether an interview is warranted. Asking the employee the badger us on your behalf will not bode well for your application.
- Dress like you actually want the job. If you show up to an interview in sweat pants or a tank top undershirt then you really don’t take it seriously. Please don’t bother. If you don’t have a suit or at least a nicer shirt than you would wear on the job, then you are not yet ready for the interview. If cost is a consideration, you can easily find affordable and appropriate attire at many thrift shops such as those operated by Goodwill and the Salvation Army or programs like Dress for Success.
- Show up early. If you come strolling in 15 minutes late, I’m going to have a hard time believing that you really want the job. Those of us conducting interviews are seldom dedicated solely to the task. We have many other functions beyond hiring. If you don’t respect that, then you shouldn’t expect us to take you seriously as a candidate.
- Quality over Quantity. How many times you’ve applied for previous positions isn’t at issue and we aren’t interested in getting browbeat over it. Really, we shouldn’t have to discuss it, but it is becoming a very big sticking point among some millenials in the job market. Angrily telling the hiring or human resources manager that you’ve applied 5 times before and never got a call is not going to help your job search or impress us with your professionalism and patience. No one owes you a job. If you are not one of the candidates selected for an interview, do not expect a phone call. A job application is not equivalent to a bank loan. You are not owed a phone call to explain the rejection. If it is a no, most companies will respond by email or U.S. Mail. Please remember that there is no magic number for how many times it takes to get an interview. It takes however many times it takes. Some candidates may never get a call from that employer as their skillset is either lacking or not evident on their application or resume. “Going off” on the hiring manager, receptionist or human resources manager is a sure sign that you are not a good fit. Don’t do it.
- Treat the gatekeepers like an extension of the hiring manager’s staff. This one perplexes me. I have yet to understand why any job seeker would be rude to the people answering the phone. Still, it happens with increasing frequency. I make sure that the receptionists inform me immediately if an applicant has been rude. I am not interested in bringing a rude person into my place of business. There are plenty of qualified people looking for work who are able to communicate like mature, professional adults. You will gain nothing by being rude, but stand to lose a potential interview.
- Don’t be pushy. It is okay to ask questions or seek help if you don’t understand the application process. We are happy to help! However, calling or showing up repeatedly without an appointment to try to force resumes on us, demand interviews be scheduled, or discuss the “status” of your application borders on harassment. None of these tricks are new. You cannot force your way into a job interview. Most of us are not professional recruiters. For the most part, human resources managers have a ton of other duties to attend and have to budget our time accordingly. When we are ready to review applications and set up interviews, you will be contacted if you are one of the top candidates. Trying to force the issue by being overly aggressive shows me that you don’t respect the process, don’t value our time, and believe you deserve special treatment over the other applicants. I promise you, this hyper-aggressive approach does not work in 2012.
- Proper capitalization and sentence structure are your friends. Increasingly, I am seeing applications where the candidate used all lower case or all upper case letters. While we don’t look for dissertation quality writing, it is a bit disrespectful to the process when you don’t take the time to follow some basic rules of grammar, capitalization and sentence structure. If you don’t have the time to edit your text before submission, how will you find the time to attend interviews?
- Substance Abuse. Many employers test for drug use during the hiring process. If you know you can’t pass a test, why would you bother to apply? This is a gigantic waste of my time and yours.
- Read the whole job description! It is fine to apply for positions that are a step or two above your current position and experience. I frequently hire people who are a rung below on the ladder if they will be a good fit and are ready to be mentored into the role quickly. However, if your application shows that you’ve held one lower level job since high school and had no career growth, you may not be ready for that Senior Vice President slot you’ve been eyeing. Applying for positions several levels above your current skillset is no different than spamming a company by applying for every single job they post. Be serious and thoughtful with regard to your chosen positions. We can usually see that you applied for 75 jobs in every department.
Please remember that these are only brief guidelines and observations. This is not meant to be an exhaustive list. For further tips and best practices, I recommend the following links: